To date, our exploration into non-alcoholic spirits has been pretty disappointing. It seems like getting a non-alcoholic version of a traditional spirit is a pretty hard task to achieve. One of the newer entrants into the field comes from an established distillery in Oregon, who think that the key to making a good product might be quality ingredients and attention to detail.
Tad Seestedt grew up on a small family farm in the finger lakes region of upstate New York. As soon as he could, he moved to NYC, hoping to have left the farm life behind him and intending to become a lawyer. But once in the city and working for a law firm, he quickly realized that being crammed into a cubicle wasn’t for him, either.
So he moved to the West Coast. After spending some time in Seattle, he moved to Oregon in 1993. Seestedt says that his experience growing up in the finger lakes region surrounded by wineries influenced his decision to focus on wine and spirits production, opening the Ransom Wine Co & Distillery in 1997 in the Willamette Valley.
Ransom started off producing mainly brandy, but by 1999 they started production of their first in-house wines and in 2007 they expanded to grain based spirits such as gin, vodka, and whiskey.
The distillery prides itself on handmade spirits — they use a traditional French style pot still for their distillation runs, making selective cuts by taste and smell rather than any instrumentation.
While the Ransom distillery makes a real honest-to-goodness gin, the folks at the distillery also wanted to create something with the same flavors but without the alcohol content. After trying some of the other offerings on the market, they decided that everything currently available was terrible (and, as of this publication date, we can’t say we’ve found evidence to contradict that) and that they could do a better job themselves.
There isn’t a whole lot of information available on their website, but it sounds like they somehow use actual spices and botanicals to infuse the flavors and aromas into water, which is then tested and bottled for shipment. They claim that there is no filtration happening, so I’m betting that they actually mascerate the ingredients and do a distillation run of just water to get the clear liquid in the bottle.
This bottle is blending a couple themes and trends, and it seems to work.
The overall shape of the bottle is a somewhat traditional small batch spirits profile, with a thick cylindrical body that rounds to a medium length neck. There’s a bulge halfway up the neck to allow for easier pouring, and the whole thing is capped off with a glass and rubber stopper. The most striking thing about the bottle is probably the color, which is a pale blue — very similar to the bottle color for Bombay Sapphire gin.
For the label, they’ve gone with a vintage font and style that evokes the idea of an old general store counter. There’s some illustrations on the label, but the majority of the space is simply taken up with the brand name.
As with most other non-alcoholic gins, the liquid is cloudy in the glass, but at least there’s a good aroma coming off it. I can get some good notes of juniper, coriander, orange peel, and lime zest. The longer I sniff, the more the lime component stands out from the crowd, almost overpowering the juniper.
Taking a sip, there’s not much weight to the liquid or the flavors inside. I get that lime zest straight away, and then there’s a peppery spice that starts tingling the back of my throat, almost like a dash of cayenne pepper.
As a side note, it seems like adding something spicy is a universal tactic utilized by all non-alcoholic spirit alternatives. I get what they are going for: trying to re-create the alcohol burn that you get with a real spirit. But the problem is that this adds a flavor component that almost completely overpowers the other flavors and generally washes it out. (Personal plea to all manufacturers of non-alcoholic sprits: please stop doing this, it’s not good.)
After the burn (or as you start to get used to it), the juniper starts to appear, along with an almost soapy flavor and texture in the liquid. Finishing off the experience is a bit of peppermint at the end.
Thankfully, with a little bit of ice, the cayenne pepper is greatly reduced and instead we actually get most of the flavors coming through.
What this tastes like at this point is a gin & tonic with a splash of lime juice. There’s a hint of juniper and coriander in there, like you’d expect from a watered down gin — but the lime component is large and in charge. It’s still got some of that cilantro soapy-ness, unfortunately, but that’s a component that you can quickly start to ignore.
At this point, I’d proclaim this downright drinkable. Which, considering some of the other non-alcoholic-gins we’ve tried, is a major accomplishment.
There are a lot of powerful components and flavors in a negroni. That’s why we use it as a test. And in this case, I think this pseudo-gin has probably done the best against the overpowering taste of Campari that we’ve seen so far.
It fails, but at least it tries.
That’s not saying much, though, considering all of the others we’ve tried have been downright abysmal. The Campari in here is still extremely bitter and makes for a wildly unbalanced cocktail. But the non-alcoholic gin here is fighting the good fight. You can actually see some of the components peeking through, specifically the lime and the juniper, which starts to try and add some balance to the drink.
Fizz (Gin & Tonic)
This is really where this thing shines, and it does a fine job.
On the rocks, we saw that this turned into a relatively good flavor profile with maybe just a bit too much cilantro soapy-ness. With a splash of tonic water, the flavors are pretty much the same, but that fizzy carbonation adds some good texture to the cocktail that makes it much more enjoyable.
Word to the wise through: don’t add any lime juice to this. It already has plenty.
This is probably the closest I’ve seen a non-alcoholic gin come to actually tasting like a gin. There are some good botanicals and herbs in here, specifically a juniper note that actually tastes like juniper.
But there’s also a semi-soapy cilantro component in there that is making things a little strange, and they have fallen for the common trap of adding some cayenne pepper to the mix to add some artificial heat. It just washes out the flavors and makes my wife annoyed to be honest, without actually adding anything to the experience.
Overall, I think that this is a good showing that is worth picking up if you’re going for a Dry January. It won’t exactly match what you’re used to for a gin, but it’ll be an acceptable substitute to get you through the month at least.
|Dhos Gin Free|
Oregon, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Price: $25.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
Some good traditional gin flavors, but with an unfortunate cilantro and cayenne accompaniment.