With all the well-made locally produced spirits in B.C., it can be tough to choose which bottle to pick off the shelves. It just got even harder with the launch of Defender Island, a new small batch gin coming out of Naramata in the Okanagan.
Defender Island is the brainchild of Jesse Bannister and Josh Vanderheide of AlsoKnownAs Studio. Defender Island is unique in that the gin comes from a creative space first, taking the aesthetic look and feel of the brand and the bottle and transferring that inspiration into the gin itself. Bannister also fully admits the gin is made with a self-serving purpose in mind; he really just wanted to produce a gin that suited his needs with friends, and made a great base component to a gimlet cocktail.
So with that purpose in mind, Bannister and Vanderheide went in search of a local distiller, and found a partner in Naramata’s own Legend Distilling’s Doug and Dawn Lennie. The team experimented with a variety of creations until finally settling on a smoked rosemary gin. The rosemary is literally hand smoked with a torch and then soaked in the gin. That makes Defender Island pour a little amber in color and gives it a distinct herbaceous nose.
When calling this gin small batch, it’s not an understatement. The team manages to produce about ten cases per batch, which in no uncertain terms means this one isn’t going to be readily available across all liquor stores. Currently you can find Defender Island at Burrard Liquor, High Point Liquor, Bottle Jockey Liquor or Metro Liquor on the Island, as well as purchasing online at defenderisland.com; the bottles run around $25 for 500ml.
As for the first cocktail you should try with this gin, of course the recommendation is going to be a gimlet:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Stir vigorously until very cold. Strain and pour over fresh ice; add rosemary garnish and enjoy.