When Vale Fox Distillery founder Eral Gokgol-Kline wanted to expand his offerings beyond American single malt whisky, he turned to some of the industry’s best bartenders: the late Gary (Gaz) Regan, Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland’s Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko, and Leo Robitschek, vice president of food and beverage for the Sydell Group (NoMad, The Line, and other luxury hotel brands).
“I liked the idea of making a white spirit, and gin was a natural fit,” explains Gokgol-Kline. “But we wanted to make something that added value for the customer and enhanced the drinking experience.”
He discovered that 96% of consumers drink gin in cocktails, so understanding what bartenders needed and wanted in the spirit was essential.
Enter Regan, a longtime friend of one of Gokgol-Kline’s employees, who introduced the pair.
“We were sitting on his porch one evening, and I told him about my idea to make a gin and develop it with bartenders involved from day one. He jumped at the opportunity,” recalls Gokgol-Kline.
Regan enlisted fellow bartenders Morgenthaler and Robitschek who along with master distiller Roselyn Thomson, an alum of John Dewar & Sons, set to work perfecting the recipe.
According to Thomson, the team sourced over 70 different botanicals from across the world, including a South African red Rooibos tea and Angelica root from places as varied as Bulgaria, Germany, and Poland. Each botanical was condensed into a single distillate for individual tasting as well as mixing with the neutral spirit, all to create the perfect bartenders’ gin.
As Thomson explains, “we started with cocktails in mind and worked our way backwards.”
While the group used the strong and punchy Negroni as a benchmark cocktail for mixing the gin, they also wanted a spirit that would work equally well in a simple Gin & Tonic or classic Martini.
Landing on the perfect recipe wasn’t easy given the variety of personalities and palates involved.
“We weren’t always on the same page, but it was a really good learning process to try and develop something that wasn’t going to be exactly to one person’s specific taste, but would suit everyone in one way or another,” says Thomson.
After much nosing, tasting, and experimentation, the fifth iteration of the gin was the winner.
“I remember Gaz calling me on a Monday or Tuesday after that round of distillation and saying, ‘Eral, you hit it. This gin rocks. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it,’” recalls Gokgol-Kline.
And thus Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 was born. “Tod” for male foxes and “vixen” for the female ones that roam the distillery’s 120 acre pastoral property in Hudson Valley, and 1651 a nod to Gokgol-Kline’s Dutch ancestor who also founded a New York state-based distillery.
The spirit is made by macerating botanicals like juniper, angelica root, orris root, coriander seed, and red rooibos tea overnight, with citrus elements—Makrut lime leaves and fresh and bitter orange peels—added prior to distillation in copper Forsyth pot stills, with the finishing product then non-chill filtered.
The result? A vibrant, yet balanced 48 percent proof gin that works as well in boozy, stirred cocktails as in bright, sessionable ones.
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