With lots of big concepts and even bigger names attached, The Vale Fox Distillery is generating lots of press. A few weeks ago, the startup producer unveiled their inaugural offering, Tod & Vixen Dry Gin 1651, a collaboration with gaz regan, Leo Robitschek, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Sure, it made headlines, but what is it and how does it taste?
The Distillery Backstory
The Vale Fox Distillery ticks off a veritable checklist of trends in the spirits industry. There’s an environmental angle, an all-star consulting team, and even a graphic novel.
Located just outside of New York City in the Hudson Valley, Vale Fox was founded by Eral Gokgol-Kline. In a familiar tale, Gokgol-Kline left his job as an I-banker to open the distillery after sketching out a plan on a cocktail napkin.
Vale Fox’s 120 acre grounds are intended to double as a nature preserve. The lands include protected habitats for endangered species, geothermal power, and other sustainability measures.
In addition, the location is also a nod to Gokgol-Kline’s forebearers.
“Through some genealogical research, I learned that in 1651, my great, great (great, great, truly great) Dutch grandfather founded a New York distillery,” mused the founder in a release. “I hope we’re making his “spirit” (sorry…) proud.”
Alas, distillation skills are not passed down genetically. So, an impressive team was assembled to steer the contemporary venture. Roselyn Thomson formerly with John Dewar & Sons serves as Master Distiller; industry institution Harry Cockburn is also helping the cause; Douglas Cruickshank, formerly of Chivas Brothers, is handling production; Cliff Oldfield, formerly with Dad’s Hat Rye, manages sales; and Arthur Shapiro, former EVP of Marketing at Seagram, is lending a hand with marketing.
For good measure, Shapiro also penned a graphic novel. The story centers around two foxes in a kind of deco supper club meets Nick and Nora trope. The, it gets all Watership Down as the duo save The Vale from human developers. The undertaking is cute, but Alan Moore won’t be worried about job security.
The Gin Backstory
The funny thing about whiskey is that it requires years of aging in the barrel. So, it’s common for new, indie distilleries to roll out a gin while they’re waiting for the early batches of whiskey to mature. Vale Fox employs this model also; their debut spirit is “Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651”.
The marketing materials make a big deal out of the “reverse engineered” nature of the gin. In short, that process largely entails tasting various beta versions of the gin in cocktails and then tweaking the product. To that end, industry legends gaz regan, Leo Robitschek and Jeffrey Morgenthaler were added to the team.
The end product is a wheat based neutral spirit macerated with juniper, coriander, angelica and orris roots, red rooibos tea, Makrut lime, and two types of orange peel (one sweet, one more bitter leaning). The non chill-filtered juice clocks in at 48% ABV.
Tod & Vixen tastes like gin, lots of juniper and coriander. One might logically expect gin to taste like gin, but much of the ‘New’ or so-called ‘California Gin’ category prove that assumption false. Many contemporary gins taste far more like flavored vodkas. Vale Fox’s offering does not.
On the nose, T&V hits the sipper with lots of that juniper and coriander along with a nice dose of heat.
The first tastes offer sweetness, the orange is clear here, followed some earthy flavors, cut grass, and more citrus. There’s a nice weight on the tongue, but it’s not too viscous. The earthiness yields to a small tannic burst and then more of that juniper and coriander to remind us ‘this is gin!’ The finish is long and hot.
The gin is not as crisp and clean as a classic London Dry; it’s a little more muted and citrusy. Conversely, T&V is far bigger than your typical modern gin and cleaner than the popular botanical bombs on the market. Here, the botanicals are deployed deliberately to build a balanced compliment to the juniper.
Of course, T&V’s raison d’être is cocktails. The spirit is strong enough to maintain character when playing with others. Yet, it will not overpower the modifiers. The strong citrus notes in the profile provide a nice acidic balance to a drink.
Bottom line, the gin is solid. Is this the best gin ever? No, there are plenty of applications where a Big Three classic London Dry is still a better call. But, Tod & Vixen is tasty, super versatile in cocktails, and smooth enough to appeal to a newbie.