It seems like the popular thing to do to poo-poo organic labels. After all, what does “organic” actually mean except to justify a higher price tag and shelf space in a Whole Foods? To be sure – “organic” can mean many things – from avoiding genetically modified seed, to abstaining from synthetic chemicals in growing, storing, processing and packaging. And some criticize the organic label because it’s not always clear how being “organic” translates to a better product.
Personally, I find a great deal of value in a product that can stand behind organic labeling. Organic farming and manufacturing practices can reduce the negative impacts we have on our environment. They can also mean respecting our bodies by ingesting naturally grown ingredients. Whether or not they translate to a better tasting, higher quality end product is certainly up for debate.
Prairie makes a big deal about its organic farming practices in its marketing materials. The grain for Prairie spirits is grown without pesticides on three family farms in Minnesota. (The corn cobs themselves are even reused for biofuel after the harvest.) I will let others debate whether or not the care put into crafting this spirit has anything to do with its remarkable smoothness and balance.
Prairie is amongst the most drinkable gins on the market. As gin goes, its juniper is not missing but very subdued. In fact, the heaviest criticism levied on Prairie is that its flavor profile is so subdued that there is not enough differentiation between the gin and its vodka brethren.
When I first laid eyes on Prairie, its bottle reminded me of a North Shore, Bloom, Citadelle and other more floral gins. For that reason I first tried it in a gin and tonic. But apparently you can’t judge a gin by its bottle. Prairie virtually vanished under a good tonic. But in an extra dry martini, Prairie was a triumph that reminded me of Martin Millers and other similar crisp, clean gins. As a gateway gin, I would recommend Prairie over Bombay Sapphire or more citrus-forward gins.
In terms of terroir, Prairie behaves nicely. It doesn’t hammer you over the head with juniper or botanicals, and it doesn’t have to. Its midwest roots shine through in both its understated flavors, and its broad mouthfeel. Sipped neat or in a martini, soft spicy and earthy notes trail each sip.
Finally, one of the most surprising qualities of this gin was the value. At about $20/bottle, apparently Prairie didn’t get the memo that “organic” products should be unreasonably priced. At that price, gin drinkers can easily lean on Prairie for a respectable martini any day of the week.