Defender Island Gin

Most people think of gin as a summer drink, given its penchant for being mixed with fizzy and fruity things. However, some of the more modern, creative craft gins being produced prove that gin can be as diverse as the November weather in Calgary. Defender Island Gin, with its smoky rosemary backbone, is equally at home around a convivial summer campfire as it is in a snifter glass beside a warm fireplace on a wet, rainy day.

Defender Island is one of the spirits produced by Legend Distilling, which is located in the bountiful Naramata Bench area of the Okanagan, BC. When you first smell the gin, the scent starts softly and is slightly herby, with a dusty, smoky overtone. Take a deeper breath and its juniper character reveals its gin pedigree.

Drinking this gin neat is a bit of an adventure, as its taste is startlingly unique, in a cozy, warming sort of way. The smoke smacks you in the face over what is an obvious gin base – juniper and other light citrus supporting rosemary and other herbal botanicals. A super creative take on the more predictable flavor profile, this is a sipping gin unlike any other.

While not perfectly suited for a gin and tonic, it pairs well enough with sweeter, more floral tonics such as FT Mediterranean or a similar profile tonic syrup and lemon, orange peel, or apple. Though I don’t usually cover other cocktails in my reviews, in this case I’m making an exception as Defender Island Gin’s greatness is easily overlooked if you don’t try it in a negroni or (gasp) in normally whisky-based drinks such as an old fashioned.

An adventure in a bottle, this gin is an awesome option if you appreciate pushing definitions and boundaries and are looking for something a little bit different to inspire your cocktails.


Smell – Delicate, herby, some smoke; very slight juniper.

Taste Neat – Lovely and complex neat, the taste evolves. It’s light on the citrus and delivers a fresh clean, savory smokiness.

In a G&T – Put away your tonic water and bring out the Campari and Vermouth instead. If you must, pair it with a sweeter and floral tonic such as Fever Tree Mediterranean.

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