Review: Aviation American Gin

Our Rating

9 Complexity

9 Smoothness

8 Balance

6 Terroir

8 Value

Aviation American Gin is another adventurous pioneer in what has become a renaissance of craft gin distillation. Born in 2006, House Spirits Distillery put a stake in new territory that they termed “American dry gin.”

House Spirits took a fearless leap of intuition, shelving gin’s traditional rule book and allowing juniper to take a backseat to a rich blend of other botanicals. But this move wasn’t taken blindly.  Rather, Aviation was crafted in partnership with bartender Ryan Magarian, as he explored the potential for gin to be something more than simply the bedrock of a martini or a gin and tonic.

The challenge in creating Aviation was to conceive a dry gin that could pair well with food (when it was in a martini or on the rocks) and could become the backbone in a broad array of fresh and interesting cocktails.  The result is stunning, and I would highly recommend Aviation to any budding mixologist who is searching for a consistent utility player in a gin.  My first taste of Aviation reminded me of the imaginative, hand-crafted cocktails from Drink (348 Congress Street, Boston, MA) in Boston.

No one flavor stands out in contrast against the others in Aviation.  Lavender, cardamom, sarsaparilla and orange peel blend effortlessly with one another.  Am I missing one?  Well, not really.  The one note that gin’s old guard may find lacking is the juniper itself.  Sans doute, juniper is but one component in this complex gin.  And that may leave traditionalists dissatisfied.

Aviation also professes to “capture the lushness, spice, creativity, and freshness of the Pacific Northwest.”  And its effect is all of that and more.  But I recognize Aviation more as a triumph of imagination than of “terroir.”  Cardamom, sarsaparilla, lavender, orange, anise and corianderare all hardly native to Oregon.

However, if there is one gin I would recommend hands-down for a gin newcomer it would be this one.  Aviation lacks all the pretentious pugnaciousness of its juniper-forward peers – one quality that makes it a team player in vintage cocktails and inspired concoctions.  It is also this friendly, floral quality that makes it a fantastic gateway gin.  In this way Aviation may have helped reintroduce drinkers to gin, and paved the runway for a generation of craft distillers to follow.

Aviation Gin
House Spirits Distillery, Portland, Oregon
42% Alc. by volume
$30/750 ML

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