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Review

Ivy City Gin

Distillery

One Eight Distilling LLC, Washington, DC, USA.

Website

One Eight Distilling.

History

This distillery, the second legal one to open in Washington DC since prohibition, was formally launched at the beginning of 2015. It was started in 2013 by old college friends Alexander “Sandy” Wood (CEO) and Alex Laufer (COO & Head Distiller), neither of whom had any distilling background. Sandy had been an Immigration Attorney for over a decade in DC (handy for managing the legal side of things) and Alex had been in Biotechnology & Neuroscience for nearly two decades (handy for distilling), who moved to DC in 2005. Both did a lot of reading about distilling, attended courses (e.g. Koval Distillery, Chicago, Illinois, USA and Siebel Institute of Technology (brewing) in Chicago and Munich, Germany) and undertook “internships” with various distillers including: Smooth Amber Spirits (West Virginia, USA) and Springbank Distillery (Scotland, UK). It’s fair to say, these guys did their homework!

Ivy City Gin, their first Gin, was planned for launch along with their Vodka and White Whisky at the opening of the Distillery. Unfortunately there was a technical issue with the Gin still, meaning the Gin was delayed and finally launched in summer 2015.

Production

The neutral base spirit is made in their German 2,000-liter hybrid pot still from locally grown grain (Eastern Shore Maryland and North Carolina) and consists of 63% Rye, 26% Corn and 11% Malted Rye, all of which is milled in-house. These grains are used in all their spirits although there are slight variations in the proportions used. The choice of Rye (an historically popular crop in the area) is relatively unusual in a Gin, and using a small amount of Malted Rye makes them one of the first in the world to use this in making their Gin. The juniper is steeped in this base spirit for several days before being redistilled with the other botanicals in their Dutch made Gin still.

The Gin is presented in a clear squat rectangular bottle with strongly curved edges and rounded shoulders. The mostly black text and imagery is screen printed onto the bottle and includes an early map, with the demarcation lines of DC and the boundary stones shown, plus a spot indicating the position of Ivy City (see Name below). It also sports a neck tag with details of One Eight Distilling on one side and the Washington DC flag on the other. The bottle design is the work of Dando Projects (based in New York) who have also undertaken work for Koval Distillery in Chicago. 

Category

New Western Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

40% (80 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$. Available from the distillery and select venues in Washington DC and Maryland, with distribution expected to grow significantly.

Botanicals

Uses 10 botanicals: angelica, coriander, fennel, grains of paradise,  juniper berries, lemongrass, lemon peel, licorice, orris root and spicebush.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a native botanical to Eastern USA and tastes like allspice, hence other names for it such as Appalachian or Wild Allspice.

Name

Established in 1791 Washington, DC (District of Columbia), the capital City of the USA is often referred to as “DC”, “The District” or “Washington” (although it should not to be confused with Washington State, found on the West Coast, on the other side of the country). The US Constitution provided for a Capital City to be established and it’s District to be under federal jurisdiction and therefore not part of any State. This provision is found in Article One, Section Eight, of the Constitution - hence the chosen name for One Eight Distilling.

Originally the District was 10 square miles of land given up by the States of Maryland and Virginia, with the outer boundaries marked every mile with a boundary stone (some of which still exist today). Since this time there have been some changes to the area, for instance in 1846 the lands donated by Virginia were returned, and in 1871 the City was extended to include Washington County. Today DC covers just over 68 square miles and is divided into 8 political wards, which are further divided into a total of 131 neighborhoods. The distillery is based in the neighborhood called Ivy City (hence the name of the Gin) found in ward 5, in the North East of DC.

Ivy City first came to life in the 1830’s with the advent of the railroad to the area, including a roundhouse (maintenance yard and turntable for locomotives) known as the Ivy City Yard (and today is owned by Amtrack). Industrial warehousing was established in support of these railroad activities, along with housing for the railroad employees. At the time the employees were primarily from African American backgrounds and in essence this created a strongly segregated community.

By the 1950’s the US rail system had gone into significant decline and the Ivy City community followed suit. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s the population of Ivy City decreased by a third, as people who could afford to, moved out. At the beginning of the Millennium Ivy City was the poorest community in DC with a clear outward look of neglect and decay. Since 2005 however there has been signs of revitalization as it emerges as a destination for vibrant businesses, bringing some degree of gentrification. One Eight Distilling is proud to be a contributor to this community and for 2015 is donating $1 to Habitat for Community in Ivy City for every bottle of Gin they sell.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is light juniper, soft spice, warming pepper and faint hints of citrus. On the palate this full-bodied smooth spirit has rounded juniper with peppery spice (spicebush and rye from the base spirit), liquorice-like fennel as a continuous underlying note plus little wisps of lemon citrus (lemongrass) floating past. On the close the warming pepper and soft spice dominate with a touch of slightly sweet vanilla appearing in the finish. This is a fine quality made Gin with a true sense of place.

This can be drunk neat although the peppery spice, which can initially be mistaken for alcoholic heat, makes this a colder weather tipple and benefits from an ice cube and a citrus (possibly orange) garnish (if so desired). Despite how much we like this Gin we found it hard to fully enjoy in the ubiquitous Gin & Tonic, it's pleasing but for some the peppery spice creates a little discordant note with the bitter tonic. We tried over a dozen different tonic waters to identify one that worked well but to no improving success, although One Eight do suggest the use of True Tonics or Schweppes (from the USA). Any disappointment was short lived when we moved to a Martini, with a lemon twist or olive garnish both working equally well. The Vermouth transforms the Gin to create a very addictive drink and many may find themselves wanting (as we did) to make this their daily Martini Gin of choice. While we could of happily stayed with the Martini, the flavor nuances of this Gin had us intrigued to experiment further, and we are pleased we did.

This Gin proved to work with great effect in an Aviation, where the sour lemon, sweet cherry liqueur and floral crème de violet all combine with the spicy Gin to create a masterpiece. In fact we had a non-Gin drinker taste this and become an immediate convert, and have now created a “monster” who requests an Ivy City Aviation at every opportunity! The Spicebush is a good mix with lime as we found out it in a Gimlet, although the juniper was a little overpowered, and this made us think of a Gin Rickey. Ivy City Gin excels in this drink and, accredited as the invention of Colonel Joe Rickey in Washington DC during the 1880’s, it is made in the home of this cocktail too. Interestingly, The Gin Rickey is the only cocktail mentioned in the book “The Great Gatsby” by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is buried in Rockville Maryland, just about 20 miles North West from the center of DC. While “locovores” might enjoy this connection (not to forget the use of rye), bars & restaurants of the area and surrounding States could make good use of such information in successfully marketing this Gin and cocktail combination.

With the spicebush taking prime position (no doubt helped by the rye base) and the juniper a close second place, this is a superb example of a New Western Dry. The spice notes are gentle enough that it also manages to display traits of a classic London Dry and a Genever (Jonge or Graanjenever) style Gin too, and many will find plenty to enjoy about it. Even though it is not quite as versatile as some, the level of quality and character it brings to most drinks makes it stand out, a difficult achievement in today’s sea of Gin brands. The Gentlemen at One Eight Distilling have produced a Gin not only they but also all Washington DC can be rightly proud of, we heartedly recommend this Gin.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.

Our Appreciation

Our thanks to Sandy Wood and One Eight Distilling who kindly provided the Gin for us to review.

Music

Try music by Washington to listen to while drinking this Gin…our pick here is their song called "Rich Kids": 

Read or Watch


What else could you read or watch while drinking this Gin but "The Great Gatsby", preferably in the form of a Gin Rickey or two.

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you." - F. Scott Fitzgerald.



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