I was very excited for my first trip to Hilton Head. Naturally part of that excitement was visiting Hilton Head Distillery. Looking at their website, it appeared they made a gin, Jocassee Gin. But looking at cocktail menus across the island, I stumbled upon another gin, Bulrush. So I reached out to Bulrush, and it turned out it was being made at Hilton Head Distillery. Strange I thought, but there’s a lot worse than an island making two gins.
I showed up at the distillery on August 3, 2021 ready to taste gin. It wouldn’t happen. You see HHD never made Jocassee Gin. They partnered with another distillery who due to COVID shuttered. And when I got there they told me that they had just run out last week. Undeterred, I asked for Bulrush. Well that wasn’t happening either. It seems that even though it was being made there, it was not yet available to the public, only restaurants and liquor stores! They said if I came back next week I could get some. So basically I missed both gins by a week in either direction! Hopefully one of these days I’ll be meaningful enough to get around such restrictions, but on that day, I was ginless. The silver lining is I walked away with a delicious bottle of Dark Pineapple Rum. That stuff is amazing.
Back to Bulrush. I messaged them again and they apologized and suggested I check any liquor store on the island. That seemed rather vague, but sure enough the very next day the very first liquor store I went in to, Park Plaza Spirits, had it. It was $40.65 for a bottle, tax included. Not a cheap gin, and I had never even tasted it. A few minutes later I was seated at Nectar next door ready to have brunch. My cocktail order was a Georgia Collins – Bulrush, peach, lemon, and honey. (honestly not great) In the end, after a bit more work than I expected, on August 4, 2021, I added gin no. 68 to the collection.
Bulrush is made with 13 botanicals. They source some of them locally, others come from around the globe. They make less than 500 bottles per batch in a 300 gallon pot still, incorporating the botanicals through both maceration and vapor infusion. The result is a very light gin with a dominant earthy tone. There is a slight hint of juniper, but traditional floral and citrus notes take a back seat to more pronounced notes of spice. We tested it alongside two other gins from the region Hat Trick no. 069 and Burl Gin no. 070. Bulrush finished behind them both neat and as a gin and tonic.
Bulrush is the only gin made on Hilton Head Island. In addition to their original gin, they also make a barrel aged gin. The original is 88 proof, so it’s just slightly on the strong side, but doesn’t drink rough. As we regularly say about gins in this style, avoid the lime. It doesn’t play as well with earthy gins. Although light in flavor, this gin is best suited for a Negroni or a Martini, and not the more citrus forward cocktails. Stick with those and you should find it enjoyable.