If you’re Brandon Howard or Maura Selenak, it’s possible that your grocery list includes 100 pounds of wild blueberries from Hoonah. Not for some giant, Guinness record-breaking pie, but for a batch of vodka they are planning to make. Howard, along with his wife Selenak, own Juneau’s Amalga Distillery, where they bring their devotion to crafting pure and precise spirits to life. “One of the biggest compliments we get is that our gin reminds people of the forests of southeast Alaska,” Howard says, which isn’t surprising when you consider the ingredients.
Howard’s base recipe for his gin remains constant. It includes locally harvested devil’s club, Labrador tea, and spruce tips. If you’re looking for a pure distillation of this particular location, Amalga’s gin is a straight ticket. As Howard says, “we want the gin to be rooted in Juneau and portray a sense of place.”
The distillery also offers seasonal gin highlighting other local flavors. According to Howard, “Recently the roses were out in full bloom in Juneau. Just spectacular. So, Batch #5 featured rose petals. Now, those roses are turning to rose hips, so batch #6 or #7 or #8 will likely feature rose hips.”
Amalga currently produces small batch gins, but when they release their vodka lineup it will also feature local flavors: those Hoonah blueberries, rhubarb, and bull kelp. Whiskey is also in the works.
Howard describes his gin as “very robust and flavorful with surprising complexity. It also opens up like a whiskey, so add a drop of water if sipping it neat. As for cocktails, this gin is so diverse. It can go into a dirty martini, or a sweeter martini. It also makes an excellent Negroni.”
> Amalga Distillery: 134 N. Franklin St., Juneau; (907) 209-2015; Tasting room open Monday - Saturday 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm; www.amalgadistillery.com