Cocktail consultant, Liquid Productions
Co-owner, Pacific Standard
CEO and founder, LP Drinks Co.
Barr Hill is a Vermont-made gin that’s distilled and lightly sweetened with local raw honey. Our tasting panel regarded the spirit as well made, observing that the gin’s juniper backbone and notes of honey and spice will excel in sour cocktails, or honey-forward gin drinks like the Bee’s Knees. Reviewers also noted that the profile should lend itself to interesting experimentation options in new drinks. However, this offering’s unique honey flavor profile slightly limits its usage, as it can’t necessarily be directly substituted for London Dry gin or other traditional styles in classic gin cocktails.
Classification: New American gin
Company: Caledonia Spirits
Producer: Caledonia Spirits
Expression: Barr Hill Gin
Still Type: Custom-built botanical extraction still
Awards: Gold, 2023 Ascot Awards; Gold, 2023 London Spirits Competition; Double Gold and Consumers’ Choice, 2022 SIP Awards; Gold, 2022 New York International Spirits Competition; Gold, 2022 American Distilling Institute International Spirits Competition
Innovative and high-quality gin
Excels in sours and honey-forward gin cocktails like the Bee’s Knees
Strikes balance between London Dry and New World styles
May strike some palates as too sweet
Can’t necessarily be used as a replacement for London Dry or more classical styles of gin
Color: Clear with slight straw hue
Nose: Orange blossoms, jasmine, honeysuckle, juniper, honey, pine, pepper, slight lavender
Palate: Juniper, honey, pepper, spice
Finish: Medium-long with pine notes
Similar bottles: Monkey 47, St. George, Ungava
Suggested uses: Honey-forward cocktails or sours like a Bee’s Knees; Gin Old Fashioned; cocktail experimentation
This honey-forward gin earned top marks from two of our reviewers, although Jacques Bezuidenhout didn’t prefer the sweetness of the honey.
“I love this product,” says LP O’Brien. “It is legitimately one of my favorite styles of gin to utilize in beverages.”
Jeffrey Morgenthaler calls it a “delicious versatile gin that will make you rethink the category.”
Each of our reviewers picked out juniper and honey as the primary notes on the palate.
“Juniper often comes with a ton of citrus notes, so the use of honey here is an inspired choice,” says Morgenthaler. “[This gin] rides the perfect line between the London Dry and the New World style.”
Barr Hill touts this spirit as fitting for the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail—made with gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup—and unsurprisingly, Bezuidenhout and Morgenthaler both recommend trying it in this application.
“It has the proof, honey, and spice to carry through citrus cocktails,” says Bezuidenhout. He and O’Brien also note that this gin is well suited to home bartenders who seek to experiment with different combinations and flavor profiles. However, Bezuidenhout doesn’t recommend this gin for classic spirit-forward cocktails like the Martini or Negroni if one is seeking a more traditional formulation.
O’Brien, on the other hand, suggests Barr Hill for those wishing to give well-known cocktails a twist. “I really enjoyed this gin utilized with classic specs,” she says.
Morgenthaler echoes this sentiment. “I tried a Gin Old Fashioned with honey syrup as the sweetener and was blown away by the results,” he says.
Barr Hill Gin is produced in Montpelier, Vermont, on a neglected brownfield site near the banks of the Winooski River. It is distilled from raw honey in a custom-built botanical extraction still, then sweetened with additional honey, which comprises about 2% of the final spirit. Although honey is the only botanical used other than juniper, Barr Hill has noted that the honey itself lends additional botanicals, such as wildflowers.
In 2011, beekeeper Todd Hardie and a former homebrew supply store owner, Ryan Christiansen, launched Vermont-based Caledonia Spirits with their flagship product, a gin distilled from raw local honey. Hardie had been experimenting with honey in wine and was looking to distill spirits when he met Christiansen, who was inspired by Hardie’s passion for beekeeping and its environmental benefits.
The duo opened a 6,000-square-foot distillery in Hardwick, Vermont, near the Barr Hill Nature Preserve, where they began to distill gin from raw honey with one 15-gallon copper still. In 2012, their gin won a Double Gold award at the New York International Spirits Competition, and they soon increased their production capacity from one batch a week to three distillations a day to meet growing demand.
Hardie has since returned to farming and beekeeping, and in 2019, Christiansen moved the distillery to Montpelier, Vermont, scaling up to a larger capacity and adding a full bar. Today, Caledonia Spirits also distills barrel-aged gin and vodka from raw honey.
–Written and edited by Audrey Morgan
Co-founded by a beekeeper, honey-forward Barr Hill continues to host an annual Bee’s Knees Week in the fall. The producer plants 10 square feet of bee pollinator habitats for every image hashtagged #beeskneesweek during the event.
The Bottom Line
This lightly sweetened gin is a high-quality product and an ideal choice for sours or honey-forward gin cocktails. Though it can’t necessarily be used in any cocktail that calls for London Dry gin, those willing to experiment will find it highly versatile in classics and new creations alike.