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That's the Spirit: New Holland Artisan Spirits

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[Photo: New Holland]

As Paul Clarke wrote recently, summer is the perfect season for light spirits like tequila and gin. Today we're tasting two unusual offerings from New Holland Artisan Spirits.

Situated in the town of Holland, Michigan, New Holland Brewing Company was founded in 1996 by Brett VanderKamp and Jason Spaulding. The company expanded into distillation in 2005: "[It's] a natural continuation of the brewing process," noted VanderKamp. They currently operate a single pot still and have a wide range of offerings, including a 2-row barley-based Brewers' Whiskey. But since we're looking for a more arctic adventure as the summer heat ramps up, let's go for their Hatter Royale Hopquila and their Knickerbocker Gin.

Hatter Royale Hopquila

What exactly is a hopquila? The technically correct answer is that it's a hop-flavored unaged whiskey.

Made by twice distilling a 100% barley wash, it's then steeped with Centennial hops, with a little bit of sugar added before bottling. The resulting spirit bears a striking, if confusing, resemblance to tequila. This pale straw colored spirit smells like crisp hops, with loads of citrus and a faint smokiness. It opens up a bit on tasting, with the full bitter hops onslaught hitting first, but then sweet barley bullying its way in behind. It finishes quick and sweet. There's no agave flavor, and it lacks the typical tequila bite, so there's a strong case to be made for HRH as the tequila hater's tequila. I wouldn't sell it as a sipper, but it's great on the rocks, or better yet, standing in for tequila in a hoparita!

Knickerbocker Gin

The Knickerbocker is much easier to wrap your head around—it's a well-balanced, new American-style gin (here are a few other examples).

Bottled at 85 proof, Knickerbocker is dangerously crisp and smooth. It's all sweet citrus aroma with a just a kiss of juniper, and then the flavor kicks in some lemon zest, botanicals, and juniper again in the background. An outstanding example of the style, this gin is a bit too delicate for the quintessential summertime G&T. Opt for a gin rickey instead.

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