Bimini Coconut Gin was recently declared Gin of the Year at the New Orleans Spirits Competition, as well as named Best in Category: Signature Botanical Gin and awarded a double gold. Kristina Hansen and Darren Case, founders and distillers of Bimini Gin, said of their win, “We are absolutely thrilled and deeply grateful to have Bimini Coconut recognized with these honors. The judges at the NOLA Spirits Competition are some of the most sophisticated palates in the world; there could be no better reward for a distiller than knowing these industry icons think so highly of your spirit.”
We sat down with Kristina and Darren to chat with them about the story of Bimini Gin, the inspiration behind the Coconut Gin, cocktails and more.
When asked about the inspiration to distill gin, Darren said, "Gin had a very personal connection for us. Growing up, all throughout high school, I worked at a marina, tying up boats. Kristina’s family had a boat at the marina – it was called the Sparkle Plenty. It was painted bright pink and had glitter mixed in with all the varnish. This is how we met. I would be tying up there boat, and eventually Kristina’s Dad, Happy, hired me and a friend to clean their boat. The thing about Happy was he would always have a gin and tonic in one hand. Always. It became symbolic of summertime in Maine on the water, being around boats. Ultimately, that formed our connection with gin: thinking of those moments during summer, around the boats.
"When we decided to pursue opening a distillery, it just made sense that we would make gin because of that connection. We had a particular vision of a gin that tried to capture summertime by the water, those memories, those moments. It made sense. From a more pragmatic point of view, it gives a distiller the opportunity to craft something unique. Being a recipe-based spirit, particularly within the genre of American gins and Western gins, you have this freedom to add whatever botanical profile you happen to want to do. It gives you this great blank canvas to create a completely unique spirit that no one has ever had before."
Kristina added, "To build off that connection to gin and Maine summers on the coast – we really wanted to capture that feeling in both the flavor profile and the brand identity of the gin. In one of the early reference books we were looking at – The Practical Distiller, a pre-Prohibition distillation guide – several of the recipes mention throwing a handful of hops in as an extra flavoring agent. We thought that was interesting, particularly being in Maine with such a huge craft brewing industry. There are very interesting varietals of hops that are a point of conversation in the food and beverage world here. We thought it would be interesting to explore that as a flavor profile, which led us to other warm weather drinks people like to have. Being from Maine, we immediately went to a New England style IPA. We liked the idea of reflecting some of those lighter, crisp flavors in the gin as well – so not necessarily tasting like a beer, but taking inspiration from those bright, not quite tart but citrus-y summer flavors like coriander, a lighter style of hops – we use Mount Hood hops – grapefruit, and we use a light aromatic barley malt as a botanical. Starting with our corn based spirit, we wanted to added a little bit of extra grain quality in the flavor profile, so we use a little bit of aromatic malt as a botanical. It’s not in the mash for the original alcohol, but we do distill it with the other botanicals to get that softer grain sweetness in the background that helps support some of the other botanicals as well."
Kristina also expanded on the more technical aspects of flavor extraction during distillation, "Building the flavor profile of the gin, we really wanted to have a distinct and unique profile but one that still very much functioned as a gin for mixing. Gin is a mixing spirit – very few people drink it neat. We wanted it to play well with other flavors and still read as gin in any sort of classic application. To that end, we wanted to make sure it had a big juniper flavor up front but to minimize that more astringent pine note that we found comes through at higher temperatures. The way that we distill everything, we are able to minimize that by controlling our collection temperatures very tightly. The still we use has a dephlegmator at the top of the column. The function for that is a secondary condenser. As the pot is boiling and all the alcohol vapors and essential oils are coming through, we’re able to capture only the temperatures we want to collect. The dephlegmator keeps the top of the column at a very, very controlled temperature. We have a thermometer up there that reads up to a tenth of a degree. We’re able to monitor our collection very carefully, and we’re able to bring through all the high notes of the flavor. What the dephlegmator does is it creates a barrier with temperature so we can be very precise with the flavors we’re collecting."
Darren explained, “A flavor is a combination of various compounds. If you deconstruct that flavor into the individual compounds and just capture the individual compounds you can present a new flavor that is taken from the original flavors. The flavor and the smell of juniper is created by a cocktail of different chemicals. Our distillation process selectively captures a handful of those chemicals so that we are able to present a portion of the juniper flavor rather than the whole juniper flavor. A more apt explanation would be that turning the knob [on the still] can create sets of filters that only allows certain things through.”
Watch the full video above to learn more about Bimini Gin!