When I think of gin, it is never in the pedantic debate of gin vs vodka, what’s the difference? Admittedly, some similarities are apparent. They are both clear grain-based liquors, have a long history of European distilling, are interchanged in many popular cocktails, but still, they are so different! They have distinct tastes, are chemically different, and gin is not necessarily made from vodka. By definition, gin is distilled (or redistilled) with botanicals, usually juniper, for an intentional and distinctive flavour profile.
Distinctive Canadian Spirits
This hand-crafted gin leans to several noble sources of inspiration. Made in Victoria on Vancouver Island, it derived its name from the Fairmont Empress Hotel, where one can enjoy an afternoon tea service – which directly influences this blend’s taste. It uses eight signature botanicals: tea, juniper, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and butterfly pea blossom. That last ingredient, which is at home in the Empress’ tea blends, gives the gin a distinctively earthy note. This gin is best enjoyed in a cocktail fit for royalty.
The Royal Treatment
1.5 oz Empress 1908
3 oz white cranberry juice
Build in a stemless wine glass. Garnish with kiwi slices (skin removed), berries, and a mint leaf.
It comes as a surprise to many that the same Sleeman family that started their eponymous brewery in 1834 also started a short-lived distillery two years after. Even though this venture ran dry after a short period, today’s Sleemans (led by John and his two sons have revived the tradition with the Spring Mill Distillery in Guelph, Ontario. This gin is a bright, approachable juniper with subdued floral notes and a crisp finish, which harkens to a sweet character typical of traditional London gin. The taste is supported by botanicals of bright pine, cheerful mint notes and a distinct spicy undertone.
The distillery also features a vodka, made from softer winter wheat of the Canadian prairies. The Spring Mill Distillery Vodka is at home in a versatile cocktail like the Del Sol.
The Del Sol
1 oz Spring Mill gin
.5 oz Haskap Liqueur
1.5 oz mango simple syrup
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
3 mint sprigs for garnish
Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously with ice.
Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with mint.
Competition from Far and Wide
Nordés Atlantic Galician Gin
From the alluring green Spanish region of Galicia comes this aroma-heavy craft gin. The Galician Albarino grape lends subtle white fruit aromas, and six other local botanicals (sage, laurel, verbena herb, eucalyptus, peppermint, and glasswort) give a signature balsamic aroma. The roster of botanicals is not limited to the locality, as five overseas flavours (juniper, ginger, cardamom, hibiscus, and black tea) are also used. Even though this mixture is complex, the end product is unmistakably fruity and robust.
This Japanese gin showcases some unique local botanicals like Sakura flower and leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha (green) tea, Gyokuro tea, and Sanshō pepper. These botanicals are cultivated over four seasons and have been carefully curated to create a craft gin that is unmistakably floral, sweet on the nose, and finishes with a flourish of pepper.
- Gerald is a whisky and spirits connoisseur who has been writing, educating, and championing the industry’s finest for many years. His dedication to the whisky industry inspires international travel to historic locations, like Scotland and Ireland, where he attends exclusive events, private tastings at renowned whisky distilleries and festivals. Passionate about luxury, Gerald enjoys whiling away the hours at the world's leading art galleries and occasionally engaging in a rousing game of squash. Follow him on IG: @g2whisky