Full disclosure time: I don’t write a lot of gin reviews for Paste. In fact, strike that: Until now, I haven’t ever written a gin review for Paste.
It’s not that I don’t like gin, but more a factor of the self-fulfilling cycle that applies to both beer and spirits writing. When you primarily write about craft beer and whiskey, you receive a lot of beer and whiskey from brewers and distillers to sample. The more you write, the more arrives for you to write about. It’s a feedback loop that never ends (and I mean this in the best way possible), but it also tends to pigeonhole you a bit.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that a sample of gin from Berkshire Mountain Distillers had recently arrived in Paste’s Atlanta office. I happened to also have some classic Seagram’s dry gin, that old G&T standard, on hand at home, so I decided to taste the two against one another to give a clearer idea of how Berkshire’s regularly rotating Ethereal series might compare to a gin most people would label as “standard.” It was a good comparison, as this particular batch of Ethereal, which changes in recipe from batch to batch to explore different concepts, is labeled as being closer to a traditional dry gin than many of the previous iterations.
On the nose, compared to the Seagram’s, the Ethereal is less dry and crisp, implying a greater degree of residual sugar and body. Rather than the somewhat one-dimensional piney/juniper-driven profile, I get a few more notes, especially lemon citrus and rosemary-like herbality. All in all, it’s a less sharp aroma profile, softened, with the edges sanded down.
On the palate, I do get a ton of the juniper berry influence. Rather than some of the classic dry gins where the juniper comes off as very woody/Christmas tree, here it has a darker, fruitier impression, which is coupled with lemon/grapefruit citrus and lemongrass, and a spiciness that is perhaps best described as pink peppercorn. There’s more residual sweetness than in the Seagram’s, as expected, but this is still dry gin—it might do better than the Seagram’s drinking it neat, but you’re still probably going to end up using it for mixing.
All in all, the Ethereal strikes me as solid, multipurpose gin that will be at home in a variety of cocktails. You could use this in any classic recipe calling for dry gin, from the standard martini to a Ramos gin fizz.
Distillery: Berkshire Mountain Distillers
City: Sheffield, MA
Style: Dry gin
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, rotating series
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and cocktail adventurist. You can follow him on Twitter.