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Review:

50 Fathoms Gin

Distillery

Port Chilkoot Distillery, Haines, Alaska, USA.

Website

Port Chilkoot Distillery.

History

Haines is a small town found at the end of the Inside Passage (or Marine Highway), in the South East of Alaska, established in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s during the Klondike Gold Rush. Today it is referred to by some as the adventure capital of the world due to the extensive range of outdoor activities it can offer on land, sea and snow. During October through to February each year it is also home to the highest number of Bald Eagles to be found anywhere in the world. It was to this beautiful area, married couple Heather Shade and Sean Copeland paid many visits before deciding to permanently settle in Haines in 2008. With a population of 1,800 and sporadic unemployment rising to a rate of around 40%, subject to the summer tourist trade, they realised the best opportunities involved self-employment and this led to the decision to open a distillery. Thus, “instead of spending all their hard-earned money on good whiskey” they would “make all their hard-earned money on good whiskey”.

In 2012 they purchased an historic building, originally built in 1904 as the bakery to the nearby military encampment of Fort William H. Seward. In 1922 the fort was renamed Chilkoot Barracks and was eventually decommissioned by the US Army just after World War II, when it was bought and renamed Port Chilkoot. In 1970 the areas of Port Chilkoot and Haines were merged and this history gave Heather and Sean the idea to call the old bakery Port Chilkoot Distillery. Sean has a background of over 20 years as a carpenter and utilized his skills to extensively restore the building so they were able to open the distillery in the late fall of 2013. Today they have developed a range of spirits with Sean undertaking most of the practical activities and Heather, with a background in science, taking on the role of Head Distiller. Here she seeks to ensure quality and fine balancing is applied, so that all who partake of this liquid refreshment can taste the real spirit of Alaska.

50 Fathoms Gin, their third product to be produced, was launched in the spring of 2014.

Production

The base spirit is produced by hand using (we believe), barley shipped in from Washington State. Each batch is made using their 125-gallon pot still (with a bubble plate tower) made by Vendome Copper & Brass Works of Louisville, Kentucky and diluted with pure Alaskan water.

The Gin is presented in a clear cylindrical squat bottle with rounded shoulders. The almost square light brown colored label is designed to look like a old-fashioned nautical map and displays the global positioning coordinates of the distillery, the logo for the distillery in the top right corner, an image of a flat fish in the center and “50 Fathoms Gin” in black colored text towards the bottom.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

45% (90 Proof).

Price Range

$$$ - $$$$. Available from the distillery and many major towns throughout Alaska, USA. This limited availability is just the excuse to encourage visiting Haines, to enjoy the incredible vistas of Alaska, breathe the crisp clean air and mix with the open, friendly residents.

Botanicals

Unknown but includes: juniper berries, Alaskan spruce tips and tangerine peel.

Name

Used to measure the depth of water, a fathom (since the 1800's) has been a standard size of 6 feet (or 2 yards). Prior to this the measurement varied slightly as it was taken from the distance of finger-tip to finger-tip of a man with his arms outstretched wide. 

Lines (of rope) are traditionally sold in "skeins" of 300 feet long (50 fathoms) and are the standard size for a  "groundline" used by commercial fishermen, just like those in Haines today. Did you know? Fathom comes from the Old English word "Fadem" (which became "Fathme" in Middle English) and means to embrace with outstretched arms.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is strong alcohol with citrus and light piney (juniper) notes. On the palate is sweet citrus (tangerine) and dry pine citrus with some warming spice nuances. On the finish the sharp citrus and drying bitter pine notes continue with the spice intensifying in the long finish. An interestingly balanced Gin with some underlying displays of complexity.

This exhibits all the signs of a classic London Dry style of Gin but the use of tangerine and spruce tips take it clearly into a modern day style. Although this can be sipped neat it performs much better in mixed drinks. In a Gin and Tonic the classic characteristics of the Gin remain although it feels drier than most and has some nice herbal spice aspects coming forth – and is perhaps best served with a lemon or lime garnish. This makes for a robust Martini with some of the herbal aspects (noted in the G&T) and a little saltiness, mixing well with the vermouth. This was very nice in a Dirty Martini and is best served with an olive garnish for a standard Martini or even a cocktail onion for a Gibson.

This is a solid performing Gin with what seems like great versatility in Gin based cocktails. Traditional Gin drinkers should easily enjoy this although a small minority might be put off by the modern day twist to it. However, this may in turn attract a small minority of lighter Gin drinkers and even convert them to this more classic style. This is a Gin to recommend to all Gin drinkers – try it and see for your self.

Awards & Accolades

Double Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2015.

Gold Medal, American Craft Spirits Awards, 2015.

Music

Why not listen to "Fathoms Left to Fall" by Northcore while sipping your choice of cocktail made with 50 Fathoms Gin:

Read & Practice


Make yourself a drink with 50 Fathoms Gin and why not learn/practice some of the most common ropework knots around…you never know when they might come in handy.



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