After years of hearing quiet but distinct noises coming from Illinois’ Chicago area, it was time for us to take a look at the North Shore Gins and see what all the fuss was about -
Along with a few other spirits, North Shore Distillery produces two gins (although they have also been known to produce other seasonal and limited editions based off them). Distiller’s Gin No 11 is a traditional London Dry style gin which came to market in 2007, baring all the hallmarks of a juniper dominant, classic type of gin. Distiller’s Gin No 6 (created 2 years earlier) by contrast is a gin that could be considered less of a classic style gin, with less juniper on the palate and other botanicals vying for attention. In other terms – the No. 6 Gin is an ‘American Dry’ gin designed to appeal to the unconverted, whilst No. 11 Gin is a spirit made for classic gin lovers.
Both are remarkably good gins and all-be-it notably distinct, both are safely within the core gin category profile – a feat not always accomplished by distilleries marketing their products as having an American Dry style and/or suitable for non-gin drinkers…
Distiller’s Gin No. 6
Created by Derek Kassebaum, North Shore’s Master Distiller in 2005, Distiller’s Gin No. 6 is extremely smooth with a complex balance of citrus, spice and floral notes. Named after the batch number that was consistently the favourite of friends and family who had been asked to test a few variations, it is created by infusing grain-based spirit with hand-selected botanicals from all over the world (over 10). This includes juniper, coriander, cardamom, anise seed, ceylon cinnamon, fresh lemons and lavender blossoms. Interestingly, only some of these botanicals are macerated prior to distillation while others are added just before the distillation process itself.
This handcrafted spirit has notable floral notes on the nose which suggest a slightly less classic flavour profile. However, on the pallet, No. 6 retains a relatively traditional profile and doesn’t stray too far away from recognisable gin territory. The juniper component is present and the other botanicals combine to create a gin that is floral, citrusy and spicy all at once. The interplay of juniper, sweet citrus and spices is all the impressive considering the 45% ABV.
There have been three special infusions using No. 6 gin to create limited edition bottlings, however, as we have not tried any of these, we will not comment other than suggesting that they should be interesting given that they involve rhubarb, dates and cleylon tea leaf respectively.
Distiller’s Gin No. 11
No 11 is a classic gin, full of flavour and an abundance of juniper that makes it the type of gin any London Dry gin enthusiast will enjoy. That’s not to say it is not complex however, the other botanicals (the exact number and ingredient list is undisclosed) in No. 11 add a warmth to the nose and a certain fullness to the flavour profile with amongst others, the citrus peel and most likely coriander /cardamom all playing their parts. At 45% ABV the gin is not overpowering but certainly packs a punch, in keeping with the robust flavour itself. It is precisely this balance that makes No. 11 so interesting as a gin and one that would be worth considering for use in a classic Martini.
Using traditional marketing approach, No. 11 gin grew from bar to bar from March 2007, with the North Shore team focusing on word of mouth and trade support; before being unleashed to a wider audience a year later. Sales have been steadily growing and in the summer of 2008; the distillery released a Limited Edition Alphonso Mango No. 11, where they infused the gin with Alphonso mangoes from India.
North Shore Distillery was one of the first artisanal distilleries in the Chicago area. Although now almost 7 years old (started in 2004/5), they remain a very small operation with a handful of people to make up the team – Derek and Sonja Kassebaum remain the driving force behind the spirit and their pot still, Ethel is a minute but perfectly formed 250lt beauty that continues to produce all of their spirits. Their small size allows them to take a hands-on approach to everything they do and make (for example, Derek hand numbers the bottles by batch and signs each bottle’s label). This subtle and personal touch can be seen throughout the distillery and is certainly something worth applauding as, in a fiercely competitive gin category their success is all the more impressive.