Aviation Gin, served up in a beautiful bottle reminiscent of the Great Gatsby era, caused quite a stir when it was released just over a decade ago… The years since may not have been without turbulence, but suffice it to say Aviation is a gin that has traveled the world and was one of the early pioneers in this new era of craft gin.
Of course many will be familiar with the well-known cocktail of the same name. A simple concoction of gin, maraschino liqueur, and freshly squeezed lemon juice allegedly invented by barman Hugo Ensslin at New York’s Hotel Wallick in 1916. It was this simple mixture that convinced Aviation co-founder Ryan Magarian to realise the potential of gin being more than just something for a G&T or a Martini.
Aviation Gin was a partnership formed between those that create spirits – distillers and those that mix them – bartenders. This was the joining of the distillers Lee Medoff and Christian Krogstad and mixologist Ryan Magarian. In June of 2006, after nearly 30 rounds of trials and adjustments, their vision became reality when the trio felt they had finally captured the essence of their obsessions, and Aviation Gin launched.
They lay claim to this partnership being the first between distiller and bartender in American History. Although this can’t be confirmed and given the history of American bartending unlikely, by pairing with someone with an intimate understanding of the trade outside of the distilling arena, it did indeed allow them to gain outside insight on how the spirit might work in cocktails in order to create something suitable right from the offset.
While the gin takes its name from the Aviation Cocktail, the motivation behind its choice as the identity of the brand goes a bit deeper. The story goes that Ryan Magarian had found himself stuck in a rut when it came to mixing cocktails with gin, using it almost exclusively for Martinis and Gin and Tonics. This however all changed when he was first introduced to the Aviation Cocktail. He recalls this moment to be critical in the development of not only his passion for making cocktails, but understanding the true potential of gin. When the time came to name the Gin, Aviation was suggested as it represented an awakening to the true mixability of the spirit.
Interestingly, to begin with Aviation Gin actively promoted their position as part of a new category of dry gins going under the designation “New Western Dry”. Although this term (and designation) has not yet been widely accepted since, it is by no means something to easily dismiss either. Arguably, beginning this debate about the terminology of New Western and what defines a “London Dry” was probably a much greater contribution to the category than Aviation made as yet another gin on the shelf. Equally, it did cause enough of a fuss at the time for people to take note of their Gin… Eitherway – with the loose terminology currently used to define the gin category and the increasing non-juniper dominant gins continuously being launched; what they were proposing may well still hold the answer to a lot of controversy. The fact that London Dry has started to lose much of its meaning has played a huge part in why New Western never took off – it really didn’t need to! We digress…
Aviation Gin to Taste…
As a result, from a taste perspective it is no surprise to see that Aviation Gin takes advantage of the rich, floral and savoury flavour notes of unconventional botanicals such as Lavender and Indian Sarsaparilla, giving it delicate blending of both the floral and sweet spice. It’s tasty Gin and not as juniper shy as one might think, but certainly, the purists won’t be queueing up for seconds. More for us then eh!
Made in Oregon, the production process is relatively traditional for a gin. Neutral grain spirit infused with botanicals and then distilled, in their case it’s a 400 gallon stainless steel still where steam jackets heat the fluid up to nearly 173 °F, a hearts cut taken and then reduced to 42% ABV for bottling. Bottling happens meters away and once the caps are secured, bottles fly off to bars all across the world.
Aviation Gin set itself apart with its restrained juniper and citrus presence when it launched, especially against the backdrop of it’s undelying creamy rye spirit more reminiscent of maltier spirits. It was brave and bold and many have used it since, as inspiration when they have launched their own craft gins. Even though it’s been joined by a few similarly softer gins in recent years – It’s lack of big juniper bite is still as much a point of difference and it’s a good gin to have on the shelf for those still dipping their toe in the juniper-laced water. That said, as more and more consumers are gravitating towards gin as a spirit because of it’s juniper lead profile – not having this by the bucket can leave many opting for something else.
Aviation Gin and Ryan in particular have had a big impact on the conversation surrounding the modern gin boom during its formative years. How much juniper does a spirit need to have to be the predominant flavour? Should there be a New Western Dry subcategory in Gin, or should there be tighter controls that state that gins like Aviation are in fact not a gin at all? It’s not one for us to judge, but it’s been an interesting conversation to follow and one that time has shown to have its momentum shifts. If Aviation launched in 2016, no-one would bat an eyelid over the idea that it wasn’t juniper forward and in so much, Ryan and the Aviation team have proved there was indeed a huge market for more gins like it.
We respect them for pushing the category when they did, and helping it grow over such a short period of time. Aviation Gin makes for a fun spirit to mix with and for those seeking something smooth and filled with character as it’s an easy profile to enjoy. Needless to say – it makes a good choice for that namesake cocktail too…
For more information about Aviation Gin, visit their website: www.aviationgin.com
Say hello on Social Media!
Copyright © Gin Foundry