Review: Salal Gin (Odd Society Spirits) / by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

BC Malted Barley, botanicals, and salal berries
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Salal berries grow naturally throughout BC, which are wild, furry berries full of tannins and anthocyanins - they are touted as a type of superfruit given all the healthy compounds. Odd society has taken these berries, and used them to create something similar to sloe gin, a popular spirit made with gin which has been infused with sloes (a relative of a plum) and often sweetened.

Using salal berries in this gin results in the creation of something similar, but distinctly west-coast. Salal gin begins with Odd Society’s Wallflower gin, to which salal berries. The berries add significant colour and flavour to the gin. This is a seasonal release, and this year, due to COVID-19, each release was based on berries from specific region: the Powell River and Haida Gwaii.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose on this gin is so savoury (in the way that a good red wine or sherry can be)! Bright blueberry notes, forest floor, lemon, toasted coriander, clove, and a light licorice type character. The palate is very lightly sweet and dominated by berry notes (dried blueberry, dried elderberry), with a light sweetness, tannic character, and woody notes. The berry character is incredibly rich and penetrating – it’s bright but it’s almost dark with all the heavy fruity notes. There are light tannins that are perfectly balanced with the sweetness, and bring out the rich berry notes on the finish.

The gin is terrific in cocktails - it contributes a rich, deep blue/purple colour, tannins, and a nice berry jam flavour to cocktails. A few notable cocktails (provided by the distillery): “blood sugar sex magik” - 1.5 oz salal gin, 0.5 oz lime juice, 0.5 oz honey syrup (2/3 parts honey mixed with 1/3 parts hot water), 0.3 (10 ml) pastis, and 2 dashes angostura bitters - shaken and served in a chilled coupe glass. The cocktail really has great texture from the tannins, and the balance of bright acidity, berry notes, and licorice are just awesome. It’s quite elegant and deep. The finish is awesome.

The other cocktail to mention here is a margarita variation, with the salal gin standing in for the cointreau (the “salalgarita”): 1.5 oz tequila, 0.5 oz salal gin, 1 oz lime juice, 3/4 oz simple syrup shaken with ice and served in a rocks glass over ice. The colour is incredible, and it’s very different - you have the bite of the tequila, but accented by berry rather than orange - and the tannins from the salal gin add incredible texture to the cocktail. Very nice variation.

One of the best variations on sloe gin that I’ve had. I really like the tannic character of this, too - not only served straight or neat, but also in cocktails.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.