Aviation Gin - Contemporary Gin from Portland, Oregon

By Timo Torner / Last updated on May 31, 2024

Aviation American Gin, or Aviation Gin, is one of the best-known Gins from America. A contemporary Gin that gave a whole Gin category a new name.
Bottle of Aviation Gin with botanicals

When the two founders of Aviation Gin, Christian Krogstad and Ryan Magarian, launched their product in 2006, they had developed it with a goal in mind: create a contemporary Gin that is less juniper-driven than the common London Dry Gins from Britain.

Little did they know that they would eventually become part of creating an entire sub-category of Gin that didn't really exist back then. Co-Founder Ryan Magarian once stated in an interview that Gins like Aviation and Hendrick's Gin need their own type of designation:

"... to have any chance at long-term success, they need to have a recognized designation of their own, clearly identifying their uniquely balanced flavor perspectives which will in turn, allow potential consumers an easy understanding of these products and how they differ from others in the category for years to come.” 

Interestingly, Magarian himself came up with the initial name of this category - New Western Dry Gin. Today, that name is rarely used anymore because Contemporary Gin has taken its place. However, it shows how important Aviation Gin was for the movement of modern and less junipery Gins.

Quick Facts

  • Produced by: Diageo
  • Distilled at: House Spirits distillery in Portland, Oregon
  • Style: New Western Dry Gin
  • ABV: 42% ABV
  • Spirit base: Neutral grain spirit
  • Taste: Cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, orange, and juniper
  • Best served: Cocktails

Botanicals

The list of ingredients in Aviation Gin includes eight different botanicals. These botanicals are macerated in neutral grain spirit for 18 hours before the macerate is blended with water and distilled into Gin. The botanicals used for maceration are:

  • Juniper
  • French lavender
  • Anise seeds
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Sarsaparilla
  • Two different kinds of orange peel

Taste

In comparison to most other Contemporary Gins, Aviation Gin is quite junipery. Not as dominant as in classic London Drys but still perceivable on the nose and palate.

Besides a comparably strong juniper note, the nose is full of earthy, rooty, and foresty aromas with hints of lavender. The palate, on the other hand, shows less juniper and more spicy notes. Cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, and also distinct orange flavors are dominant.

The finish can best be described as earthy and floral, with moderate spicy notes and more orange flavor.

History

Christian Krogstad and Ryan Magarian launched the Aviation Gin brand in 2006. The spirit was and still is produced by House Spirits Distillery, a craft distillery located in Portland, Oregon.

The original bottle was shaped like a wine flask and had a distinct blue label. In 2013, only seven years after the launch, the brand decided to do a makeover and developed the Art deco inspired glass bottle that is still in use today.

In 2016, Davos Brands, LLC aquired the brand, while House Spirits distillery continued to distill the Gin. Two years after Davos took over and promoted the Gin heavily, Ryan Reynolds bought into the brand.

Two years later, the brand was sold again. This time Diageo acquired it to strengthen its portfolio of Gins. The industry giant also owns some of the most respected Gin brands in the world with Gordon's and Tanqueray. 

Reynolds still holds his stake and actively keeps promoting Aviation Gin, for instance, in movies like Deadpool 2.

Different expressions of Aviation Gin

Aviation American Gin

Aviation American Dry Gin bottle on white background

The classic expression of Aviation Gin is one of the most important Gins produced in America. It works beautifully in a G&T but is also great for mixing cocktails due to its well-balanced yet complex flavor profile.

Aviation Old Tom Gin

Aviation Old Tom Gin bottle

Old Tom Gin tends to be slightly sweeter than classic Gins and doesn't follow strict rules during production. This amber-hued Gin from Aviation aged for one year in ex-Whiskey barrels, which not only makes it an Old Tom but an aged Gin, as well. Tastewise, it is slightly sweet with lots of floral notes and hints of vanilla and citrus.

How much is Aviation Gin?

With a price tag of $27 per 750ml bottle, Aviation American Gin isn't cheap but still quite affordable. Their Old Tom expression, however, is a little more expensive and sets you back $37.

Gin Type Size ABV Proof Price
Aviation American Gin 750ml 42% 84 $28
Aviation Old Tom Gin 750ml 42% 84 $27

Use in Cocktails

This Gin is great in many of the most delicious Gin cocktails. It's lovely in a Dry Martini paired with Dolin dry vermouth. The spicy yet balanced flavor profile pairs perfectly with Dry Vermouth and highlights the cardamom notes in the Gin.

Used in a Negroni cocktail, it also works brilliantly. The cocktail will turn out slightly different from its classic taste and lack some junipery notes. However, the floral and vanilla notes in the Gin work extremely well in combination with Sweet Vermouth and Campari to create a contemporary version of this classic Italian Aperitif cocktail.

Naturally, it also works perfectly in an Aviation cocktail. In fact, Aviation Gin was one of the reasons for the renaissance of this old Gin cocktail recipe.

Other classics that also benefit from the spicy, earthy, and floral flavors in the spirit include:

FAQs

Does Ryan Reynolds still own Aviation Gin?

Diageo owns Aviation Gin, but Ryan Reynolds is a stakeholder until today and is known to promote the Gin in his movies as he did in Deadpool 2.

Is Aviation Gin actually good?

Yes. Aviation Gin is a good Gin and works especially well in cocktails. It's not the world's Number 1 Gin, but it certainly is one of America's best.

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