Erik Martin & Ryan Csanky

Jumping Juniper Gin is Back in a Big Way – Aria Gin

WORDS Kaila Coomes | PHOTOGRAPHY Tim Sugden

Aria Gin combines 10 different botanicals to create a well-balanced award winning gin. Co-founders Erik Martin and Ryan Csanky went through 4 years and over 100 distillations before they were satisfied with the finished product.

The conception of Aria definitely has had it’s ups and downs. Erik explains, “It had kind of risen from the ashes. A previous distillery that Ryan and I had owned was a casualty of that shame we refuse to call a depression. We were making vodka, but it was the wrong time to enter the market.” They were not going down without a fight though, “We continued on with research and development plan…we were perfecting our recipe for the gin.”

Then their saving grace came along in the form of a fellow Portland distiller. “Lee Medoff, who is the founder of Bull Run Distillery, invited us to make our gin under his license. It allowed us to focus on making gin without having to worry about the overhead of opening up a distillery of our own. So now I think to myself, if it wasn’t for Lee, who knows where we would be?”

As with any good comeback movie, in just 9 months Ryan and Erik were producing one of the top three gins in Oregon. They were lucky enough to spot the perfect warehouse for production in NW Portland. In 2013 they took possession of the building, and after many bumps and bruises they opened their new facility to the public in November of 2015.

They continued to perfect their gin. “We spent $1,000 over the course of the year buying every brand of gin we could find, then sipping through and seeing what works and what doesn’t. What we noticed was they didn’t work well in a martini.” They also noticed that many gins didn’t highlight the main ingredient, juniper, and instead enhanced the other botanicals.

They decided that they didn’t want to be like everyone else. “Instead of trying to be yet another gin where juniper is in the backseat, we decided to go in the other direction and make a local alternative to the classic London dry style,” says Erik. So they created Aria, where Juniper is the main flavor component with 9 additional ingredients — Coriander, Angelica Root, Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Cassia Bark, Cardamom, Grains of Paradise, Orris Root, and Cubeb Berry — to create “depth, complexity and balance.”

Most of their marketing is experiential marketing. Erik tells me, “The reason people get it is because they try it. It’s not like there is any magical secret ingredient it’s just the time we spend creating the flavor profile.” They attend a lot of trade shows and tasting events, they go to liquor stores, and they hit the streets to check out local bars and restaurants.

Erik likes to say that the Portland distillery community is in “co-opetition”. “We can be very competitive, but not in an aggressive way. We are supportive of one another. If someone needs to borrow a piece of equipment come on down.”

The name Aria came from Erik’s love for music and Ryan’s idea to have the name related to music. “Aria is an operatic term, the central movement of an opera, and using 10 different botanicals is kind of like conducting a symphony.”

And of course we have to end with Erik’s summer cocktail of choice.

Pegu Club Cocktail

• 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime

• 1 ounce Triple Sec Liqueur

• 2 ounces of Aria Gin

• A couple dashes of Angostura Bitters

“I always say you have to use Aria Gin otherwise you’re liable to melt your glass and burn your pants.” jokes Erik.