Taste Test: Are Alaskan Spirits Worth the Trip (or Sip)?
America's 49th state makes everything from award-winning gin to, yes, smoked salmon vodka.
Last year, a law was passed allowing Alaska’s distilleries to not only make liquor but also serve it in tasting rooms. In our August issue, T+L wrote about the best new ones in quirky spaces. But we knew we’d be doing readers a disservice if we didn’t also detail exactly what they taste like. In the name of journalism, five editors gamely took on the challenge.
Anchorage Distillery’s Glacier Melt Vodka
This tall bottle didn’t have the typical overpowering vodka smell—on first sniff, it was fruity and clean. “It doesn’t taste cheap,” said one editor. “And there’s no aftertaste, which is a good thing.” Slightly sweet, this is a vodka that can be enjoyed straight, without juice or mixer.
Highmark Distillery’s Nickel Back Apple Jack
This is a super sweet one. On first taste, we wondered if there was even any alcohol in there, since the main notes were apple and cinnamon. “Dangerous and delicious,” this is ideal hot toddy territory.
Port Chilkoot Distillery’s 50 Fathoms Gin
Our favorite of the bunch, this gin was the one we wanted to keep drinking. “All you need is a bit of tonic to let the spirit shine,” said one editor. As a group, we detected hints of citrus and juniper. “I realize what gin is supposed to taste like now,” said another editor.
Ursa Major Distilling’s Fairbanks Sourdough Rum
Instead of typical yeast, this rum is fermented using a sourdough, with a starter that dates back more than 60 years ago. And upon opening the bottle, the sourdough is present and strong. “Thankfully, it certainly doesn’t taste like it smells,” said one senior editor. We recommend this one for carb lovers only—or perhaps, when mixed into a cocktail.
Alaska Distillery’s Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka
This was by far the spirit we were most looking forward to (and slightly dreading) tasting. The smoke was certainly present—there were strong notes of mesquite, and even hints of bacon. We were stumped as to what it reminded us of until one highly perceptive editor called it out: “barbecue potato chips!” The salmon didn’t really come through—though we weren’t exactly craving it, either. This is worth trying, if only for the novelty factor, or as a fantastic addition to a Bloody Mary.