Have I found the best Gin in America? Quite Possibly!

August 3, 2012

I just got back from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.  There were dozens of brands in attendance, some of them I like, some of them I love- and still others were undiscovered until now.  It's funny for me to be drinking gin at all.  After a horrible experience in New York City about 25 years ago, I swore I would never drink Gin again.  What makes this so funny is that for all the years that I didn't drink Gin, there was a quiet revolution taking place.  This revolution touched every portion of the liquor business.

The Craft distilling message has permeated the liquor industry.  Young, brash young men and women are into a myriad of activities.  Some are butchers, some are bakers- some are making beer, and still others have been traveling into the world of craft distillation. 

This weekend I traveled to Columbus, Ohio.  This is a marvelous city for entrepreneurs, dreamers and crafts people of all types.  There are gardens, restored Victorian villages, distilleries and really fabulous dining.  Amy Weirick of Weirick Communications brought me to this intellectual, living think tank to breath the air, sip the drinks and eat the marvelously expressive food that starts at dawn and goes into the wee hours.  Columbus, Ohio is a place for people who love to live life. 

They play hard here and their spirits are a passionate as the restored neighborhoods that ring the expanding downtown.

The distillery quotient to this story is very exciting for me.  As I said, I was down in New Orleans last week, tasting my way through the lexicon of independent spirit distilleries.  One distillery that didn't make it to Tales is located right in Columbus, Ohio. 

Sure they make Vodka at Watershed Distilling.  They also are putting up a fair amount of Bourbon in lovely white oak barrels.  But what I came for was not the Vodka, nor the Bourbon, what I'm interested in is their Gin.  And a damn fine gin it is.

Watershed Distillery is an example of entrepreneurship.  In many ways they remind me of my friends at Tuthilltown in Gardiner, NY.  Passionate about quality and sticklers for details.  That's not to say that the Gin from Watershed is without character.  Far from.  This may well be some of the most expressive Gin that I've ever tasted.

Tasting Notes:

Freshly picked citrus fruits give way to haunting aromatics of spicy Scotch Bonnet Chilies.  This is expressive stuff that screams out for notice.  I'm immediately charmed by the spice notes and the opulent finish that goes on for minutes.  Gin and juice in a bottle without the juice.  Crisp, light, aromatic and very refreshing is the next take-away.  There is a marvelous creamy texture- followed up by the 88 proof heat.  No, this is not a Navy strength Gin, but what it is- may well be the finest Gin I've tasted this year.  And that would make it a serious contender for the best Gin in America.

But how can I say this?  Maybe it was the humidity, and maybe the mosquitoes.  Last night I was eaten alive by them.  Tonight nary a bite. Was it the Gin?  I think so.  Did I dab some on my neck and wrists?  Perhaps.  But one thing is for sure.  This is fabulous stuff folks.  It tastes like freshly made Tomr's Tonic is woven into every sip.

I though a bit of Seltzer water would enlighten this Gin.  Stil, I only tasted a small amount, but that's all that it took. 

The assertive nature of the Watershed Gin is intriguing to say the least.  I'm quite taken by it!

This is not your daddy's Gin for corn syrup tonic.  This is sophisticated and strenuous Gin.  It may not be for everyone.  But those of you who drink for flavor instead of drinking Gin for the Vodka characteristics will be charmed for certain.

I am!

Much goes into this Gin.  Coriander, Juniper Berries, Jamaican Pepper and Cassia along with four different citrus peels creates a tornado of flavor around your tongue.

But is it the best Gin in America?  I think so.  I'm tired of Gin tasting like Vodka.  If I wanted Vodka, I'd stay away from those disgusting flavored ones at all costs.  I do not review flavored vodka, so please do not ask me to.  And if your Gin has a profile like Vodka?  Stay away.

I seek passion through every sip and slurp. 

Watershed co-owner Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo are passionate about Columbus, Ohio and they are especially passionate about their distilled spirits.  I think you should give them a try. 

Columbus?  I say give this lovely city a look too.  It charms and beguiles.  The people say hello and look you in the eye when they speak.  Sure they have traffic and there is an undercurrent of the past that remains- giving this circa 1812 town a lovely edge. 

Right down to their spirits.

Did I say that I think this is the very best in America?  For me, quite possibly yes.

May I suggest a cocktail?

Gamaliel Bailey was a physician and an editor of anti-slavery newspapers in the years before the American Civil War.  I named this cocktail for this gentleman from Columbus in his honor and remembrance.

Gamaliel Bailey Cocktail


Watershed Gin

Tomr's Tonic

Royal Rose 3 Chilies Syrup

Bitter End Chesepeake Bay Bitters (for a taste of the far off ocean)

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice from grilled rounds of grapefruit


Take 2 shots of the Watershed Gin and add it to a Boston Shaker

Add the simple syrup of Chilies, about 2 tablespoons

Add about 2 tablespoons of the Tomr's Tonic

Add a couple of rounds of wood grilled grapefruit


Add 5 drops of the Bitter End Chesapeake Bay Bitters

Add some fresh ice, just a bit

Shake, shake, shake, shake and pour into shot glasses

Top with freshly drawn seltzer water and garnish with mint and lime

Drink quickly and with fervor!

Makes about 4 shots or two nicely deadly cocktails! Danger Level 5 out of 5!