Death's Door best illustrates why craft distilled spirits are surging in popularity. First, they are handmade by stalwart individuals who have staked their careers and livelihoods on the idea that people prefer consuming spirits made with passion and precision than something produced in bulk. That people care about the quality of ingredients used to make the spirits they're drinking. And that people would prefer drinking a spirit made down the road by craftsmen who have a personal investment in the community.
Death's Door Distillery in Middleton, Wisconsin is just such as place and founder Brian Ellison is just such a person. Established in 2007, Death's Door produces all of its handcrafted spirits from locally sourced ingredients.
For example, the company's flagship—award-winning Death's Door Gin—is made with neutral grain spirits triple-distilled from a mash of 60% organic, hard red winter wheat from Wisconsin's Washington Island and 40% organic malted barley from nearby Chilton. Clearly a man who subscribes to the concept that less is more, master distiller John Jeffery selected to infuse his gin with only 3 botanicals—wild, organic juniper berries, organic coriander and fennel seeds. Before the third distillation, the botanicals are placed in a chamber in the neck of the distillery's state of the art still. This allows the rising alcohol vapors to pass through the botanicals and imprinting the gin with their aroma and flavor. Afterwards the spirit is bottled at a healthy 47% alcohol by volume (94 proof).
A quick sniff, sip and swallow of Death's Door Gin will make a believer out of you. The gin possesses crystalline clarity, a satiny, medium-weight body and a generous nose saturated with the enticing aromas of pine, licorice and black pepper with subtle floral notes. Its aromatics are invigorating and utterly captivating. For a spirit with an elevated alcohol content, the gin glides past the palate with nary a trace of excessive heat. It quickly expands filling the mouth with spicy, herbal and light citrus flavors that subside into a finish that is at once long, dry and delicious. Kudos!
Perhaps the spirit's most laudable attribute is that is balanced with surgical precision. Death's Door Gin is highly aromatic but not perfumy, flavorful but not overpowering. As a result, the spirit is one of those extremely rare gins that tastes as good mixed with tonic as it does served chilled in an extra dry Martini. It's like a leading man who also performs well with others.
Death's Door Gin does the American heartland proud. Cheers!