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- DISTILLER: Wonderbird Spirits
- MASH BILL: 100% Jasmine Rice
- AGE: N/A
- YEAR: 2019
- PROOF: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
- MSRP: $45.00
- BUY ONLINE: Seelbachs.com
NOSE: Scent has a whiff of vanilla, with soft juniper on the back.
TASTE: The mouthfeel is just right: not too thin, not too viscous and it lingers just enough to roll down the sides of the tongue.
FINISH: Refreshing yet strong finish of fresh lemon peel, as if you had just finished a sip of limoncello moments before.
SHARE WITH: Gin-Loyalists and Gin-Phobics, alike. If you love gin, you will relish the clean yet bright flavor and velvet texture. For those who have a distaste for gin due to “Christmas tree” flavors, please give this a try, as the juniper is soft and plays beautifully with the other botanicals.
WORTH THE PRICE: It may seem steep for a gin to those who do not know the category well, but for the quality of the product I would absolutely recommend this as a good buy.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: If you can get it, this is absolutely a bottle product. The distribution is currently limited (MS, TN, AL, and soon LA), and it is also available online via Seelbach’s, but I anticipate the distribution will grow rather rapidly. It isn’t cheap at $45 a bottle, but it is also craft and of very high quality, so I suggest a bottle if you can find it.
OVERALL: This gin would be excellent sipped with an ice cube and a lemon peel expressed over the top. With its heavy lemon notes, it goes very well with anything peppery or lemony. I tried it neat, on ice, and in a gin and tonic with a few pink peppercorns. Though many may argue such a product doesn’t exist, Wonderbird is a great sipping gin. For this one, keep presentation simple, as too many added layers will veil the delicate layering of the base botanicals.
It’s highly apparent that a lot of love and care went into creating this gin. Rob Forster, one of the three cofounders of Wonderbird, says it was 2.5 years in the making. Though a financial and scientific hurdle for many craft distillers, they were dedicated to creating their own base spirit (rather than contract distilling).
They approached the creation of their spirit with a “Field to Bottle” philosophy, wanting to ensure absolute control and quality assurance at every step of the way. They sampled various grains for the mashbill and settled on rice - a jasmine varietal from the Mississippi Delta - as it yielded the cleanest distillate. Rice imparts a natural bouquet of aromatics (a clear boon for a gin) and has high residual sugars.
Borrowing heavily from the centuries-old art of sake making, the triumvirate of founders pioneered their own heating methodology through significant trial and error and “hardcore homework.” Instead of a distiller’s beer, they made a spin on sake (utilizing their own koji - a special type of mold used to make sake - for the fermentation) and put that through the still. The results were impressive, with grain to distillate yields at 14-15% per run.
Wonderbird is a classic London dry gin, and the requisite juniper is an Italian varietal that is softer in flavor. Taking care to individually infuse each of the 10 botanicals, Wonderbird builds upon the juniper with a beautifully harmonious union of fresh Meyer lemons, lemongrass, Angelica root, and coriander. Then come the more unusual notes: bay leaf, rosemary, Northern Mississippi red clover, tellacherry peppercorn, and a touch of terroir from pine needles plucked from the distillery property as an evergreen bookend.
For now, only the 61 gin is available, but Rob indicated that this is just the beginning for Wonderbird. On the horizon is a “cocktail workhorse” navy strength that I am very excited to try.
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Disclaimer: Wonderbird Spirits provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.
Born and raised in the Bluegrass, Erin Petrey has always held an affinity for her home state’s signature spirit: Bourbon. Throughout her world travels (36 countries and counting!), Erin delights in spreading the gospel of Bourbon across the globe, from Spain to Korea and even here at home in the Nation’s Capital, where she also serves President of the Kentucky Society of Washington. She loves helping people find their next favorite bourbon or cocktail. Though bourbon is her first love, gin comes in a close second. Her favorite cocktails are the Black Manhattan, Gin Gimlet, and Aviation. If you see her, be sure how to ask her how to make the perfect Old Fashioned.
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