Revolutionary Gins with Shawn Young

With the autumn breezes blowing nightly now, it’s natural to start making the transition into deeper, more warming spirits (possibly of the peated persuasion) in preparation of the cold winter months. Tonight was a final salute to warm months gone by, and a welcoming handshake to the oh-so-familiar Calgary fall/winter. We make this salute by toasting with the spirit that truly embodies the ability to make it through even the worst of winters, and come out the other side to thrive and grow. Here’s to lovely juniper!

Though to be fair, juniper was not the driving force of all of the gins tonight. We sampled a wide range from a few different countries, imbued with the essences of a very diverse collection of botanicals, fruits, and spices. The evening was on the cusp of crisp, with the telltale autumn breeze, but just as Gin is a light spirit, so were the spirits of those gathered to laugh and learn and taste! With gustatory help from The Peasant Cheese company, we made our way through 7 unique Gins:

1. Berry Brothers No. 3 London Dry - This classic London dry gin showcases juniper exactly how you want it to: In your face. The rough around the edges style is suitable for nearly any drink design you can think of. (46% ABV, $51.99).

2. Ungava – This is a truly unique expression from a truly unique place. Ungava comes from the region of the same name in the northern part of la belle province. Though instead of reflecting the harsh winter climate and unforgiving sub-arctic terrain, this lovely spirit demonstrates the elegant balance between beauty and hardiness you’d expect to find in arctic plant life. The infused botanicals include: Nordic juniper, Wild Rose Hips, Cloudberry, Crowberry, and Labrador Tea. The result is a mild, fruity gin with light spice and an intriguing yellow color. (43.1% ABV, $34.99).

3. Spirit Bear – Straight from the heart of BC, Spirit Bear can boast the title of first legal artisan distillery in BC. Aside from their title, and name (based on the rare white furred spirit bear), the uniqueness is also ever present in their gin, in which they infuse apples, hop blossoms and ginger root on top of the standard gin fare. The result is a fruity yet earthy, easy sipping gin with a hint of spruce.  (40% ABV, $43.99).

4. The Botanist (Bruichladdich) – Coming from one of Islay’s most reputable distilleries, this treat of a gin is made with 22 different botanicals native to the tiny island of Islay. It packs a slightly off-dry character driven by citrus notes, and an incredible oily texture. Fantastic right out of the fridge and into the glass, this gin really shines on its own.  (46% ABV, $51.99).

5. Old Raj (Cadenhead) - The older brother of the gin family, this guy is the one always threatening to overpower his weaker brothers. By this of course I mean just in alcohol content, as Old Raj packs a whopping 55%ABV, it’s not afraid to let you know what it is, even under layers of cocktail accoutrement. Aside from the impressive ABV, Saffron is used to give this gin a mild floral honey character, as well as a slight yellow hue. A very pleasant way of showing off the priciest spice in the world.  (55% ABV, $51.99).

6. Parlour Gin (Eau Claire Distilliery) - In the midst of the buy/make/cook/consume local movement sweeping North America, you can’t get much more local than our own back yard. The newest distillery in Alberta, Eau Claire comes from Turner Valley, and brings this off dry, barley forward gin to the table. Fantastic gin for a dry, bitter tonic, this one is packed with Lavender, mild fruit, and a mild bitterness coming from Wild Rose Hips. A hot contender in the craft distillery game. (40% ABV, $52.99).

7. Chief Gowanus -  A callback to the old Dutch region of New York, this is a take on an old Holland Gin. Made from seasonal and regionally available grains, rye drives this gin in crazy spicy directions. This is  further enhanced by cluster hops, which are known for their spice and floral character. The spirit is then toned down a touch by aging in oak barrels for 3 months. The result is a complex, unique gin that is ideal for cocktails, both modern and classic.  (44% ABV, $49.99).

So there we have it! 7 amazing gins tickled our tongues. Don’t hate me if I got your mouth watering through all of that, these gins are all available at the store, so come on down and check them out… there is even a little leftover for sampling! The favorites of the night were The botanist, Spirit Bear, and No. 3 London Dry (first, second and third place respectively). Thanks to everyone who came out!

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