GSN Review: Spirits Works Gin, Barrel Gin & Sloe Gin


Spirit Works was founded only two years ago and already have garnered a reputation for high quality products including vodka and three styles of gin.  Started by British husband Timo Marshall and his American wife Ashby, they first started brainstorming about the idea while sailing around the world.  No, not on a private yacht, but as deck hands on an icebreaker ship.  It’s no small wonder they wanted to settle down, but still live near the coast.  Settled in the art district of Sebastopol, California known as The Barlow, their distillery is housed in the same neighborhood as a few breweries, wineries and a coffee roaster.

Ashby heads up the distilling, while Timo works to keep everything running smoothly from a business perspective.  Interestingly, even though their first product was a red winter wheat based vodka, their ultimate goal was to recreate a classic sloe gin.  Timo started with his family’s recipe, which he had been using since he was 14(!).  Since the Blackthorn bush which produces sloe berries is considered an invasive species in the US, he opted to import them from Bulgaria.

All of their spirits utilize single-distillation red winter wheat, with the gin having a blend of infused and suspended gin basket botanicals.  The Barrel Gin is aged approximately four months in new American Oak casks.  The Sloe Gin is made the traditional way with their gin infused with macerated sloe berries and sugar.


Timo and Ashby also have an official Spirit Works mascot named Bandit, who apparently considers the whole thing rather tiresome.

Gin (86 proof)
Visual: Crystal clear.
Nose: Slightly redolent of moonshine with a hearty juniper overlay. Very little citrus, but many other spices come through loud and clear.
Taste: Quite smooth with a rich, creamy body.  Instant lemon citrus on the palate, followed by the wintry bite of juniper.  The other botanicals fill in the cracks, but none raise their head above the crowd.
Finish: Long, dry and bracing.
Overall: An excellent gin that is self-assured, flavorful and well-balanced.  I honestly can’t think of any gin based cocktail which would not rejoice by its inclusion.
GSN Rating: A-

Barrel Gin (90.2 proof)
Visual: Warm yellow.
Nose: Candied lemon peel, soft juniper, vanilla taffy.
Taste: Smooth, creamy, loaded with vanilla and a touch of green banana.  The flavors have transformed into an Old Tom style with a sweeter character that still retains the essence of the juniper.
Finish: Lemon pie laced with Gin & Tonic.  I kid you not, there is a hint of quinine on the canvas.
Overall: Lovely and a fantastic gin for innovating new cocktails.  So, much to love here.
GSN Rating: A+

Sloe Gin (54 proof)
Visual: Reddish purple.
Nose: Spiced berries with a ghostly juniper presence.
Taste: Medium sweet with a punch-like character.  Fruit bomb with high spice notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger. Luscious and sublime.
Finish: Jam like with a lot of berry.
Overall: Not as tart as some traditional sloe gins, which makes this a nice alternative to drink straight.  Very balanced and I particularly like the spiciness.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Spirit Works Distillery

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