At times, it feels like New Englanders are a breed all their own, and Bully Boy Distillers—Boston’s first craft distillery—is harnessing that idea, creating spirits that are true to the New England terroir by using “regionally indigenous ingredients.”
For their Estate Gin, that means using, among other ingredients, McIntosh apples and wild juniperus virginiana from the family farm of the Bully Boy’s owners, Dave and Will Willis.
Unlike most other gins that are made only from a neutral grain base, Bully Boy’s is made from a mix of neutral grain and apple base (distilled from locally-produced Stormalong cider). To add depth to the gin, lavender, pink peppercorn, and hibiscus are all also used in small amounts.
(For those curious about the name, it is an homage to Teddy Roosevelt, as well as to the Willis family’s favorite workhorse, Bully, who was named after Roosevelt’s famous exclamation.)
Nose: Juniper, pepper, and lemon all come through on the nose, with juniper being (rightfully) the main component. There’s a waft of floral notes on the end, but it is not heavy.
Palate: The juniper is there, again, this time accompanied by sweet citrusy notes, a tiny bit of floral in the form of hibiscus, ending in a little bit of a vegetal flavor. There’s a secondary sweetness too, a backbone of sorts, that seems to run through the gin that is most likely due to the neutral apple spirit that is used. While it’s a neutral spirit, it does help to impart a little bit of body, it seems.
Finish: There’s a slight bit of warmth on the finish, which is fairly short. The juniper and pepper that started everything come back and recede very quickly after swallowing.
Final Thoughts: I like the idea of a terroir-based gin, and I enjoy that the base is more than just neutral grain, but I wouldn’t say definitively that this “tastes” like New England. Then again, I’m not from there. That being said, I appreciate the use of locally-sourced ingredients and I think if future distillers in Boston follow the lead of Bully Boy, then Boston will be a delightful, spirited place to visit soon.
Bully Boy Estate Gin retails for around $30.