Getting to know gin with Queensborough Gin's distiller Stuart McKinnon

Oct 28 2016, 5:39 pm

Does gin make you grin? Or is it one of those spirits that makes you go “hmm”? Thanks to a recent influx in small batch distilling in British Columbia in the last couple of years, Vancouver is now home to some stand-out spirits makers sending gin to the market.

Among those new gins is Queensborough Gin, from Central City Brewers + Distillers. Queensborough has been enjoying a year of high praise and awards. Recently Queensborough Gin took Gold at the 2016 San Diego Spirits Competition, in the Gin category. That win came after Queensborough took a Gold medal at the 2016 Spirits International Prestige Awards earlier in the year.

To learn more about Queensborough Gin, as well as how to get to know, enjoy, and embrace gin, we talked to Stuart McKinnon, Head Distiller of Central City Brewers + Distillers.

Congratulations on the win! Can you tell us a bit about what makes the Queensborough Gin such a stand out?

McKinnon: Queensborough Gin is a premium, handcrafted, small-batch dry Gin, rooted in a 17th Century traditional London Dry recipe with a modern day Canadian twist. Unlike other gins, It blends traditional high quality distilling methods using the best local BC ingredients possible. It exhibits some citrus notes derived from the locally sourced Juniper from BC interior, and the Spruce Tips sourced from Vancouver Island. The nose offers a pleasant floral scent, and the first taste has clear pine, rosemary, jasmine and cassia notes. The finish is a smooth citrus lengthy taste brought about by the angelica roots and local spruce tips.

Gin tends to be a polarizing spirit. Since you’re definitely a gin lover, what about the spirit appeals to you the most?

I have always been a big fan of gin, especially the traditional London Dry gin because of its characteristic citrus flavour and aroma and it’s not a very particular sweet gin. We paired the traditional recipe with a modern Canadian twist, using local BC ingredients to provide a complementary aroma and flavour profile. We made the Queensborough Gin with a very smooth flavour profile which makes for a very nice alcohol base to make traditional cocktails or drinks using the latest and freshest ingredients for a flavourful cocktail. You get citrus notes from the highly aromatic spruce tips from Vancouver Island and the citrus peels, the uniquely fragrant mountain juniper berries give pine aromas, while the angelica adds a sweet musky and slightly earthy flavour.

How might a potential gin drinker best get acquainted with the spirit?

The complexity of our Queensborough Gin can give fresh notes on the palate, and the different kinds of spices makes the Gin very flexible to play and build the drink you want. That means a potential gin drinker can experiment with flavours and build cocktails based on the taste they are looking for. It’s a very smooth, clean drinking spirit which makes for a great base to work with. Because it has some citrus notes derived from our Juniper berries and spruce tips and orange peels, we should use very clear and straight ingredients to pronounce or bring out these flavours and aromas. In other words, try to avoid sugary pops, dark beverages, and strong flavours as a top up mix.

Do you have any favourite local bars or restaurants who really showcase gin?

Spring Into Gin cocktail (Photo courtesy Central City)

Spring Into Gin cocktail (Photo courtesy Central City)

Our Central City mixologist extraordinaire Christos Kalaitzis has created some inspiring west coast cocktails that are featured in both the Central City Beatty Street and Surrey brewpubs. For instance, he’s created these two delicious cocktails:

Queensborough Gin: Spring into Gin Cocktail
1 oz. Queensborough Gin
1 teaspoon Elder Flower Cordial
1 teaspoon Dry Vermouth
Top up with Hopping Mad Apple Cider
Garnish with thin slices of green apples

Queensborough Gin: Blackberry Zest Cocktail
1 oz. Queensborough gin
1 teaspoon Sweet Red Vermouth
3 fresh blackberries
Top up with tonic
Serve in a wine glass
Garnish with orange zest

What’s your favourite way to drink gin?

I’m a big fan of using fresh ingredients with my gin-based cocktails. Here in BC, we’re blessed to have access to fresh berries at least in the summer months. Our mixologist Christos is a big fan of old-fashioned cocktails like a good Vesper martini as well as a simple gin with soda and fresh squeezed lime. All in all, you can be as experimental as you want with gin or keep it simple for a refreshing cocktail.

Central City’s Queensborough Gin is available in BC liquor stores.