Out of Portland, Maine, Hardshore Gin takes classic style up a notch. (photo by Pete Hitson for Wine and Whiskey Globe)

In a sea of tall and colorful gin bottles, a small bottle with a simple white label barely whispers, “Try me.” Free advice: Pay attention to the little things.

Hardshore Original Gin comes in a bottle that feels timeless. It’s steel grey, apothecary style, and topped with a ground glass stopper. It feels familiar in the hand, a perfectly balanced weight. The bottom edge of the front label is slightly jagged, like the Maine coast, but you won’t notice that at a glance; in fact, the label gives away little about the distillery and almost nothing about the hand-selected botanicals. The only way you’ll find out about this gin is to try it.

The subtlety of the bottle contrasts with Hardshore Distilling Company’s lofty goal, plainly stated on its website: “We are only interested in making spirits that have a purpose on the bar shelf, not just imitating the greats who have already earned their place there.” Eight years into his experiment, Founder/Distiller Jordan Milne has launched exactly one spirit. More are coming, but Milne is rooted in a love for gin and knows that patience is a critical part of his craft.

Hardshore gin is crisp and refreshing. The taste is complex with a distinct juniper flavor balanced with floral, spice, and citrus notes. The surprise is that Hardshore delivers this range with just five botanicals. The little label only lists two of them: rosemary and mint. And there is no citrus! Milne shared that he was hoping to feature under-represented flavors, and found that less is more, as he pulled back on his feature flavors. The botanicals work together to complement but not dominate the taste. The mint fades to a grassy note and the citrus element actually comes from the rosemary.

Jordan Milne regularly covers ground in Italy and his travels make their way back into this gin. Juniper is from Tuscany. (A special variety he insists survives the distillation process with the best flavor.) Orris root is from Umbria and contributes a floral bass note. All of the ingredients are fresh, and the mint in particular can vary in blend depending on the season. The Hardshore team is careful to test each small batch against a sampling of prior releases to ensure it’s true to taste and itself. 

Hardshore might earn its spot on the bar shelf as an example of how much can be done with so little, but it’s also versatile. To me summer means tonic water. But this gin is equally ready for a martini; Milne would suggest a Negroni.  A grapefruit garnish in place of lime won’t overpower this gin and makes fun summer G&T change up. That’s also a winning cocktail for the gin skeptic or newbie at your socially distant summer events.

Hardshore is still sold mostly in the northeast but has started to pop up in Florida; we’ll look forward to seeing this gin ($37, 46% ABV) become more widely available. On your shelf, it will feel like it was always there.