Share a Sip with Alex Castle 08.23.18

Now that the first releases from our R&D Series – Formula #6, an American Dry Gin, and Formula #10, a Southern Gin – have been in our retail store and behind the bars in some of your favorite spots in Memphis and Nashville for a few weeks, I wanted to share a peak behind the scenes from the development process for these spirits.

I started working on the American Dry Gin shortly after spending a week in Louisville for a class on gin distillation. It was during that class that I was able to taste the different ingredients distilled separately, which was key in getting clarity around the approach I might want to take with our Gins. I got to taste just a coriander distillate, just a peppercorn distillate – you could really tell what they did through distillation. That’s when I realized I really liked coriander and grains of paradise. (A great way to get a more approachable black pepper flavor without using black pepper!) I liked the idea of more peppery notes, but wanted something different, so that’s where the pink peppercorn came from. I expected more peppery notes out of that particular ingredient than we actually got – it turned out more citrusy than I imagined it would, but in the end, I was really pleased with how everything played together.

So with the American Dry Gin, my approach was really just – “I like these flavors. I want to see what I can do with them.” The Southern Gin, on the other hand, was more like a midnight panic attack, waking up and realizing that the two formulas I had were too similar, so I had to throw one out the window!

I didn’t have a whole lot of time at that point, so I had to figure out what that next recipe was going to be, and I wasn’t happy with anything else I had come up with. I came in the next morning and had my team pull samples so I could run a distillation. I looked at my notes from the research I’d done, and I ended up pulling ingredients that I really had been trying to avoid! Mainly that was licorice root, because I don’t personally care for licorice. (I think it’s just the black licorice candy that has scarred me for life!) But I decided to give it a shot, and it ultimately led to the Southern Gin.

We dubbed it the Southern Gin because of its recipe – it’s got four different roots in it, and it just felt Southern to us to see all of those roots in there. Plus, my team really felt like the personality of the flavors in that gin were quite Southern, so we went with it.

Start to finish, liquid through packaging design, and then finally getting it into a bottle, this process took about a year for both gins. The bulk of that time was in the development and distillation of the actual spirits. And through that process, we developed many more recipes – about 16, I think – most of which are still fairly interesting to me as ones we could revisit in the future. I actually made a batch using ingredients from our Memphis Toddy that was surprisingly good! So, we probably will revisit that one. That’s what I love about this R&D Series – it truly will be a home for my team and I to play, experiment and innovate with spirits.

And don’t forget, if you’ve had a chance to try either of these Gins, we want to hear from you! Head to The Lab and let us know what you thought.