America is the beehive of the world. From this central hub of technology and culture, busy little bees come and go, pollinating the landscape with their talents and ideas. It’s a hive of individuals contributing to the whole. Diversity is what unites the States.
Of all the spirits, gin embodies the American ideals of strength through the unity of diversity. In South Salt Lake, Utah, Beehive Distilling is a locally owned business specializing in gin, exemplifying our oldest tradition of taking the very best from around the world to create something new and excellent for the market.
Beehive Distilling started in a small building with three diverse individuals and a passion to be the first gin producer in the state. Their flagship brand, Jack Rabbit Gin, carries the botanicals of the world on its shoulders.
Chris, Beehive’s lead distiller and one of its three founders, has a presence of immediacy, as though he has tapped into a grounded reality that the rest of us only glimpse through our own haze of waking dreams. He seems acutely aware of where he’s been in the past and grasps a clear vision for his and his distillery’s future, yet none of those lessons or plans hinder the swift and concise play in his conversation.
Energy emanates through his pores, and when I ask him how he has achieved such a large facility and consumer base, his answer doesn’t surprise me. He says it’s all about tenacity and finding creative ways to insert his brand into the market. Essentially, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Navigating Utah’s liquor laws is an uphill battle and often discourages other small companies. I bring this up to him, and Chris just shrugs it off. He says he will find a way and that there’s no use complaining about it.
Across from the distilling house is Beehive’s bar, decorated with a modern contemporary flair: wood, metal, and black. The expansive room is comfortable, complete with a patio and a private room. Sharp angles create a separate lounge, and local artists have work hanging on the walls that bewilder the eye and harrow the soul.
A perfume is at my nose. Chris has poured a flight of gin and cane vodka that now sits before me. They are clear or of varying shades of honey. Their gin canvas is a transparent spirit distilled in-house from corn. Then juniper, coriander, grains of paradise, orris root, rose petal, lemon, and sage are fed into the alcohol vapor and soaked in the mash with highly refined precision to produce their Jack Rabbit Gin. It tastes clean, complex and brings a touch of pepper at the end.
The ingredients used in this gin are exotic, harkening back to the spice trade in Europe: thousands of miles of merchants traversing harsh wilderness to introduce the world to their countries’ flavors. For that reason, most of Beehive’s alchemy is fed with ingredients of diverse origins. The juniper berries come from Italy or Albania; the coriander from Canada; the grains of paradise and orris root from Morocco; the rose petals all the way from Pakistan; the lemons: France; and the sage is either local, or from California, or Canada.
The caramel spirit glints in the sunlight coming through the tall window and isn’t whiskey as I first expected. It’s barrel-aged gin. French oak barrels, having been used previously for chardonnay, are eviscerated and torched by hand, reassembled and filled with a base spirit, then allowed to sit quietly for two or more years. It’s not a flavor that this drink evokes, but an experience.
A 7-year aged gin is now available but in limited quantities.
I leave Beehive Distilling in preponderance, a deep contemplation of what it means for a product to be called a gin. In the end, Chris has persuaded me that gin is perhaps the most creative of spirits, and in the hands of innovative distillers, can be art, just like the paintings and exhibitions on his distillery’s walls.
The ingredients used in these products come from all over the world. Beehive Distilling is itself like a bee’s nest, a hub where botanicals seep together to forge sweet ambrosia. This distillery is in itself a microcosm of America, where people and their talents and creativity unite to flower new and exciting culture.
Anyway, that’s my 2¢. Thanks for reading.