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Gin by definition is a flavored spirit with the dominant flavoring coming from juniper berries and usually a few other well chosen botanicals, and in certain cases, going up to over a dozen other botanicals. And up until about 1913 gin was additionally flavored with turpentine to give it those highly desirable “resinous woody notes”. But I ain’t never heard of no brown gin or aged gin. Leave it up to the good folks at Greenway Distillers in Mendocino County, California to crank out an aged gin and then up the ante by producing a ginger flavored gin and also a lime flavored gin. What’s up next guys, watermelon flavored gin?

For their straight up gin, they use just a handful of botanicals: juniper, coriander, orris root, and lemon peel. They infuse and re-distill their gins using both a small Holstein pot still and the Germain-Robin 16HL antique cognac still. The plain gin gets bottled immediately while the dark gin then spends a year in new bourbon barrels and a used 350 liter Cognac barrel. Well, I’ve tasted a bunch of these folks other spirits and have not been disappointed yet, so let’s see if these two gins maintain that track record.

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The Russell Henry Gin comes in a transparent, simple, yet elegant bottle. The nose is soft yet peppery with juniper front and center and the coriander and orris root coming in second followed by a very faint touch of lemon. The palate is also quite laid back with the juniper and coriander mixing nicely with the lemon, creating a very smooth taste. The finish leaves the pleasant sensation of juniper and citrus in the back of the throat and is long and also smooth, leaving a mild peppery, minty after taste. This really is a good, smooth, straightforward gin that hits all the proper tasting notes except for those “resinous woody notes” previously mentioned. There are more complex gins out there that boast north of 12 botanicals, but this one does indeed cover all the bases and doesn’t seem to miss all those extra ingredients.

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The Russell Henry Dark Gin comes in the same bottle that the Russell Henry regular gin comes in and that lets the whiskey/scotch/cognac pale golden color shine through. It’s really weird seeing a gin of this color, but after all, Gin is just juniper flavored vodka, and I’ve seen vodka come in every color of the rainbow! This nose just simply works. Again, it is very subtle with a combination of oakiness and juniper taking center stage and playing very well together while removing almost all of the lemon yet leaving the coriander and orris root. The palate starts to take on the profile of a very delicate, oaky whiskey that is immediately punctuated by the juniper but that punctuation is more like a comma rather than an exclamation point. I can still detect the orris and coriander but the lemon has faded to a faint memory. The finish is slightly peppery yet also smooth and leaves a taste of oak and juniper in the throat. I must admit this is my first go around with aged gin, and I really am in a quandary because it certainly has the requisite juniper taste, but the oak flavor throws me for a loop. That’s not to say I don’t like it, because I do in fact like it, but it will take some getting used to just like an aged vodka would take some getting used to. Thanks to the mad scientists, magicians and distillers of Mendocino County, I will now have something else to contemplate other than my navel.

The Russell Henry London Dry Gin weighs in at 45% ABV and runs about $38.00 per 750ml bottle. The Russell Henry Dark Gin also weighs in at 45% ABV but it will set you back $65.00 per 750ml bottle. Believe me if you’ve never had oaky gin this is the one to try.

By George Brozowski

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