EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

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Review: Wintersun Aquavit

Photo from Bluewater Distilling

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: Bluewater Distilling in Everett, WA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Aquavit

  • Strength: 40% ABV

  • Price: $37

Founded by John Lundin in 2008, Bluewater Distilling is located in Everett, WA about 30 minutes drive north of Seattle. In October 2018, Lundin released Wntersun Aquavit, the newest addition to the Bluewater line of spirits. Aquavit is a traditional botanical spirit from Scandinavia which is primarily flavored with caraway and or dill.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: Very pleasant nose of caraway, supported with light notes of anis and orange zest.

Palate: On the palate, the aquavit is very soft and smooth as it coats your tongue. The flavor starts with a burst of caraway followed by a round anis note and a hint of bright citrus.

Finish: The finish is long and subttle with sweet star anis and orang peal.

Conclusion: Wintersun is a subtle and well balanced aquavit that would be a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the category. Wintersun works well with dry vermouth as a substitute in a vodka martini, and could appeal as a botanical spirit for those not fond of juniper. While my personal preference gravitates towards aquavits with a more intense caraway character with no anis, Wintersun does a great job of creating a balanced spirit that stays true to the the category.

Review: Astral Pacific Gin

Photo by The Spirit Guild

AT A GLANCE

  • Distilled & Owned by: The Spirit Guild in Los Angeles, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Founded in 2012 by Miller Duvall and Morgan McLachlan, The Spirit Guild is a beautiful fruit to glass distillery in LA’s Arts District. Duvall’s family has been farming in California for six generations which partially inspired their decision to use state grown agriculture to distill into spirits. The base of their gin starts off as whole clementines which are fermented and distilled into a neutral brandy. The neutral brandy is then redistilled with juniper, coriander, angelica, cinnamon, grapefruit peel, clementine peel, orange tree leaves, pink peppercorn, pistachio nuts, sage, and orris root. After distillation, the gin is proofed to bring the alcohol content down to 43% ABV before bottling.

If you happen to be in the vicinity of downtown LA, definitely put The Spirit Guild on your list of places to visit. Their tasting room, in the front of the distillery, is an incredibly beautiful space with west facing stain glass windows that allow the bright Southern California sunshine to pour through and bathe the space in warmth and color.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The gin has a fragrant aroma of pine trees and fresh orange juice followed by an herbaceous note of oregano and a bright hit of clementine.

Palate: On the palate the gin is medium bodied and a little hot on the tongue. The flavors start with spicy notes of of juniper and black pepper which is balanced with a light orange sweetness.

Finish: On the finish the citrus character carries through with lingering flavor of grapefruit peal and a light bitter pith sensation.

Conclusion: Astral Pacific Gin is an interesting combination of juniper and multiple layers of citrus. As a contemporary gin that puts less emphasis on the juniper and more other other botanical, using a citrus brandy as the base is a unique and smart way to add layers of complexity. Overall, Astral Pacific is an interesting gin that lends itself to mixing in spirit forward cocktails and would be appreciated most by those that like citrus forward gins.

Review: Gin Farallon

At a Glance

  • Distilled & Owned by: Coastal Spirits in San Carlos, CA

  • Still Type: Pot Still

  • Spirit Type: Contemporary Gin

  • Strength: 43% ABV

  • Price: $35

Gin Farallon is the brainchild of Brad Plummer, the owner and operator of Coastal Spirits. Tucked into a small business park in San Carlos, CA, Plummer has been making gin, vodka and a number of liqueurs for the past few years. Gin Farallon starts with a neutral corn spirits which he redistills to remove some of the harsher elements. Plummer fills the still with his re-distilled neutral spirit and botanicals, some of which he macerates before distillation. After the gin is distilled,  Plummer proofs the spirit with water he has infused with cucumber. In 2017, Plummer's passion and work was rewarded when Gin Farallon earned a gold medal from the Judging of Craft Spirits.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose opens with aromas of cardamom, and dried orange peal. As it breathes, notes of angelica, orris root and bright pine begin to come forward. 

Palate: On the palate the gin has a very full body that shows lots of spice character from the cardamom and orris root and a slight green character perhaps from coriander.

Finish: The finish had a nice warmth that isn't harsh. Immediately after drinking, warm citrus notes dance on the tongue followed by earthy cucumber and floral notes supported be a lightly resinous flavor from the juniper. 

