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Sipping High Goal gin, the latest luxury spirit from local distillery Grain & Barrel

Sipping High Goal gin, the latest luxury spirit from local distillery Grain & Barrel
September 2021

Plus the bright flavor profile of Meyer lemons and Kentucky mint

Co-founders (from left to right) Nic Roldan, Diego Urrutia, and Matti Christian Anttila 

When Matti Christian Anttila, a Holy City local and spirits enthusiast and entrepreneur, saw the international gin market embracing new flavor profiles with a passion, he opted to bring it home with style.

The co-founder of the Charleston-based Grain & Barrel Spirits company launched his first distilled beverage, a now discontinued Brazilian rum called Cabana Cachaça, in 2005 after quitting his job as an investment banker. His newest spirit, High Goal Luxury Gin, places an emphasis on sustainability and takes several cues from the European gin market, while making the product distinctly American in its preparation. “It started with embracing the regional flavors of the South, working with individual farmers to source as much of the actual core product as possible,” says Anttila. “Gin outside of the US is the fastest-growing category of spirits, and over the years, I’ve seen the trend toward local regional craft. That’s really what we’re doing here, in an elevated way.”

Crafted in small batches of 3,000 bottles made from recycled glass in Milan, Italy, High Goal balances flavors such as juniper, cardamom, and coriander with ingredients sourced from across America’s Southeast, including Meyer lemons from Florida and mint from Kentucky. The result, says Anttila, is a softer, easy-sipping, citrus-forward gin best enjoyed on the rocks with a twist of lemon and a sprig of mint or paired with a favorite quality tonic water. “With a lot of these new modern-style gins, we’re getting away from that strong, Christmas tree-smelling profile where juniper is leading the charge,” he says. “It’s all about balancing botanicals, and that’s where you can play with more creative pairings.”

Alongside leading American polo player Nic Roldan (pictured above left), local liquor entrepreneur Matti Antilla co-founded his newest brand, High Goal Luxury Gin, with an emphasis on sustainably sourced botanicals. The result is a citrus-forward, easy-sipping gin that heralds Southern agriculture through notes of Meyer lemon and Kentucky mint; (Right) High Goal Gin can be found at Total Wine and Bottles Beverage Superstores, as well as in cocktails at Frannie & the Fox, Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails, and Dalila’s on Spring.

In addition to High Goal, Grain & Barrel’s distillery in Ladson also produces Dixie Vodka—available in flavors such as black pepper, peach, and wildflower honey—the Official Vodka of NASCAR and the Daytona 500.

In 2011, Anttila discovered Chicken Cock Whiskey, a historically significant whiskey brand first established in Paris, Kentucky, in 1856, and bought the best aged-bourbons he could find to resurrect it. In addition to rolling out High Goal six months ago, Anttila also acquired the Virgil Kaine bourbon brand, named after a 19th-century Southern folk hero and train conductor, in early January, further diversifying Grain & Barrel’s spirit portfolio.

“The goal is to have High Goal Gin in all establishments that feature premium spirits and cocktails,” says Anttila. “In terms of getting it into bars, restaurants, and stores, I don’t see anything that will slow us down.”

From Botanical to Bottle 

  • The gin starts as regionally sourced corn that is distilled six times, using Meyer lemons from Florida for their juice and rinds and fresh Kentucky mint to make a liquid tincture.
  • Post distillation, both products are steeped along with juniper berries, cardamom, and coriander.
  • After roughly 10 days, the mixture is filtered and diluted to a bottling proof, then bottled in signature, recycled blue glass from Milan, Italy.