Hidden in a textile mill in Biddeford, Round Turn Distilling isn’t the kind of place you drive by and think, “That looks interesting, we should go inside!” Which is too bad, because it’s definitely worth a visit.
A longtime gin lover, I was thrilled to discover this gin distillery and tasting room. The distillers make only one gin, Bimini Gin, which won a Double Gold Medal at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It has a more subtle, less woodsy taste than most other gins, thanks to the presence of six other botanicals in addition to juniper, and as a result, it can be used in a wider variety of cocktails. The tonics are locally sourced and chosen to complement Bimini. Round Turn sells all the ingredients they use in their drinks, as well as gift certificates (on a completely unrelated note, my birthday is Jan. 28) and novelties like gin-and-tonic-scented soap (again, that’s Jan. 28). In a particularly nice touch, many of the products indicate how many drinks you can make from one bottle.
The atmosphere fits the concept well and includes a piano topped with several copies of Ernest Hemingway’s posthumous novel “Islands in The Stream,” the first third of which is titled “Bimini” after the Bahamian island closest to the United States. Another delightful addition is the vintage record player and large box of classic LPs. Although the distillery has been open for close to three years, the modern space looks brand new.
My friends and I ordered a flight of four G&Ts, plus a cocktail called Saturn. The $14 flight (the equivalent of two full drinks) was really clever, thanks to a laminated order card on which you can mark which four of the nine varieties you want to try. We selected Fever-Tree Indian Tonic, Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic, Liber & Co Spiced Tonic (featuring South Asian spices) and Bittermilk Charred Grapefruit Tonic. Not wanting to ignore the cocktail side of the menu, we also ordered a $10 Saturn (Bimini, passionfruit, orgeat, falernum and lemon).
Our favorite by far was the Fever-Tree Indian Tonic one, a perfect classic G&T which made us want to yell “The sun never sets on the British Empire!” while ordering mosquito netting on Amazon Prime. We found the elderflower one understated; we liked the spiced tonic, finding it much more Caribbean than South Asian, and initially thought the charred grapefruit tonic a bit salty (and not very grapefruit-y), but it grew on us the more we drank it, which goes to show, you should never give up.
The Saturn cocktail arrived complete with cocktail umbrella, living up to its menu description as “textbook tiki.” We would have preferred dark rum, but could not stop talking about how well the Bimini worked as a substitute. My drinking companions may or may not have had to pull the glass away from me because I was making loud slurping noises as I tried to extract every last drop.
Added bonus? The distillery’s website includes recipes. Consider me a fan.
WHERE: 32 Main St., Building 13W, Suite 103, Biddeford
PHONE: (207) 370-9446
HOURS: 4-9 p.m. Thursday; 2-9 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday
AMENITIES: On-site distillery and retail sales; great collection of LPs, which customers can request that the bartender play; permission to bring in food from a nearby food truck or the pizza restaurant next door
BOTTOM LINE: Perfect place for someone who loves Hemingway and/or gin, but also a “safe space” for that annoying friend who finds regular gin too overpowering.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes