Gin Gents

Monthly Archive: March 2015

Cap Rock Colorado Organic Gin

Brand: CapRock® Colorado Organic Gin
Style: New American
Distillery: Peak Spirits, Hotchkiss, CO
ALC: 41%
Average US Retail Price: $32 is the average online price


Review and Photos by Jim Trotman



Our local market actually carries Braeburn apples. I’m partial to the Fuji myself. My wife likes the Granny Smiths. But those are real Braeburn apples in the pic. Because, accuracy. We don’t fool around here.

If I had a dollar for every gin review said. “it’s a gin for people who don’t like gin,” I be able to acquire gins like Russ. People please, that’s why God made vodka. It’s for people who don’t like gin!

Okay, we got that out of the way. Readers understand at this point where we generally are coming from. Let’s move on.

Russ kind of sprang this one on me during a road trip. Indeed, for a couple of hours it was the only gin in the room.

Gave it a look, lovely. Gave it a sip… what tha?

So I made up a Traveling Salesman Martini, which is gin on the rocks in the plastic cup from your hotel room.

The taste was bright, fresh and candy-like and fruity. Russ, already aware of it’s provenance said, “Well, what do you think?”

“I, I’m trying to figure it out.”

“Think about what grows in Washington state.”

I suppressed to urge to say that Jolly Rancher Watermelon Candy doesn’t grow in Washington state because I wasn’t sure if it actually did or not.

“Any guesses, maybe…apples?”

Bingo. Now, the site says the base distillate is made from both organic wheat grain and from organic Jonathon and Braeburn apples. The flavorings come from a dozen fresh and dried botanicals.
If I were to list the tastes I encountered, truthfully it would be hard to break them down because the stuff is really round and smooth and nothing really sticks out to me other than that crisp unctuous apple-ness, but not like a cider though.

I guess it just really reminded me of more like a subtle, better crafted version of some homemade applejack I sampled at a friend’s hunting lodge. That isn’t a bad thing.

It is, in a word, delicious. It is also fairly narrow cast in as much as there will be limits to what can be done with it, but it is certainly a substantial drink on it’s own.

Not a lot more I can say here but to conclude this is a clean, crisp, well-toned elixir, without much juniper flavor at all, but is lovely to drink nonetheless.

Two and a half olives… just don’t put an olive in this one.


Russ’s take:

I have to admit, I cheated on this one.

I acquired it and took it on a long road trip to Chapel Hill, NC, where Jim and I visited Top of the Hill restaurant and the TOPO distillery, a special feature coming soon to GinGents.

We stayed at the funky, Euro-cool Aloft Hotel in the UNC Tarheel capital, and while Jim was freshening up, I popped the bottle open, found some hotel ice, and poured it into my plastic hotel room cup.

Then I had another. Jim takes a while to make himself purty.

I also tasted it straight, then on the rocks, then as a gin and tonic. Then one more.


Photo and description from Peak Spirits web site. The still shed, world headquarters for Peak Spirits® Farm Distillery, is where we craft grapes, apples, peaches, and pears into CapRock® Gin, Vodka and Brandies. Our little Holstein still was made in Germany’s orchard country, near Switzerland, so it’s very happy in it’s home on Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, surrounded by the breath-taking orchards and vineyards of the North Fork Valley!

By the time Jim emerged, I knew we’d be taking a cab for our to and from Friday night foray into Chapel Hill.

But I digress.

Neat and on the rocks–wow! What a blast of fruit. On the nose and the palate.

And yep, apple hit me front and center.

And then another botanical that is becoming very common in American gins appeared–lavender.By now I am almost able to detect lavender right off the bat as so many American gin distillers use it.

The website for Cap Rock say roses are in there also and I have no doubt that is the case. I just couldn’t detect those notes.

And, a whisper of juniper was present.

This is a gin that, in my opinion, does not qualify as a true gin when served up as a martini or on the rocks.

The juniper is far too subdued and the apples and flowery notes– too strong.

Some American style gins may taste great (this does) but that doesn’t mean they qualify  as a  true gin martini or on the rocks drink.

You might think rum and Dr. Pepper makes for a tasty drink, or even rum and RC Cola, but that doesn’t make it a real rum and Coke.

With these American-style gins, the same sort of confusion exists. It tastes awesome, but is it a gin martini or something else?

When you transition to a gin and tonic, things change and do so for the better.

My gin and tonics almost always include a squeezed wedge or lime or lime juice from a bottle.

I had tonic but no lime at the hotel so I waited until I returned home to make a real gin and tonic, with fresh lime wedge, and a double shot of Cap Rock in a Tom Collins glass, which also implies extra tonic as well as extra gin.

Which is OK with me!

In the G&T form, the juniper comes forward a bit more, just enough for it to score as a gin.

But the combination of the ice, lime, and tonic tones down the apple and lavender into something that is delicious and refreshing.

If I saw it on a shelf in a bar, I’d order it as a gin and tonic.

If I wanted a martini and didn’t care if it followed a gin, vodka, or something completely different, I’d still order it.

Just be prepared for Cap Rock, in that scenario, to defy your expectations.

In any event, if you come across it in a bar or a liquor store…buy it, try it, and open your mind–but only so far. Because the jury here is still out on whether or not it’s a gin.

Navy Strength Gin: Plymouth vs. Plymouth Navy Strength

Navy strength gin traces its legend to the British Royal Navy. Gin is usually around 40% alcohol. As you know, the British Navy always carried rations of gin and beer on board. Navy strength gin ups the ante to 57% or more alcohol.
The theory was if the gin spilled on the gunpowder, Navy strength would still light and the battle could go on.

So, Jim who keeps black powder around the house for some reason conducts the trial.

Does it work?

Plymouth gin (41.7%) vs. Plymouth Navy Strength (57%).
Jim Trotman, Russ Lay and Harold Gracey conduct a black powder experiment on the deck of Russ’s house. Next time we’ll do it before the taste test


Brand: Aviation Gin

Style: American

Distillery: House Spirits Distillery, 2025 SE 7th Ave, Portland, OR
ALC: 42% 84 Proof

Average US Retail Price: $30-35 / 750mL



Jim’s Review

Named for a cocktail created nearly 100 years before “taking off” in 2006, Aviation Gin “found its wings” in the new American interest in craft distilling that became the rage over the last decade. Timing was on their side.

The name alone evokes the romance, glamour and style of the early age of flight. These days, airline transportation for the masses has largely lost all of that, but the image is strong in our mythos and remains an attractive, seductive national memory.


Photo by Jim Trotman On a crisp October day in 2008, I was loading some gear into my car and looked up to see two aircraft approaching each other from opposite directions. I tend to keep my main camera fitted with a 70-200mm lens. I just reached for it, pointed it skyward and made the background image as they were nearing each other. I filed it away, knowing I had no immediate use but it was sharp enough and interesting enough to hold onto. For my birthday one year, Cathie and T-Mike Morrison, friends and neighbors we share with Russ and his wife, gave me a set of cocktail glasses, one of which you see here. Cathie’s father Jerry Bellmer was an actual Cold War F-86 Sabre Jet pilot in the 50s and 60s. These are my favorite cocktail glasses. On tasting Aviation, these elements all came together.

Or one may also conjure up the image of an airport bar, just before closing. Down at the end an exhausted pilot takes a seat, looking a little worse for the wear from fighting headwinds and dodging thunderstorms all the way from Pittsburg to Chicago. He has just brought his DC-9 home in the nick of time before fog and low ceilings closed the airport to all other inbound flights. All souls who were aboard are safe, and either heading to their homes or their hotels. All he wants is a dry place to sit and gin in his hand.

It may be nostalgia, it may be that remake of “The Great Gatsby” or it may just be the taste, but Aviation Gin, this Northwestern regional crafted spirit, hit cruising speed right out of the gate.

Hey, it works for me.

I first learned of Aviation Gin by way of an iPhone pic my brother snapped and sent me. He’d seen it at a Dallas Liquor store and knowing of my own past as a pilot knew I’d get a kick out of it..

So then Russ and I got this little enterprise going and in his travels he managed to acquire a bottle or two. It was time to get our review hat on for this one.

And so we tasted.

The first thing I noticed was this was no docile pet. A LOT was happening, wit the juniper element happily present but right up along side was more spice than herb.

Aviation hits the tongue energetically.

A pepper like note, somewhere between parsley and peppercorns highlights the warmth of the alcohol bite.

When I tried to speak after tasting, and on the audio it is evident, my voice was hilariously altered a good octave higher than normal. That is one hell of a handshake.

In martinis, with more traditional and milder gins, the taste buds can get saturated with the juniper notes after a couple of drinks and one can be fooled that he or she may not be playing with a full strength sample. I do not see that being the case with Aviation. It is so tenacious that there will be no false assumptions.

Yeah, sure, we made jokes about it being as subtle as Genghis Kahn, Jet A fuel, and carbon footprints, but this really is just a very tasty, probably highly mixable gin with backbone.

We should mention we sampled this just after giving No. 209 a spin. The No. 209 is steady, mild and as gentle a gin as you may find. Aviation is also steady, but not subtle at all. Both were delicious but the contrast was significant.

Aviation defines their taste profile as a “botanical democracy.” A term Russ and I got a kick out of. Not a social flora democracy, not an herbaceous communism but a botanical democracy which they list on the Aviation Gin site as juniper, Elletaria cardamom, lavender, sarsaparilla, coriander, anise and dried sweet orange peel.

I suspect the coriander and sarsaparilla were the pepper like component with the lavender adding a sooth, mollifying effect. If this gin were music, the lavender would be the backing baritone saxophone playing off the higher melodies of the citrus, anise juniper. In the case of Uncle Val’s, the florals were like a whole sax section.

This is an outstanding American style gin that is fine as a martini and has the will to stand on its own in a mix. As soon as I can get my hands on some Créme De Violette and some Marachino Liqueur, I’ll have to whip up an Aviation Gin’s namesake cocktail for a test flight. That is providing Aviation Gin can be found somewhere in the hangar.
Bravo Zulu, Aviation.

Russ’s Review

Aviation, like No. 209, is another new American gin that has begun to break out into the national market.

It is widely distributed across the country and is available in many liquor stores and increasingly, bars.

On the nose there is the usual heavy alcohol presence with a hint of juniper and spice.

Drinking it straight and warm—our patented “naked” tasting routine, revealed a circus of flavors, or as I described it—a palate party.

On the rocks, heat was still present, but much reduced.


From Aviation Gin website

One could debate if Aviation qualifies as a traditional gin with the requisite juniper forward profile, but I’m coming down on the side of Aviation firmly belonging in the gin camp.

It’s not as smooth as No. 209. Rather it’s a muscular gin with a ton of flavors competing for attention.

As a martini it will put a little hair on the chest– again, quite different from the No. 209 experience, but it’s power is not a flaw, it’s a major plus.

At the finish I sensed a botanical that was flattening the juniper taste and taking some of that entry muscularity down a notch or two, which worked. In other words, a nice finish–more of a soft landing after a stronf entry.

But it won’t sneak up on you, and as Jim noted, martini drinkers won’t suffer from “pine tree” fatigue if you choose to drink more than a couple at one sitting.

And a hint of spices as well as some citrus was playfully making the rounds in my mouth in the “rocks” mode.

This is the type of complexity that tasters love.

Whether it is coffee, whiskey, beer, and especially wine–differing sensations from the nose to palate entry to finish, and everything in between is generally a good thing. And if done correctly, a sign of quality and attention to detail.

Complexity done right makes for a unique product.

As it turns out one of the botanicals in the mix is lavender. However unlike Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin, which was lavender heavy—Aviation’s use of lavender takes some of the edge off of this heavier-handed gin.

We taped our tasting for this one and reviewing that video we kept returning to the theme that Aviation is no wallflower.

One observation I made was if compared to wine varietals, No. 209 is a Pinot Noir, whereas Aviation would be on a scale with Cabernet Sauvignon or a hearty Zinfandel.

Veering into a dance analogy, No. 209 is a like a waltz—light and fluid.

Aviation is the action dancing down in the mosh pit-organized but wild and free-wheeling at the same time.

Another botanical, sarsaparilla as revealed by the distillers web site probably explains a lot of that muscular tasting experience—adding the zing provided by licorice or wintergreen without actually tasting like root beer or medicinal attributes often used to describe sarsaparilla.

Also present is coriander, which adds a citrus and spicy component, cardamom and anise, and finally, orange peel.

Put it all together and one can easily figure out why our first reaction on the video tasting was: “Wow, there is a lot going on here.”

As a gin and tonic Aviation took on an entirely different profile—all of these botanicals work to make a gin and tonic where the gin can stand up to the tonic and deliver a powerful, but flavorful punch.

In essence, Aviation is not going to be denied its flavor profile when mixed with tonic and even a squirt of lime.

Instead, it asserts itself and actually delivers a G&T that does not taste run-of-the-mill.

If you regularly order G&T’s in bars where Bombay or Tanqueray is most often used, you will notice right away Aviation is something different.

The gin has won tons of awards in competitions and has been rated extremely high in most wine and spirits magazines.

And for myself, this is the first American-style gin that I’ve tasted that successfully pulls away from juniper-forward and creates something that is still a gin, but ] completely different and quite good.

I rank it four olives, or four shot glasses, but also award Aviation an American flag cluster for successfully breaking the mold without crossing the line into the world of flavored vodkas-American style gin that gets it right!