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Where Exactly is the Best Gin in New England?

Left: Marc LeBlond, Right: Owner/Operator Ned Wight

It's starting to feel claustrophobic in here. We've hardly left the house in two weeks--except trips to the grocery store--a half mile away. I can't remember the last time we filled the car with gas.

Reminds me that last summer we were vacationing 500 miles away. It was forty degrees warmer in Portland, Maine. On that day I got to see the inner workings of a family distillery, and sample the delicious offerings.

What and where is this magical place? And what about the gin?

New England Distilling is an amazing spot on Evergreen Drive in Portland.

Owner/operator, Ned Wight greeted us cheerily and immediately began pouring drams.

First, the gin:

This is the best gin I've ever had--note to self--title promise satisfied. Seriously, I normally reach for Scotch first, then Bourbon, with gin about #6 on the spirits priority list. But the Ingenium had me going back for more.

The nose is bright and floraly, whacking you instantly with juniper, citrus, and peppermint.

It's a lemony citrus on the taste, which warms to coriander, then orange.

Ingenium finishes with with a slightly salty orange-oil and lime note. A muted version of the initial spices are book-ended at the tail end.

Ingenium's mashbill is a blend of local barley and rye.

Ned offered a crash course in botanicals as I enjoyed the Ingenium. Who knew cubeb was a thing? It is.

New England Distilling's recipe also includes kaffir lime leaf, mace, bay leaves, and lemongrass.

Personally, I would not drink this in a cocktail. It's subtle and complex enough to enjoy neat in a chilled (not frozen) Glencairn. But you do what you want. We believe in Liberty here at Liberty and Whisky.

ABV: 47 %

Color: Natural - clear

Rating: 91/100

Eight Bells Rum

Ingenium Gin (foreground) Eight Bells Rum (background)

Next up was the rum. Eight Bells is distilled from Brazilian molasses, and aged in a Jim Beam cask for 3.5 years. The Bourbon influence is evident on the nose and the taste--and that's a good thing.

Eight Bells' name and label are each inspired from American artist Winslow Homer. It's an image of a sailor at sea, attempting to determine the ship's latitude. One expects the Kraken to emerge at any moment.

The nose is a light Bourbon, with hints of sweet corn, cake icing, and graham crackers.

The molasses comes through in the taste, yet still with a strong Bourbon note. The development and finish are a bit more dry--reminiscent of Bunnahabhain 12.

My go-to rum is Appleton Estate. This is very different, and quite good in its own right.

ABV: 45 %

Color: Natural - light amber

Rating: 88/100

As a small, craft distiller, New England Distilling offers an extra level of care in production that you just don't see from the larger players.

They use direct fired copper pot stills from Portugal. At 900 to 1,000 degrees, these stills require a watchful eye.

The direct-fired stills adds depth of character to the spirit. The copper removes that undesirable compounds, so you're less likely to experience that sulphury, skunky smell, i.e. Jura.

Sorry, not sorry.

Once we're all freed from quarantine, I highly recommend a visit to Ned at New England Distilling. He'll take good care of you. In the meantime, here's where you can find their spirits.

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