There’s a lot of inaugurals that come with being the first distillery in Orange County. The first Aquavit, first vodka, first gin…but this next one is probably a first for any distillery: “Barrel Vacationed Old Tom Gin.” What exactly does “barrel vacationed” mean? It’s pretty much like you spent a few months in a juniper tree forest, staying in a log cabin while marinating in booze, then mysteriously coming back with a tan. You also somehow taste really good.
Old Tom Gin was popular in mid-1800’s England, now gaining in popularity again thanks to the craft cocktail scene. Traditionally it can have some sweetness added to balance things out, but with my first sip of Blinking Owl’s new creation I could swear this was whiskey by the looks, yet gin-like in the aromatics.
This Old Tom Gin is the same distillate from Blinking Owl’s first gin release a few months back. The ginger, peachy, citrusy notes from my previous review are like Rusty and Audrey from National Lampoon’s European Vacation, that is to say, they’re in the back seat, and supporting actors. The flavors in the front are sung loud and clear from Clark and Ellen Griswold…car songs about cinnamon, vanilla, and juniper. Stuck on a roundabout in London, “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament!” Gin is still the heart and soul of the spirit, but the barrel character marinates well with the overall cut.
“We get a limited number of late-harvest semillon wine barrels from a prestigious Napa producer each year. These particular barrels not only allow the gin to age, but they also impart a hint of sweetness from the late-harvest semillon they were previously holding,” says co-owner Robin Christenson. No additional sweetness was added to this release.
What sets this spirit apart from the rest of Blinking Owl’s portfolio is the warmth. At 96 proof, it’s comfy and snuggly, but definitely not hot. Although the distillery’s Old Tom Gin isn’t available in the tasting room quite yet, the bottles on presale are going fast and are set to be released mid-August from the tasting room. You best act fast, as this is co-owner Robin’s personal favorite, and she just might drink it all before the release date. Could you imagine?
Blinking Owl Distillery Tasting Room is at 802 E. Washington Ave., Santa Ana, Just off the 5 Freeway at 17th, by the big water tower. // blinkingowldistillery.com