Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Gin Review: Townshend's

Townshend's began its life in Portland as a tea company, with several locations scattered around the city. From there they expanded into other tea-based drinks such as kombucha. In an odd twist, the kombucha is what led to the distillery - after a scare in the early-2010s that unpasturized kombucha was over over the 0.5% ABV limit, Townshend's made the rather expensive decision to remove the alcohol by vacuum distillation so that the natural cultures survived. This had the side effect of preserving the volatile flavors, both that emerged from the kombucha and those that were added later to the redistilled spirit. Another interesting wrinkle is that because of the significant amount of acetic acid that comes off the kombucha they have to wash the spirit with baking soda to eliminate most of it.

All of this results in very intensely flavored spirits that have none of the notes that are associated with high temperature distilling. Their gin is made from their green tea kombucha spirit that is infused with more botanicals, redistilled, then bottled at 40%.

Townshend's Gin

Nose: big floral notes (lavender, violet, rose), green tea, juniper almost shoved into the background, some round citrus (lemon, lime, a little orange), a little bubble gum.

Taste: cleanly sweet up front, transition into green tea in the middle that becomes increasingly tannic towards the back where the juniper finally kicks in

Finish: balanced tea, juniper, and floral notes that linger lightly

This is, to put it mildly, not a traditional gin profile. The floral notes dominate, with the tea a little behind, and the juniper coming in third. If you're coming from London dry gins, this is likely to seem very odd, but it's more of an evolution of the New West style pioneered in the early-2000s that toned down the juniper in favor of more approachable botanicals. At the same time, the floral notes are so strong that I would say that it's less initially approachable than some other Portland gins like Aviation. Overall I really like it, but it does require a different approach than what you might be used to.

While I originally bought this thinking that it could fill a role similar to Hendrick's, I've since found that it really has a narrow niche. While latter is gently floral, adding some roundness to the standard gin botanicals, this is a whole flower shop. When I tried to make Negronis with this gin, the result can only be described as tasting purple. And definitely not in a good way. What that means is that it needs some fairly stout companions, preferably with some citrus, to really work in a cocktail. And what stouter companions are there in a gin cocktail than those in a Last Word?

Last Word

0.75 oz gin
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75 oz green Chartreuse
0.75 oz maraschino liqueur

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice for six seconds, then double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is dominated by the floral and tea of the gin combined with the herbal notes of the Chartreuse, with some lime and maraschino peeking around the edges. The sip begins with moderate sweetness, quickly balanced by the lime near the middle with some maraschino roundess, fading into a complex array of herbal and floral bitterness that stretches out into the finish.

This is a Last Word for people who really want to lean into the Charteuse. While many favor recipes that amp up the gin, that simply won't work with Townshend's, which becomes unbearably floral in anything greater than equal proportions. It works, but it's the balance of great forces shoving each other into submission. If that's your jam, I highly recommend picking up a bottle. If you're not into floral spirits, this is one that you can safely give a miss.


  1. How does it compare with Magellan in terms of non-juniper flavors?

  2. Do you have any recommendations for similar gins? Townshend is my favorite and I'm so sad they don't make it any more :(

    1. That is a tricky question. Something floral like Hendrick's Summer Solstice might get the job done, but I haven't found anything quite like it yet.