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With the proliferation of so many craft distilleries throughout the U.S., liquor stores are now awash with small-batch gins. This particular breed of spirit is relatively easy to make and generally requires little-to-no aging. It can hit the shelves long before, say, a whiskey could.
Because of the huge number of producers, there's no simple way to file a definitive "best of" list. Instead, we present a snapshot of a few exemplary American distilleries from around the country.
The Bay Area has long been a hotspot for distilling, and that's particularly the case with gin. Alameda's St. George Spirits boasts four special bottles in its portfolio, of which the Dry Rye ($35) and Terroir ($35) are standouts. The Dry Rye has a toasted-banana quality that plays beautifully off its caraway, black pepper and rye notes. The Terroir—which is vapor-infused with botanicals from Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais—brims with foresty earth, Douglas fir and bay-laurel essence.
Hallock, Minnesota's Far North Spirits offers up one of the most unique gins around—though we're going to stop short of recommending it for everyone. Solveig ($35) is not for the timid, as its funky, mushroomy, ripe-melon notes might scare off first-timers: It's for adventurous drinkers only. That said, Hallock’s navy-strength offering, Gustaf ($53), is much more approachable—despite its high proof—with a more familiar spiciness and milder all-around flavor.
While the South is, obviously, best known for its whiskey, there’s plenty of gin consumed in the region. And Austin's Genius Liquids makes several fine mixing partners. The Standard Strength ($27) is a pretty complex one, moving from the usual-suspect botanicals into lavender, lime and an agave-like hint of sweetness. Need a little more muscle in that Martini? Genius' Navy Strength ($20) punches those flavors forward with a no-fooling-around 114-proof. Both of these spirits make great companions in citrus drinks.
Sheridan, Oregon's Ransom Dry Gin ($30) takes a cue from Dutch genever. It's got a slightly hoppy, slightly musty vibe that turns pleasantly malty with strong notes of orange and spice, and it's infused with local marionberry and hops. The Small's American Dry bottling ($33) starts off similarly but goes in inventive new directions with an uncommonly perfumy florality.
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Caledonia Spirits' Barr Hill Gin ($38) is a unique and pleasing gin made in Vermont. Raw honey is added just before bottling, which imbues the spirit with a gently off-white hue. With just the right amount of juniper and floral balance, a Barr Hill Ramos Gin Fizz brings you to the land of milk and honey.
You could do a lot worse than to source your botanicals and water from the verdant Colorado mountains, so suffice it to say that Spring44's Mountain Gin ($35) is a product of its environment. Big dry pine, citrus and earth notes come through at the beginning, followed by a refreshing herbal, minty finish—a solid companion to a splash of tonic. The classic bottling is full of juniper, coriander and nutmeg, and the Old Tom style ($44) is lightly malty but gently balanced with lemongrass, vanilla and baking spice. Perfect for a classic Tom Collins.