Durham Distillery’s gin named one of the best in the country

The Conniption gin from Durham Distillery has been named the country’s best.
The Conniption gin from Durham Distillery has been named the country’s best.

When Durham Distillery was voted the best craft gin distillery in the country last year, it bought a billboard along N.C. 147 announcing the news to those driving into the city.

The company may need to buy another one.

Durham Distillery’s Conniption Navy Strength Gin was named best in the United States at the World Gin Awards last month.

Conniption gin is now available in nine states and can be purchased in the United Kingdom via Amazon.

“For us the boom in gin is really still out of the U.K. and Europe,” co-owner Melissa Katrincic said. “We do have high hopes or we wouldn’t be doing gin in the South. This is us getting evaluated by the community that understands the potential of gin.”

Katrincic and her husband, Lee Katrincic, started Durham Distillery in 2013. She said the distillery’s awards represent two different kinds of approval.

Last year’s top gin designation came from USA Today’s 10 Best, which start with nominations from category experts and then moves onto votes, essentially calling on fans to support the product.

The World Gin Awards rely on taste tests to determine winners. Several types of gins are judged, from classic to flavored, with awards given to gins in several regions of the world.

Navy Strength Gin is at least 57 percent alcohol, above the typical 40 percent.

“The USA Today award, that’s at the distillery level and it’s our community that helps us get the number one spot,” Katrincic said. “This recent award, we look at it in a much different way, it’s a gin-only competition, by tasters trained on gin tasting, in a blind judging.”

The judges’ comments, according to the World Gin Awards website, say the beverage is “bright and well defined elements on the nose. Sweet full mouthfeel with hints of earthines. Well balanced juniper.”

Katrincic said she sometimes wonders why gin isn’t chosen more often for drinks, particularly when she hears a vodka-soda ordered at the bar, a drink by definition that should be as flavorless as possible. Gin has always been associated more with cocktails than shots or sipping. Katrincic encourages drinkers to take a second look.

“You drink up, you don’t drink more,” Katrincic said of the craft spirits trend.

Last summer, Durham Distillery started putting ready-made cocktails in a can, starting with a gin and tonic and a vodka and soda. Katrincic said they’ll release a third cocktail later this spring: rose spritz. It’ll be made with their American Dry gin, rose wine and colored with beet extract for an extra pink pop.

“The inspiration is essentially a rose French 75,” Katrincic said, noting it’s still awaiting federal approval.

Durham Distillery started out using a mobile canner, but recently bought their own. It should be installed in the next few weeks, Katrincic said, after which the canned cocktails are poised to make up nearly a third of the company’s business.

“Gin will stay the main focus,” she said. “But we started doing the cans because some people are not sure how to use gin in a cocktail, or don’t want to build a cocktail on their own. The idea was this is ready to go, you can enjoy this.”

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.