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Review

Spy Hop Harvest Select
Navy Strength Gin

Distillery

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

Website

San Juan Island Distillery.

History

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.

We believe this Gin was launched in 2012 to celebrate 140 years since the end of the Pig War – yes you read that correctly! Both the American and British uneasily inhabited Canadian San Juan Island together, when in 1859 an American shot a British owned pig, causing tensions to rise. Both American and British troops were called in and an uneasy deadlock followed. Finally in 1872 arbitration ended the stalemate and reestablished Canadian and American borders, resulting in the Haro Strait becoming the demarcation, putting San Juan Island into American territory.

Production

The base spirit is made, very uniquely, from their apple cider using the 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, being distilled a total of 3 times. The finished product is presented in squat clear cylindrical bottles with clean simple blue and white labelling depicting a nautical theme of life saving rings.

Category

Navy Strength Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

57% (114 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.

Botanicals

The same botanicals are used as in their Spy Hop Harvest Select 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!

Name

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.

The “Navy Strength” refers to the 57% ABV. This was the required alcoholic strength of the British Royal Navy for Gin on board their ships from the 1700’s to the early 1900’s.  The reason for this being, if the Gin inadvertently mixed with gunpowder, the gunpowder would still ignite.

Tasting Notes

Unfortunately we have not tasted this yet, so are unable to provide any details. It will be interesting to see what effect the higher 57% ABV has on this, compared to the same Gin (Spy Hop Harvest Select) at 42% ABV.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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