Strickland Hollow Catskill Dry Gin Review
A very elite small batch gin from the Catskill Mountains.
Review: Strickland Hollow Catskill Dry Gin
Made in: Meridale, NY by Strickland Hollow Distillers
Base: Maple Sap
Method: 4 plate column still
42% alcohol/84 proof
Botanicals (9): Juniper, Orange Peel, Coriander, Cinnamon, Grains of Paradise, Orris Root, Green Cardamom, Angelica, Licorice.
Style: London Dry
Note this review is for bottle 29/232, lot # 20-21b and bottled 9/15/21.
The Strickland Hollow story started in 2001 when Erica and Jerry Pellegrino purchased a farm upstate to discover they had about 40 very old, very neglected apple trees on their property. With time and a lot of effort they managed to rehabilitate the trees to the point that once again they would bear fruit - and suddenly they were in the apple business. Jerry, a molecular geneticist by trade, with an extensive background in biochemistry - and a background in fermentation and fractional distillation, decided to do something other than just grow apples. So he started distilling - making apple brandy, apple spirits, and fortified cider from the apples on the farm. But when the apples were gone he found he had a whole distillation rig sitting there essentially empty from May to January. So he started thinking about what else he could make.
His wife Erica, an Australian expat who enjoys a good gin and tonic each day around 5, may have been the inspiration for his decision to start making his own gin.
It’s here that Strickland Hollow gets a lot of extra credit - unlike many distilleries who purchase their base spirit and work from that point, the Pellegrino’s looked around their farm and said “what could we use?” - and noticed that they had a lot of 100 year old maple trees on their property, so they tapped them and distilled their base spirit from maple sap.
Off the top of my head this is the only gin I know made from maple as its base spirit. And it certainly presented some distilling challenges to the gin makers - who found that if they distilled maple sap to too high a percentage of alcohol that the gin would come out cloudy. But with a little experimentation they found that 42% would work out perfectly.
They aimed for a London dry gin, and the botanical list is pretty standard for that, with no real surprises there, although they had wanted to accentuate the citrus aspect of the flavor profile
So what’s in the bottle? Let’s find out.
First taste is a bit of a wow - this is a gin you can easily sip without mixing. Well balanced with flavors that round into each other. The base spirit provides an absolutely lush mouthfeel that is extremely pleasant and binds all the flavors together in a harmonious manner.
An exploration to the scent of this gin starts with sweet citrus and juniper in the fore, and angelica and whiffs of spice, notably ginger, cinnamon and cardamom at the back.
Flavorwise the most forward of the botanicals here is juniper, but citrus gives it a good run for the money. Mixed with the base spirit, which adds a viscous almost background trace of sweetness, it has a gentle bitter orange curd-like taste that meshes oh so smoothly with the rest of the botanical bill. In that, it adds incredible depth and balance to the gin so that the background tastes are not so much separate entities, you can taste, but a harmonious blend of spice. Cinnamon seems to me to be the clearest, but it’s light, harmonizing with pepper notes, angelica, and cardamom.
Mouthfeel is lush and thick, coating the tongue, and lingering.
While this is basically a London dry flavor profile, it’s got a richness and a flexibility which I think is beyond that of most London drys. I really looked forward to trying it in some cocktails.
Now as my long term readers know - I believe there are only two key drinks where gin is really the star, and I weigh those categories heavily. First and foremost is the martini - a more classic drink, where the flavors of the gin can shine though without having to fight their way through the flavors of other ingredients. Strickland Hollow Gin reaches elite martini status (I made mine at a 6:1 ratio of gin to Astobiza vermouth). When I say this is a gorgeous martini gin, I would not be stating it strongly enough. I’d have to go into words like sublime, and exquisite. The mouthfeel is utterly luxurious, and the creamy citrus and tart juniper make for a wonderful experience. In fact it was so good I hesitated to try this gin any other way.
Next on my list is of course the other classic - the gin and tonic. Considering a gin and tonic was the inspiring factor in the creation of the drink I had some high hopes for the G & T - and I wasn’t disappointed at all. It paired beautifully with Fever Tree’s light Indian style tonic. It was rich and flavorful with a blast of citrus and even over all the tonic you could clearly perceive the gin.
Due to the traditional London dry flavor profile and the texture of this gin I had no doubt at all it would handle almost any standard cocktail well, but as the day I tried it was the hottest day of the year I decided to go with a very light summer drink to try it in - a Gin Pineapple Cooler, made with gin, fresh pineapple juice, lime, sparkling water and a touch of ginger. Without question it hit the mark. I think this is one of those rare gins that you will be able to taste in almost any cocktail - as the texture of the gin, if not all the botanicals will easily come through.
I’m always thrilled when I find something special. Strickland Hollow’s gin certainly fits that bill. Distilled in tiny batches of just 232 bottles at a time, this gin isn’t an easy gin to find as it sells out pretty quickly and to my knowledge is only available in their tasting room. And while they are trying to ramp up production by another 200-300 bottles a year they just don’t make very much. If you happen to be in the western Catskills (it’s not far from Cooperstown) it is well worth a stop at their tasting room (and bottle shop) in Delhi, NY to see if you can pick up a bottle.
This is one of the best all around gins I’ve come across - and I’ll lay that more on the base spirit than on a unique botanical blend. It’s a rarity that does all things well and I think straddles the line well between pleasing the juniper heads, and those who don’t love that flavor. It is an elite level gin and a good deal at the price point ($39)
spice: 3 of 5
Herbal: 1 of 5
Juniper: 4 of 5
Floral: 0 of 5
Citrus; 4 of 5
Heat: 1 of 5
Rating (Sipping): 95 - An elite sipper. Ice cold, either from the freezer or on the rocks this is a standout. I can absolutely see pairing this with a great appetizer, or a savory dessert.
Rating (Mixing): 96 - Very few gins can really do it all. Most gins are either great sipping gins and mediocre mixing gins, or great mixing gins, but mediocre sippers. This one, probably because of its unique maple sap base, managed to stand up, and stand out in everything I tried it with. That said - I’d call this elite in martini’s and damn good in everything else.
Overall rating: 96: One of the highest ratings, if not the highest I’ve ever given a traditional London dry style gin - It’s one I’d personally keep in stock year after year.
What you need to know about my reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.