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Silvertip, Vilya Spirits (formerly Ridge Distillery), Kalispell
$24.80, 88 proof
Distillery description: “An American dry gin produced using handcrafted copper alembic stills from Portugal, and only the finest botanicals available, including many grown in the Northwest Rocky Mountains.”
Our score: 31
Our panel of judges envisioned this robust gin working best in a dirty—or “very dirty,” as one specified—martini. “This is a heavy gin that needs a powerful mixer to pull forward some of the subtle flavors,” said another judge, summing up the group’s consensus.
Best comment: “It has a strong anise flavor. No, not anus, anise.”
Healy’s Gin, Trailhead Spirits, Billings
$27, 86 proof
Distillery description: “Small-batch gin distilled from Montana wheat and local botanicals.”
Our score: 29
Healy’s had some trouble standing out among the other gins tested. One judge said it had a “pleasant aroma, but short-lived flavor.” Another thought it tasted more like a mainstream gin, saying it reminded her of something used in collegiate G&Ts.
Best comment: “Weak sauce.”
Anselmo, Headframe Spirits, Butte
$28.50, 80 proof
Distillery description: “A unique blend of 12 different botanicals, including citrus and huckleberry, that give it a distinct, fresh flavor.”
Our score: 17
A few of the local spirits took a beating in our blind taste test, but none more than Anselmo. The botanicals failed to come through in the aroma, and none of our judges appreciated the harsh finish and unpleasant mouthfeel. “This is like drinking a mistake,” said one unhappy judge.
Best comment: “Reminds me of my Dad’s cologne.”
Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Diageo, England
$14, 80 proof
Distillery description: “The distinctively refreshing taste comes from the finest handpicked juniper berries and a selection of other botanicals.”
Our score: 26
The world’s best-selling London dry gin failed to impress our judges, who immediately pegged it as a tasteless mainstream offering. “Is this amateur hour?” asked one judge. “I’d mix this with some punch at a high school dance,” said another. If it’s any consolation for local distilleries, their small-batch flavor consistently stood out against outliers like Gordon’s.
Best comment: “God knows I’d drink anything, but this tastes gross and cheap.”
FIRST PLACE FLASK WINNER
Whyte Laydie, Montgomery Distillery, Missoula
$28.70, 80 proof
Distillery description: “A dry gin incorporating Rocky Mountain juniper and a variety of native botanicals with European juniper and other imported ingredients traditional to gin: fresh citrus, orris and angelica root, cardamom, grains of paradise, and more.”
Our score: 39
When our judges found a gin they liked, they really liked it. This runaway winner initially impressed with a pleasant aroma (“very floral”), and further impressed with a smooth first taste (“crisp on the front of the tongue”) and clean finish (“that taste sticks around but doesn’t feel dry”).
Best comment:“You know that Phish song about a bathtub full of gin? I’d bathe in it if this were the gin.”