Conclusion: Gin Farallon is a very lovely contemporary gin that shows complexity in the botanicals though no one is overwhelming. True to the commentary style, the juniper plays a supporting role and is key to its overall balance. If you enjoy gin without an intense juniper character, check out Gin Farallon and use it to make a great Negroni, a floral gin and tonic, or even an aviation.

Review: The Gin Dictionary

David T. Smith, The Gin Dictionary: An A-Z of All Things Gin from Juniper Berries to the G & T, (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2018), 256 pages, $19.99. ISBN: 9781784724894

International gin expert, David T. Smith has written four books on gin, is the author of the gin blog Summer Fruit Cup, contributed numerous articles on gin history, production and cocktails. In addition, Smith has taught numerous gin classes and seminars and consulted for several brands.  The Gin Dictionary: An A-Z of all things gin, from juniper berries to the G&T is Smith’s fifth book and an encapsulation of his deep passion and knowledge of all things gin.

As the title suggests, the book is a dictionary about gin, organized alphabetically and covering botanicals, gin brands, chemical compounds found in gin, cocktails, cocktail ingredients, flavor profiles, gin styles, history, production, as well as mixology terms and practices. The book is very thorough in its scope physically it is very lovely with a well textured hard cover and simple illustrations that supports the the content of the book. Physical appearance aside, The Gin Dictionary is a fantastic reference book for complete beginners and for experts.

For gin distillers, The Gin Dictionary can be both an excellent reference book and a potential item to sell to your guests in tasting rooms. The book contains about 200 entries which in the distillery can be a good source of inspiration to experiment with different production techniques or potential botanicals to add to a gin recipe. In the tasting room, The Gin Dictionary can be an excellent tool to educate your staff and your customers. Craft distillers have endless stories about how their gin has converted once gun shy customers to gin drinkers. Offering The Gin Dictionary at retail can continue their gin education once they leave which benefits everyone, because and educated gin drinker is likely to return to premium and craft gins for their next purchase.

First appeared in Distiller (Summer 2018): 215

Rundown of ADI's 2018 Judging of Craft Spirits

In 2007, when the American Distilling Institute held its first annual spirits competition there were less than 100 craft distilleries in the US and the Judging awarded just 12 medals. Eleven years later the number of craft distillers in the US has grown over 1000% and the number of small and independently owned distilleries are multiplying around the world. ADI’s Judging of Craft Spirits continues to track this growth and the maturing of our industry, receiving 1003 spirits from 16 countries spread across five continents. Of those entered, 9 spirits earned Double Gold Medals, 58 earned Gold Medals, 223 earned Silver Medals and 434 earned Bronze Medals.

The mission of the ADI competition is to promote excellence where it is found and help distillers hone their craft by providing unbiased feedback from our expert judges. With these goals in mind, the Judging runs a blind competition where each entry is evaluated solely on quality of the spirit in the glass.  Seasoned stewards spend 5 days, sorting and flighting spirits by class, category, and sub-categories, taking into consideration factors such as ABV, intensity, and length of maturation, if any. During the two and a half days of our competition, the 10 panels of four judges were asked to evaluate about 50 spirits a day, about half the rate of other competitions. We do this to mitigate against plate fatigue and to give them time to give constructive feedback about each spirit.

Each year the competition offers an interesting insight into the current market of craft spirits. Whiskey remained king in total number of entries comprised mostly of bourbon, rye and malt whiskeys. However, the number of whiskeys finished in a secondary cask from craft distillers has increased substantially. For the second year running, gin replaced vodka as the second largest class overall, with aged gin accounting for almost 20% of all gin entries. And, as may have predicted, brandy is making a significant comeback. In 2018, the number of brandy entries grew by 366% over 2017! A few other small categories, such as honey spirits and spirits made from agave syrup also grew. One of most surprising declines came from Moonshine which shrank by 60% compared to 2017. Of course, it hard to know if the number of moonshines in the market are decreasing though at a minimum it seems like the marketing of some of these are shifting from moonshine to corn whiskey, for those that qualify, and from flavored moonshine to liqueurs.

As always, ADI is grateful to the stewards, judges, and all those who entered who have made the Judging of Craft Spirits the worlds largest spirits competition dedicated to craft spirits. A full list of the 2018 awards can be found here

First appeared in Distiller (Summer 2018): 40