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Uncle Val's Restorative Gin

Uncle Val's Restorative


By Robert Plotkin

Living life to its fullest can be thoroughly enervating. From time to time we can all do with a little pick-me-up. If your batteries are running low, treat yourself to a dram of artisanal Uncle Val's Restorative Gin. The handcrafted gem is guaranteed to reinvigorate the spirit and kick the senses up a notch.

You don't need to be an aficionado to fully appreciate Uncle Val's. Made by 35 Maple Street Spirits in Sonoma, California, the gin is an accessible, yet distinctive spirit crafted in the same manner as American compounded gins, a classic style of gin at the height of popularity leading up to Prohibition. The botanicals used to flavor and aromatize compounded gins are infused into neutral grain spirits after distillation. This technique differs from that employed to create conventional London Dry Gins, in which their botanicals are introduced during distillation.

The neutral grain spirits that serves as the foundation of Uncle Val's Restorative Gin is first rigorously filtered to attain essential purity. Its alluring character is derived from a maceration of 4 botanicals—juniper, coriander, cucumber and rose petals. Each is apportioned to create aromatic harmony and a precisely balanced flavor profile. Prior to bottling, the gin is rendered to 45% alcohol (90 proof) with pure spring water sourced from Oregon's Cascade Mountains.

Uncle Val's Restorative Gin is appropriately named. It has pristine clarity, a medium-weight, velvety textured body and a juniper-forward, spice and floral bouquet. The longer the gin is allowed to breathe, the more pronounced the aromatics become. The entry is remarkably mild for a 90-proof spirit. It quickly expands filling the mouth with piney juniper, nutmeg, spicy cinnamon and citrus zest. The lingering finish is laced with the flavors of cucumbers and rose. It is indeed a restorative elixir.

Equally impressive is Uncle Val's Peppered Gin. In this case, after the neutral spirits exit the still, it is infused with 4 highly unusual botanicals, a short list that includes juniper berries, roasted red bell peppers, black peppercorns and pimentos, which are also referred to as cherry peppers. The gin is bottled at 45% alcohol (90 proof).

Guaranteed there is nothing remotely like Uncle Val's Peppered Gin on your backbar. The crystal clear spirit has a medium-weight, lushly textured body and the wafting aromas of black pepper, charred red peppers and a hint of the underlying juniper. Its spicy aromas are compelling and prepare the palate for the flavor explosion to follow. The entry immediately fills the mouth with peppery warmth and the savory flavors of bell peppers, cracked peppercorns and crisp juniper with delightful wisps char smoke.

"Our Uncle Val's Peppered Gin almost finds itself in a category all its own," says August Sebastiani, president of 35 Maple Street Spirits. "The spice of the black pepper, roasted red pepper and pimento has inspired a whole new odyssey for mixologists—both professional and amateur—of innovative cocktails and flavors."

So, who's Uncle Val? The brand was inspired by Zio Valerio of Lucca, Italy, the uncle of 35 Maple Street's owner, August Sebastiani. Valerio was an avid gardener and a devotee of his native cuisine. The gins' botanicals all have ties back to Uncle Val's garden in Tuscany.

The popular range also includes the original Uncle Val's Botanical Gin. The top-shelf gin features a botanical mix that includes in part lavender, sage, lemon peels, cucumber and juniper. Some of the botanicals steep longer in the alcohol than others to impart a more pronounced flavor and aroma. Here's where the artistry and craftsmanship most come into play. All told, the gin undergoes five distillations in a copper pot still.

With renaissance cocktails being more popular than ever, stocking all three Uncle Val's Gins is sage advice. Cheers!