By Michael W. Harris
Type: Dry Gin
Botanicals: Oriental botanicals and gunpowder tea are listed on bottle. Website lists: meadowsweet, cardamom, juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, caraway seed, star anise, gunpowder tea, Chinese lemon, oriental grapefruit, kaffir lime
Base: Grain Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: The tea, lemon, grapefruit, and lime are all vapor infused into the gin, while the others are “slow distilled by hand in medieval copper pot stills.”
I had never had Gunpowder Gin before moving to Virginia last year, but it was one of the first new spirits that I spied when I made my inaugural trip to the local ABC store after moving to Williamsburg a year ago in October 2017. From what I could tell, it was a relatively new addition to the state approved line-up of spirits, and I was a little worried that I might not be able to get a hold of it once I moved to Tennessee because, spoilers, I love this gin. Indeed, the (beautiful) bottle I am reviewing was purchased back in Virginia just in case I would not be able to acquire it locally. Luckily I can source it in Memphis and I can foresee another bottle in my future once this one is empty.
What I am saying is that I really like this gin. The interesting mixture of traditional botanicals and the vapor infused “Oriental” ones (god that word is cringe-worthy and taints the gin just a tad in my book, though not enough to keep me from buying it) and gunpowder tea make for a tasty experience that changes remarkably depending on how you decide to consume this gin.
Let’s go to the tape.
Gunpowder gin start out very unassuming (9/24). On the nose it has the very traditional gin notes—juniper and the like, with not a lot of alcohol to be had with just a whiff. However, if you take a deep sniff, you can catch a glimpse of the more complex spices and tea that will soon come to play when the gin crosses your lips.
First, this gin is smooth on the tongue, with the sweeter citrus flavors the most prominent in the beginning. At first taste, it reminds me a lot of the Tanqueray No. 10 with many of the same flavors, seemingly. However, when you go to swallow, that is where the magic happens. The tea flavors hit, along with the spicier botanicals. The 43% ABV also ensures that there is not a lot of burn on the back end, and that the flavors can really come to the fore.
Gunpowder is a really nice gin to sip, but since this was not my first bottle (indeed, it was my third), I was eager to get to the gin and tonic.
Gin and Tonic
In the course of tasting and reviewing this gin, I was also finally getting around to watching Star Wars Rebels season 4, and just happened to finish it the night of the gin and tonic review (9/25). Gunpowder and tonic immediately presents a different flavor profile that Gunpowder straight. The tonic and lime help bring the tea and spice flavors forward, while also supporting the more traditional flavors. Whereas the Wilder or Dogfish Head were different seemingly only to be different, Gunpowder is different in a way that supports a traditional gin flavor while putting a new spin on it.
What’s better is that the finish of the Gunpowder and tonic is one that does not overstay its welcome. The spice lingers a bit but subsides rather quickly. It clears away for the next sip. Truly there isn’t a lot more to say other than this is a Top 5 or 10 cocktail in my book. Just a “damn fine” gin and tonic. I could end the review here, but given the positive vibes of the straight and g’nt, I was curious as to what the Pink Gunpowder might have in store.
After finishing Rebels, I needed a palate cleanser, so I went to one of my “comfort” shows: Eureka (9/28). I’ve seen most episodes of the show multiple times, but every now and then you needed unsophisticated and uncomplicated. And other times you discover the best pink gin you have ever had.
I feel like Gunpowder is the perfect gin to pair with the angostura bitters. It is sweet and bitter, tangy and spicy, and all at the same time. My one negative note is that the finish on the pink Gunpowder has more burn than I might like initially, and more so than on the straight gin. However, it seems to mellow as the drink sits and mixes and becomes quite pleasant by the end. In the end, for the first time since I started reviewing gin, I have finally found a pink gin that actually tastes good on the palate and that I might even consider mixing for myself outside of a review context…if the Gunpowder and tonic wasn’t so damn good on its own, that is.
Gunpowder Gin is fabulous. It is not cheap, but I cannot recommend it enough. It is a Top Shelf gin all the way and one that you should definitely seek out. It is well worth your time and money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself another Gunpowder and Tonic.