SF Event: Indy Spirits Expo
New Booze: El Grado Tequila

New Booze: Oxley Gin

Oxley is a new gin just launched in NYC, SF, LA, and Vegas. The interesting thing about this product is that it's made through "cold distillation." The theory is that the high temperatures used in traditional gin distillation to boil alcohol (to separate it from water and the infused botanicals in the still) can impart 'cooked' notes or lose desirable flavors in gin.

However, the press release didn't go into what cold distillation is. One option could be freeze distillation, where you put out a jug of wine outside your front door in the winter to let it freeze. You scrape off the frozen part (the water) and keep the rest (the alcohol). After a few times you get a higher-proof drink than what you began with.

OXLEY Gin bottle cold distilled

The other way to achieve cold distillation is by lowering the pressure by creating a vacuum in order to lower the boiling point of liquids. It turns out that's how they produce Oxley:

The boiling point of all liquids alters with the pressure change; the lower the pressure, the lower the temperature required to achieve boiling. It is for this very reason that water boils at a lower temperature at the top of a mountain than at sea level.


Cold Distillation uses a vacuum to reduce the pressure in the still and as a result lowers the temperature to approximately -5C, causing the macerated spirit in the still to ‘boil’ and turn to vapour. At this point the natural flavours from the botanicals are captured, resulting in a spirit that is reminiscent of the natural ingredients used to create it.


The reduced pressure within the still means that the molecules in the macerated spirit are no longer forced together by pressure, and instead start to separate, reducing the kinetic energy required to boil and changing from liquid to vapour (but without the use of heat). When this was observed during the development of OXLEY, it was discovered that the natural essences from the botanicals were captured and preserved in the vapour transferring to the final distilled spirit.


The Cold Distillation process occurs at approximately -5C and the resulting vapour is condensed at a temperature of -100C. As a result, the botanical flavours and aromas are not altered as they often are during traditional distillation methods. During other distillation methods botanicals are exposed to temperatures of 80C or greater. Cold Distillation, by contrast leaves the structure of the botanical molecules unchanged, thus preserving their original intensity. As a result, harsh and cooked notes, tops and tails and ‘spirit safes’ become a thing of the past. All the spirit distilled for OXLEY is of such high quality that everything produced goes into the final bottle and nothing is discarded.

The first part is interesting, but the last few sentences are very interesting. During distillation usually the first vapor that comes off the still is both yucky tasting and poisonous. The last vapor off is yucky and potentially watery. Thus much of the art in distilling is choosing the center cut- the heart- while not wasting too much of the spirit from the heads or tails. (This waste alcohol is often redistilled in a new batch or recycled into industrial alcohol) The folks at Oxley are saying that they've eliminated this alcohol waste entirely through this high-pressure, high-tech distillation. Very cool.

Anyway, the stuff costs fifty bucks a bottle. How does it taste?

Largely it tastes like gin. The nose is lemon zest and juniper, and on the palate more citrus comes into play as do almond notes that the press kit says comes from meadowsweet. To my mouth, the most unique aspect of this gin is the finish- I don't get a lot of the oiliness that reminds me of dried juniper berries usually found in gin, but in its stead I get a metallic dryness, like aluminum or stainless steel. (I wonder what the still is made of...) Other palates may just identify it as just dry or non-oily. I have not tried the drink in anything beyond a G&T and a Gin Sour, in which the aftertaste is still very dry.

Oxley Gin is interesting and high-tech stuff, but ultimately you'll have to decide whether or not you like it on your own.