- On October 29, 2015
We’ve focused primarily on new products or companies in these little write ups, but what about the distilleries that have been around for a while, under the radar perhaps, consistently putting out great product? We say, “Let there be light!”
Let There Be! Distillers (aka Letherbee) in Chicago debuted in Minnesota a little more than a year ago, and they made quite the splash! While their attitude in Chicago might be brash and boisterous, here they have been quietly garnering support and street cred. Their gins and liqueurs have shown up on cocktail menus all around town, and any liquor store worth their salt has their lineup on the shelves. All their products are competitively priced as well as extremely delicious. Value and quality all in one! Let’s take a peek at some of the great stuff they’ve got.
Starting with their “original label” gin, Letherbee has created a spirit that is uniquely suited both for sipping and for mixing. The gin is layered and unique, with their botanicals clocking in at a moderate 11. Juniper is the flag bearer, obviously, but the classic coriander and cardamom keep things interesting. In our opinion, the most crucial additions to the recipe are the lemon and orange peels, as well as the cubeb berries. The citrus gives it a nice pop, while not giving it a ton of sweetness, while the cubeb berries lend an aggressive ginger/pepper bite that helps it stand out in a drink. There is no chill-filtration to this spirit, so it louches! All those good oils and flavor compounds stay in, so you get a more robust gin. Bottled at 96 proof, this might be a bit assertive for just pouring over ice, but it makes a Negroni that will knock your socks off! Great body, awesome balance, nothing but good things to say about it! ($23.99/750ml)
Letherbee also produces limited edition “seasonal” gins as a one off every year. Each year they release a Vernal and an Autumnal gin that reflects both the season and the whimsy of the distillers. 2015’s Vernal was a tiki-inspired spirit with papaya, pineapple and toasted coconut. Readers… it might have been the best gin we’ve tried in a very long time! Hopefully you already were in the know and found it around town, because it is gone-baby-gone! Moving to the 2015 Autumnal, we get a gin that is a combination of their original gin plus gin that has been aged in a Buffalo Trace barrel for 3 years! On top of this, Letherbee mixes in some single-origin, wood-fired maple syrup from Vermont that lend the spirit a warmth and body that is hard to duplicate. You get the maple/brown sugar sweetness blended with the pepper and allspice redolent in the original gin, coalescing into what just might be the best barreled gin we’ve had! ($29.99/750ml)
The final product we will talk about has a bit of mystique to it. Malört! Chicago has been drinking malört and grimacing for years, but it has just now started trickling out to other markets, and boy are we lucky! The unofficial motto for malört has been said to be, “malört, when you need to unfriend someone IN PERSON.” This stuff can taste like bad decisions. Luckily, the guys at Letherbee paired with a former bartender from the famous cocktail bar The Violet Hour and crafted a spirit with a little more balance and a whole lot of oomph! While it has the classic wormwood bitterness (malört is actually Swedish for wormwood) there is a careful inclusion of other botanicals to help tame the dreaded malört face! Big earthy, dry mineral notes hit you right away, with a hint of grapefruit as well; However, star anise and elderflower lend it a crispness and a floral note that help give it a more layered flavor. It’s actually quite palatable! ($29.99/1L)