Barr Hill Gin is made by Vermont’s Caledonia Spirits, and I’d been familiar with the brand long before acquiring my own bottle. As a resident of Boston—one of the truly great American cities and also one of the flat-out dumbest when it comes to regulating anything involving alcohol—I’m all too aware of the city’s bizarre “cordial licenses,” which permit restaurants to serve only sweetened spirits (because Green Chartreuse is in no way more alcoholic than Jack Daniel’s).
That’s a long way of saying that several Boston restaurants strapped with this confounding license have still found ways to serve a Negroni by relying on Barr Hill Gin. As the gin is made with raw honey, it falls under the “cordial” umbrella, and happens to make a damn good Negroni.
But how is it by itself? The nose is very soft, with none of the Christmas tree-experience you’d expect from a gin. There is a juniper presence and a touch of pepper, but these notes are light and sit alongside honey.
It is very round and light on the palate, yet substantial in body. Its mouthfeel is not unlike a crème liqueur, which makes good sense considering the raw honey. Honey dominates flavor-wise, but that’s not to imply that it’s sweet. Rather, it has a floral, almost malty honey-flavor, more akin to biting into a raw honeycomb than anything that comes out of a bear-shaped squeeze bottle. While it remains a soft ride to the end, a touch of pepper and some light juniper emerge towards the back, along with a slight herbal note that’s a bit like bay leaf or rosemary. It’s capped off with a very light and appreciated touch of spice.
Barr Hill is a satisfying and surprisingly versatile gin. It’s also quite rewarding in a Gin & Tonic, which I made with a lemon slice per brand advice. The malty and creamy characteristics of the spirit come through, though the juniper becomes even less prominent and sees its role reduced to a whisper at the end. That factor may disappoint anyone in search of a drier, spicier gin, but again that’s not the intent of this spirit. Barr Hill Gin is doing something different, and it does it very well.
— 45% ABV