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Spy Hop
Harvest Select Gin


Richard Anderson, Suzanne and Hawkins Pingree of San Juan Island Distillery, Near Roche Harbour, San Juan Island, Puget Sound, Washington, USA.


San Juan Island Distillery.


In the mid 1990’s newcomer to the island, Rich Anderson, saw the local climate was very similar to the famous apple growing area of Southern Normandy in France (for making Cider and Calvados Brandy). He decided to plant 16 different varieties of cider apples (not great for eating) on his 2 acres of land (around 1,000 trees) with a view to producing hard cider. His endeavors led to founding the successful award winning Westcott Bay Cider.

In 2010 neighbors and longtime island residents Suzy and Hawk Pingree became partners with Rich, with a view to extend the operations, including a distillery producing Gin and Brandy. Thus San Juan Island Distillery was born, becoming the 32nd Craft Distillery in Washington, and production started in January 2011. A tasting room was made for early summer 2011 and new products are being continually added to their portfolio.


The base spirit is made, very uniquely, from their apple cider using a hand made German Adolf Adrian copper pot still! We believe the cider used comes exclusively their own orchard apples but they may source additional supplies from and around Washington State. The same process used for their Spy Hop Gin is then followed: producing very small 7-gallon batches at a time, in a 30-liter Portuguese pot still. The finished product is presented in tall clear cylindrical bottles with clean simple black and white labeling.


Flavored Gin – Apple.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

42% (84 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$$ - $$$$$$$. Available at the distillery and several other places on the Island. There is limited availability off of San Juan, with only a few retailers supplying on the mainland, in Washington State and SW Canada. For us it’s just the excuse we need to go back to the island with its wonderful climate, great vista’s, fresh clean breathable air…and Gin.


The same botanicals are used as in their Spy Hop Gin - although some remain a secret (about half are wild and hand foraged from the island), they include: blackberries, cardamom, juniper berries, lavender, lemon peel, madrone bark, orris root, pine needles (Douglas Fir), roses and star anise - plus we have to include apple!


The waters surrounding San Juan Island are teeming with marine mammals including Orcas (or Killer Whales), making it a haven for whale watching – yet another reason for visiting in our book. They come so close to shore, you can enjoy their antics with the naked eye. One such antic is where the Orca whale curiously raises itself partially out of the water, sometimes up to the front dorsal fins, with its nose pointing upwards to have a look around above the waters surface. This movement is known as “spy hopping” and so it is of no surprise to people familiar with the island that this Gin should be called Spy Hop.

The “Harvest Select” obviously refers to the pick of the apple crop, to use in producing this Gin.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are floral notes (lavender and rose) with a clear underpinning of soft apple, plus citrus (lemon). On the palate this lightly sweet spirit displays layers of floral tastes (primarily lavender and rose but also others we could not quite pinpoint) with an under current of apple. This leads to a light and pleasant bitter taste of juniper and herbal notes (not clearly identifiable to our palates) with citrus as a warm fade gently lingers – with the floral and apple notes seductively remaining around.

This is a lovely sipping Gin with the unusual but nice apple base playing with our taste buds. The floral aspects may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly worth trying due to its unique cider based spirit. The strangely unexpected bitter stage threw us at first but the more we tried the better this felt. We congratulate the three amigos on their forward thinking, planning and action in bringing the joy of alcoholic apple beverages to a greater public.

This has not been tried by us in mixed drinks and can’t wait for the opportunity (and time) – we are led to believe apple-based drinks may be a good choice. We are thinking about an Appletini, using this Gin in place of the Vodka and then experimenting with the many variations of this drink (a Calvados Brandy springs to mind). We’ll update this once we have taken it into our “Lab”, although get in touch if you beat us to it, we would love to add your suggested concoctions!

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