Killing off Death

Over the summer, my sister-in-law and her family stayed with us for a few days. My sister-in-law, ever the definition of manners and cordiality, always brings gifts for anyone she comes to visit. In my case, it was a bottle of Death’s Door gin, since the two of us share a common preference for gin — she’s introduced me to the likes of Nolet’s, I’ve shared the wonders of St. George Terroir and Botanivoire. We share a strong relationship, one built on mutual respect and an appreciation of the need for good-quality tonic.

I’d been curious about Death’s Door since it’s one of the few smaller-name gins you can buy off the shelf at North Carolina’s alcoholic beverage commission stores (the only place to buy spirits in this state), but honestly the name kinda put me off. However! It turned out, instantly, to be one of my favorite spirits ever. This is some good gin.


I guess this would qualify as “American Dry” gin? That seems to be what you call American gins whose flavor profile falls somewhere between simple, classic London Dry and more complex Old Tom types (which is probably how you’d designate Reposado and Apiary). I dunno, I’m new to all of this. But anyway, it’s neither as traditional as a London Dry nor as off-the-wall as most Old Toms I’ve tried; you can definitely taste the juniper in here, but it’s more of a background element compared to the dominant flavors. Mostly fennel, I think. It has a pretty distinct licorice/aniseed taste, but not overpoweringly so — which is good, because I don’t really care for licorice. But although that particular flavor note stands out, it also works in unison with the traditional botanical and becomes something more complex. It also perfectly complements the bitterness of tonic, and it’s remarkably smooth, so it works both straight and in a G&T. I’m sure it’s also good in cocktails, but I’m always loathe to use gins that hold up well on their own in a cocktail and risk losing the unique flavor elements.

Anyway, it’s taken almost half a year, but I have finally worked my way through the bottle my sister-in-law gave me over the summer. Now I have a difficult decision: Do I replace it, or try something new? It turns out that a local distillery, Durham Distillery, sells a navy-strength gin called Conniption that hits a lot of the same notes as Death’s Door. It’s also like 40% more potent, being navy strength and all. They’re both great. I do like the mellowness of Death’s Door, but Conniption Navy Strength is fantastic, too, and I do like to buy local when possible. Decisions, decisions.