Tamworth Distilling’s Steven Grasse Honored for Gin That Doubles as Perfume
Food & Wine magazine awards Grasse an “Innovator of the Year” for the first-ever wearable and drinkable gin
Tamworth Distilling & Mercantile has put out spirits made with invasive green crabs, beaver glands and even what it calls a “sinister sap,” tapped from maple trees growing next to a Granite State graveyard. Now, they’re once again pushing the limits of libations with the launch of the world’s first wearable and drinkable perfume gin, Sylvan Mist. But before you balk at the thought of dousing yourself in a fragrance reminiscent of a fraternity party, fear not: That’s not what Tamworth Distilling is going for with this particular perfume.
“This is a gin, technically, by the law, because it has juniper in it — a lot of juniper,” says distiller Matt Power. “It really doesn’t smell like that memory from college or whatever. It’s got its own character that’s very unique.”
The “seed of the idea,” Power says, came from Tamworth Distilling’s owner, Steven Grasse. He discovered that the distillation of spirits had roots in the distillation of botanicals for perfume. From there, Power says, their team set out to build something that could straddle the line between scents and spirits — with a fragrance potent enough to wear, but not too intense to ingest.
Power, an organic chemist by training, says it involved a lot of trial and error, working with whole plant extracts to identify potential flavors for their final product.
“We had to kind of break them apart and then build them back together and assemble them,” he says. “Sort of like taking a bunch of different sounds and breaking out the individual notes from them and then taking a note from each sound and building them into a chord, or something of that nature.”
Some ingredients didn’t pan out. The “big, floral aroma” of the osmanthus flower seemed like a promising foundation at first — but that fell short when they found out it wasn’t deemed food safe. They were also interested in ambergris, made from the waxy exudate of a sperm whale. But trade is banned in the United States — so that was also off the table.
Eventually, they settled on a blend of balsam fir, boronia and chamomile flowers, violet leaf, grapefruit and juniper, that, Power says, might remind you of a lush summertime hike up Mount Whiteface.
“One of the big things we wanted to evoke in it was a sense of place,” Power says. “Here at the distillery, we always try to — no pun intended — infuse this concept of location into our spirits in some regards.”
Packaged to look like a perfume and adorned with a golden atomizer, the final product is designed to be more of a garnish than the base of a cocktail.
“If you wanted to try to drink some, you could do that, but you probably wouldn’t want more than a sip or two,” Power says.
And at $80 for 100 milliliters, with a 75.5 percent ABV, that’d be one expensive — and stiff — drink.