On a recent visit to Columbus, Ohio, I visited the High Bank Distillery restaurant and purchased a bottle of their Whiskey War — and not wanting to stop at just one bottle, I also purchased a bottle of their Statehouse Gin. (In my defense, it was basically a necessity after tasting their Shrub-A-Dub-Dub cocktail that features the spirit — but more on that in a minute).
The history of High Bank Distilling starts with co-founder Adam Hines, his father, a pair of Harley Davidson motorcycles, and the hills of bourbon country. As they were cruising through Kentucky, Adam’s father explained that the multitude of dirty white buildings that dotted the countryside were rickhouses: buildings used to store and age whiskey. As the two continued south, they ended up coming to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. According to their website, “that was the beginning of a lifelong obsession for brown spirits and years later Adam would co-found High Bank Distillery and become its first and only Master Distiller”.
The distillery opened in 2018 and operates out of the heart of Columbus, Ohio, and shares the space with a full service restaurant. The name of the distillery is a nod to the founding of Columbus in 1812 — the state legislature adopted plans founding the city on February 14, 1812, on the “High Banks opposite Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto most known as Wolf’s Ridge”.
Ohio is a state liquor-controlled state, meaning all hard liquor is sold through a state agency. In 2016, House Bill 351 made it easier for micro-distilleries to produce more spirits and offer food for sale. In 2017, the Ohio Division of Liquor control made it possible to sell spirits directly (while still ensuring the state gets their cut of taxes).
High Bank has seen fast growth of their distillery and restaurants, opening their second location in Gahanna, west of Columbus in 2022. They recently announced plans to open a third location in Westerville, north of Columbus, in the Spring of 2024.
- Learn More: What Is Gin?
There is not much available about the production process shared by High Bank, but there’s enough to understand what’s going on and fill in the blanks.
Like many new distilleries, High Bank distills not only whiskey, but also spirits that are quicker to bring to market like vodka and gin. This allows them to create a revenue stream from spirits that they can immediately ship out the door while the whiskey sits and matures in barrels for a few years.
Most distilleries will take a shortcut and bring in “neutral spirit” (vodka, basically) mass produced elsewhere and only do the flavoring part of the process, but High Bank does the whole process themselves. The distillation process used in the creation of the gin starts with a 100% organic wheat mash base. After the mash is fermented, it is distilled into a high proof neutral grain spirit that will be used as the base of the gin.
While don’t know the exact steps used to finish the gin, we can talk about what we do know: the botanicals used to flavor the gin, which are placed in with the neutral spirit and left to infuse flavor before a second distillation process begins. We know some of the botanicals used here; namely: juniper berry, blood orange, cinnamon bark, angelica root, bitter orange, coriander, lime, and anise. Some of these flavors appear to be imparted directly from the raw materials, others seem to be infused with essential oils, and interestingly they also appear to add in some cold pressed Ohio apple juice in this step (which is something unique to their process). That whole mixture is then re-distilled into the crystal clear gin that we see today.
The bottle immediately reminded me of one of the most iconic spirit bottles on the market: Jack Daniel’s. Just like that iconic piece of glass, this bottle also sports a square and faceted body that sharply angles inwards at the shoulder, and then offers a long and elegantly bulged neck for pouring. The bottle is capped off with a thick wood and cork stopper.
Tall and statuesque, this bottle evokes its namesake Ohio Statehouse so well that the building barely needs to be pictured on the label.
The front of the bottle is dominated by a white label with a black border and black printing. The ‘A’ in statehouse uses the same distinct ‘A’ used in the High Bank Distillery logo, and the whole thing is relatively simple but looks clean and modern.
The more I look at this bottle, the more I like it. Yes, the basic shape evokes an infamous brand known worldwide, but the colors and label bring a modern spin to the design.
The bitter orange used in the botanicals is strong with this gin. If I were blindfolded, this gin could almost pass as a glass of fresh orange juice when taking your first whiff. On second inhale, there are other notes of mild botanicals (mostly juniper and coriander).
The first sip of this gin is very botanical forward — juniper, orange, anise, coriander, and mild cinnamon all flood your taste buds. The spirit is very smooth and it honestly doesn’t even taste like you’re drinking alcohol. Seriously, there’s no burn at all.
The best thing about this gin are the strong citrus flavors. When enjoying it neat, it drinks like it’s already been garnished. I would even go as far as saying that adding additional lime might be too overpowering without adding other flavors to balance it out.
Not unsurprisingly, drinking this gin on the rocks changes the flavor profile. The only surprising part is that it tastes nearly like a flat gin & tonic. The botanicals are more forward in the spirit than we saw when taken neat, and the gin also takes on an almost bitter flavor reminiscent of the bitterness you get from tonic water.
There are other botanical flavors that become more pronounced. In addition to the juniper, orange, anise, and other flavors you get when drinking it neat, you’ll also get notes of wood bark and spruce.
Overall, this is refreshing and smooth, but very dangerous — it drinks like a cocktail, but without any mixer.
Cocktail (Gin & Tonic)
I am writing this in the winter, so this comment might feel out of place, but there is nothing better than a great G&T on a warm summer day — preferably with a cool ocean breeze… but I digress. (It’s winter in Chicago and today’s 20 degree high feels like a heat wave compared to last week. It’s brutal.) Current weather aside, this is a refreshing G&T.
The gin is a little hidden behind the tonic — remember, the gin when taken on the rocks already had the essence of a G&T, so adding more T to the G is just going to skew the end result further out of whack. The most forward flavor of the gin is the juniper, the bold aromatic pine flavor shines through the tonic. The citrus forwardness of this gin is a nice touch, as the bold orange note stands out nicely and pairs great with the lime garnish.
A negroni might be my favorite gin cocktail (unlike my fellow reviewer Nick). It’s bold, bitter, and only a few gins can stand out against the Campari — and this is one of those few gins. It’s the citrus forward nature that really stands out here, with the bright orange notes punching through the bitter Campari and allowing the gin to shine.
The other botanical notes of the gin are buried deep, to the point where you can’t pick out those individual notes. Instead, you’re left with a bold, bitter, invigorating cocktail. The result is smooth and has a rich mouth feel.
This checks all of my boxes for a great negroni.
Top to bottom, this gin stands out as a unique expression that is all its own. The bold citrus forward flavor profile is not one that you get very often, but I do appreciate the flavors.
It’s great to sip on its own and in a cocktail — which is fairly unique, as most people drink gin in a cocktail and not neat. The result is a unique spirit to experiment with. I could see this being an interesting replacement for vodka in certain drinks, especially those made with fresh citrus and fruit with the orange allowing it to blend in well and the juniper adding something a little extra.
|High Bank Distillery Statehouse Gin
Produced By: High Bank DistilleryProduction Location: Ohio, United States
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 41% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
A versatile gin that you can sip, mix, or experiment with.