Local Distillers Perfect the Art of Gin Making

A.J. Rathbun spotlights the local distillers who have turned Washington into the ever-gin state
A.J. Rathbun  |   September 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
best gin in washington seattle magazine


A.J'S GIN PICKS
Voyager Gin, Pacific Distillery ($25)
Starting with a forthright mingling of aromas—citrus, cardamom and pine—and then delivering a confident juniper flavor that echoes our local evergreens and a peppery and memorable finish with every sip, Voyager is a fantastic match for those who like a classic London dry gin. It works well in cocktails, including making a dandy martini. No tasting room, but you can get Voyager nearly everywhere. 425.350.9061; pacificdistillery.com

Big Gin, Captive Spirits ($30)
Matching its name perfectly, this gin boasts a big juniper taste. That’s not to say there aren’t other flavors, from citrus on the nose to slight floral accents and a smidge of sweetness. But it isn’t shy about the juniper—which is a blessing to those who like a classically minded gin. This makes a lovely Negroni. Ballard-based Captive Spirits also has a barrel-aged version of the gin. It does not, however, have a tasting room but Big Gin is available at Whole Foods, Wine World and most liquor stores. 206.852.4794; captivespiritsdistilling.com

Alpinist Gin, Seattle Distilling Company ($38–$40)
Released in June, the most recently debuted gin on the list lets its range of regional ingredients—Oregon juniper, Washington lavender, elderberry, coriander and hazelnuts—shine, with a solid juniper base that doesn’t overwhelm the other spice, nut and fruit essences. This balance makes it a very pleasant drinking companion—on its own and in cocktails. It’s perfection in a gimlet, for example. Tasting room: Vashon Island, 19429 Vashon Hwy. SW; 206.463.0830; seattledistillingcompany.com

Gun Club Gin, Sun Liquor Distillery ($32)
While I’m a fan of its gentler Hedge Trimmer gin, Sun Liquor’s Gun Club rates a little higher in my mind (but why not try both?), because of its intriguing essences of herbs and spices. When sipping, you’ll discover thyme, pepper, caraway and even a faint trace of garden vegetables. It doesn’t hide the juniper, though; it just augments it. This makes a mean Pink Gin when you add angostura bitters and a twist over ice. Bar and distillery: Capitol Hill, 514 E Pike St.; 206.720.1600; sunliquor.com

Halcyon Gin, Bluewater Organic Distilling ($34.50)
A newer entry into the local gin-iverse (opened in 2012), Halcyon is an all-organic spirit delivered in American-made bottles (a rarity). It’s in the London style, and has notes of orange, lemon and other spices surrounding its solid juniper flavor. It matches well with mint and orange in summery cocktails, and recently won “Best Washington Gin” at the Seattle Gin Society’s annual Ginvitational. Tasting room: Everett, 1205 Craftsman Way, Suite 116; 206.369.0739; bluewaterdistilling.com

Old Tom Gin, Sound Spirits Distillery ($39)
Here’s a wild card: Old Tom, originally made in the late 18th century. Sound Spirits’ version rests in oak barrels for a month and has a spice forwardness that’s less juniper centered. It’s also a stitch sweeter (as it should be) and darker in color. Of course, you should use it to make a Tom Collins, designed for this style of gin.
Tasting room: Interbay, 1630 15th Ave. W; 206.651.5166; drinksoundspirits.com

Not sure of how to make use of tasty Washington gin? Click here for three cocktail recipes that’ll help you reach a gin nirvana.