Last week Arizona Distilling Co. added a spirit to their repertoire. The historic Tempe-based distillery was the first to legally produce liquor in the state since Prohibition when they released Copper City Bourbon last year. Now they're also offering a Desert Dry Gin made with locally-sourced botanicals. We spoke with the distillery's Rodney Hu about the producing the gin, where you can find it, and opening the distillery for tours and tasting.
If you've missed us gushing over Arizona Distilling Co. the past year, now's the time to listen up and take note because exciting things are at work in their facility in downtown Tempe. When you first try the super premium Desert Dry Gin, you'll probably taste some of the botanicals at work, along with a surprising smoothness without a strong alcohol burn. We immediately tasted apple and citrus, but Hu says everyone who tries it tends to taste a different aspect of it.
"Each different person you hear from is pulling out something different," he says. "They say 'Oh, I can taste the cinnamon' or 'I can taste the citrus.'"
While head distiller Jason Grossmiller modeled the botanical notes after the concept of Arizona's five C's (something natives might remember from their junior high Civics class), you luckily won't find any cattle or cotton in the gin. Rather, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin, and citrus in the form of lime zest take the place, making a very balanced, smooth flavor. The botanicals also include lavender, apple, and, of course, juniper, all of which are sourced out of Cottonwood.
Despite being a more juniper-forward, dry gin, you aren't smacked in the face with the piney flavor that turns some people off to gin entirely. You also aren't hit with a strong alcohol burn, although the gin is 85 proof rather than the more standard 80 proof. Hu says this is due to both the well-rounded combination of botanicals, as well as Grossmiller's distilling trials where he did several versions of the gin until he found the right balance for their product.
Oddly enough, this has resulted in some people drinking the gin neat, which isn't typical even among avid gin drinkers. Hu says his favorite use of the gin has been a classic Tom Collins mixed by Crudo's Micah Olson, who also consulted on the gin for the distillery. However, Hu says he's also excited to see what the bartenders and mixologists make with the gin at the Devour Phoenix Bartending Competition next month, which the distillery is sponsoring by providing competitors with either the gin or bourbon to craft their cocktails with. On top of the bartending competition, Arizona Distilling Co. has a busy week with three tasting events at the distillery, the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Phoenician, along with a cocktail dinner at Divine Lounge. If you can't make one of those events, you can try and buy the gin at the distillery, which, after months of legal logistics, is open to the public for retail sales, tours, and tastings. The distillery is open currently Wednesday through Saturday from 1 until 7 p.m. at 508 West First Street in Tempe. You can also try it out at the following bars and liquor stores:
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Hu says one of the main objectives he had with the gin was keeping the price point per bottle, which is in the high $20s or low $30s depending on location, or cocktail competitive to other high-end spirits, like Hendrick's or Bombay Sapphire.
"You are going to be able to get an Arizona handcrafted product and everybody should be able to try it," he says.