As small batch distilleries continue to proliferate, one topic of discussion I increasingly hear within industry circles is this: how, exactly, do we define craft? By the physical size of a distillery? The number of gallons of spirit it produces? Its methods of production?
I don’t know whether there’s a right answer, but I’ll say this – if you build your own still, you are entirely justified in calling your product “craft.” And at the heart of Wiggly Bridge Distillery, named for the smallest pedestrian footbridge in the U.S., is a hand-made copper still built by David and David Woods, the father-and-son owners of the York, Maine, distillery. Sort of adds a deeper layer of authenticity to the oft-used phrase “hand-crafted spirits.”
The idea for that still, and the award-winning spirits it now produces, arose during a dinner conversation between the Davids. The family-run business officially opened its doors in 2012, and its product line now extends to six spirits. The newest, added in 2016, is a small batch dry gin, which is the subject of today’s review.
Small Batch Dry Gin
Gin typically employs a host of botanicals, but juniper is what gives the spirit its distinctive, pine-like flavor. London dry gins, like Beefeater and Tanqueray, are known for their high percentages of juniper.
American gins, by contrast, are less strict about the makeup of their botanical blends, and many dial back the juniper. The result is a less aggressive, more balanced flavor.
Such is the case with Wiggly Bridge’s gin. Using the distillery’s white whiskey as a base and a mix of Croatian juniper, jasmine, orris root, angelica root, coriander, and orange peels for botanicals, the gin is balanced and drinkable, with an unusual flavor profile.
I’d be lying if I said my palate was sensitive enough to distinguish Croatian juniper from juniper grown anywhere else, but the Woods’s describe it as milder than other junipers.
That’s evident after one sip – the other botanicals, most notably coriander, are stand out noticeably. A soft, citrus finish serves as another contrast to gin’s signature herbal bite.
Wiggly Bridge gin’s nontraditional flavor profile can lead to some unexpected results in cocktails. I couldn’t make it work in a Bees Knees, despite multiple attempts. For whatever reason, the botanicals just didn’t seem to mesh with the lemon and honey. In a Negroni, however, Wiggly Bridge shined.
Combined with equal parts Campari and Dolin rouge vermouth, the gin’s bright notes of coriander and angelica complemented the bitterness of the other ingredients, making for a unique and wonderfully drinkable Negroni.
And while it may not seem terribly imaginative, a simple gin and tonic turned out to be an excellent way to enjoy this gin. Crisp and refreshing, it gave me an opportunity to contemplate, understand, and better appreciate the gin’s flavors.
If you’re looking for a traditional, juniper-forward gin, this isn’t it. But small distilleries like Wiggly Bridge don’t build their reputations by mimicking traditional flavor profiles; they establish their names, win awards, and gain customers by creating something new and different.
Wiggly Bridge’s small batch dry gin is crisp, balanced, and drinkable, with a flavor profile that relies less on juniper and more on its supporting cast of botanicals. It brings a welcome twist to some cocktails and requires a little tweaking with others.
But experimenting with ingredients is what leads to new cocktail discoveries, and this is a fun gin to play around with.
Note: I received a complimentary sample of Wiggly Bridge gin with the understanding that I would use it in a product review. No one from, or associated with, Wiggly Bridge influenced this content.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Copyright © Boston BarHopper. All Rights Reserved.