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Backcountry Bartender: Gin Review

Rethink gin. With heavy pine needles and balanced, exotic flavors, this spirit may be the perfect backcountry compliment you've written off.
ginRethink gin in the backcountry with these top-shelf selections. (Crystal Sagan)

Gin has come a long way since it was first produced for medicinal purposes in 17th century Holland. In modern times, it’s is a grain-neutral spirit flavored predominantly with juniper and these days most folks keep it on hand for an occasional gin and tonic (at best), and would hardly consider it for anything more.

Lucky for us, gin is in the midst of a revolution, evolving from juniper-heavy and dry, to something more along the lines of a bouquet of botanicals living harmoniously in a juniper forest, so to speak. Many gins are now made with a multitude of extracts and flavors in addition to juniper;¬ anything from lavender and citrus to ginger and coriander. Sure, you can still mix a plethora of classic or complex cocktails but with this new movement, gin is just a good in a flask as in a martini glass.

Here some delicious options::

Aviation Gin
Inspired by full-bodied, rye-based Dutch gin. The pine-heavy nose leads the way for lavender and citrus which compliment the earthy spiciness the rye-based grain spirit brings to the nose. A medium-body offers flavors reflecting the nose, with pleasant notes of anise along side floral lavender. Lingering spicy finish. Great for gin martini, with tonic, or in a classic Aviation Cocktail. $28; www.aviationgin.com

Bluecoat American Dry Gin
Bluecoat is produced with organic American citrus and juniper, resulting in a well-balanced, approachable gin. The nose is strong with sweet lime and hints of other citrus fruits. The equally citrus-forward palate is pleasantly surprising and complimented by subtle notes of cloves and a touch of juniper for good measure. Cardamon and almost cinnamon-like spice in the finish linger on the palate for quite a while. Not the best gin to pair with tonic or vermouth, try it instead in a Tom Collins. $25; www.bluecoatgin.com

Hendricks Gin
This Scottish gin has gained popularity over the last few years, thanks to its featured botanicals: cucumber and rose petals. Big, bold aromas of Bulgarian Rose, cucumbers, and (yes,) juniper (though it takes a back seat). Crisp and round, where highly present flavors seen in the nose are balanced by a backdrop of other botanicals. Clean and delicious in a martini, or on the rocks (with a cucumber twist if you have one). $35; www.hendricksgin.com

Jackelope Gin
Local juniper leads this small batch gin of seven botanicals dancing across your palate- the nose is mainly citrus with a bit of juniper. On the palate, nicely balanced floral notes accompany more citrus and juniper, with just a hint of earthiness. The finish on this sip-able gin lingers just long enough for your senses to enjoy. Keep an eye out for Jackelope and Jenny Gin in stores in early March– an amazing combination of freshly distilled local pears blended with Jackelope Gin. Its candied fruit nose and gentle spice finish beg it to be drank any which way you please. $29 each; www.peachstreetdistillers.com

Rogue Spirits Spruce Gin & Pink Gin
Rogue takes a fresh approach to making gin, and all but substitutes spruce for juniper berries (there is just enough juniper to classify it as a gin). The spruce and cucumber dominate with touches of citrus, coriander, ginger, and a range of other botanicals. An interesting, forward-thinking, take on gin.

The Pink Gin lets you know just how new school it is right from the start- its pink! Hailing from Oregon, Rouge takes gin one step further and ages in local Pinot Noir barrels. A cherry-vanilla nose leads into a dry but fruity body with a lingering finish; a decent attempt at a light, feminine gin. Either is perfect with tonic or in one of Rogue’s recommended cocktails. $35 and $40, respectively; www.rogue.com

Right Gin
Our favorite gin out of this group comes all the way from Sweden, and brings to the table a few surprises. Up front citrus notes please and dominate the nose and palate, closely followed by juniper. While citrus and juniper have a presence initially, they are by no means exclusively featured, and share the spotlight with coriander, eucalyptus, and an unexpected contender- black pepper. The Sarawak pepper (from Borneo) is the surprise guest at the party —it offers an exciting and slightly masculine finish that lingers pleasantly. Try in a classic cocktail like a Gin Fizz or check out the custom cocktail mixer on the Right Gin website. $35; www.rightgin.com

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