If you’ve ever breathed in the heady scent of a floral gin cocktail and thought it would make a perfect perfume, you’re in luck. Tamworth Distilling just unveiled Sylvan Mist, the world’s first wearable, drinkable perfume gin.
The fragrant innovation is the brainchild of Steven Grasse, the craft distillery’s founder. A 2023 Food & Wine drinks innovator of the year, Grasse was inspired by the history of distilling.
“I remember reading a book on perfume and alchemy years ago and I thought it was really interesting that the origin of how spirits were created was the search for perfume,” he says. “But also, if you think about the relationship between gin and perfume and how they’re made in botanicals, it seems very symbiotic.”
From there, Grasse envisioned an aromatic gin that would be as appealing spritzed onto your glass as it would be on your wrist. But as much as the idea made sense, deciphering the formula was another story. “It wasn’t as obvious as it seems,” Grasse notes.
Tamworth distiller and botanical chemist Matt Power spent two years developing the edible scent, navigating a bounty of challenges along the way. Traditional perfume is made up of essential oils, many of which aren’t meant for consumption. Power had to nail down a flavor-dense formula that both smelled appealing and also was made from ingredients that are safe to ingest. And he had to make it appealing enough that drinkers would even want to.
“All the initial experiments using the traditional gin tactics, which are like infusing berries and twigs into alcohol, weren’t making a concentrated enough liquid,” Power says. “To make something that you can spray on that’s got enough aroma to last once it evaporates, but not so much that if you were to drink it, it would cause you to eject.”
The final formula, according to Power, was achieved taking inspiration from the original perfumers, breaking down and reconstituting essential oils. The woodsy, unisex scent combines violet leaf, chamomile flowers, juniper, balsam fir, citrus, and boronia flowers, and conjures a blend of boreal forest, fresh-cut grass, kiwi skin, and honeydew melon.
Sylvan Mist comes in a weighty, 100ml glass bottle with a tasseled atomizer spray pump, packaged in an elegant seafoam green box. Its label has a golden logo with a bee surrounded by a wreath of flowers inspired by French emperor Napoleon’s seal. Grasse, who shares a last name with France’s perfume region, wanted the packaging to evoke perfume before alcohol. “It needed to look as beautiful as the liquid is,” he says, adding that they were inspired more by Hermès and Tiffany than they were by other alcohol brands.
When it comes to sampling the scent, Sylvan Mist was designed to garnish a drink rather than to drink straight, since it’s a potent 151 proof. “It’s not like you’re going to be making a perfume gin martini where that’s the key ingredient,” says Grasse. Instead, Tamworth Distilling mixologist Lee Noble has been using Sylvan Mist as an “invisible, aromatic garnish” in gin cocktails, including a Bee’s Knees and an Aviation.
“Once you draw the drink up close to your nose, that creates a first layer, where you’re smelling something that’s going to be a little bit different from what you’re tasting,” says Noble. He credits the distiller for figuring out how to make the bouquet robust enough to stand up to these cocktails.
The New Hampshire-based distillery is no stranger to innovation, with previous creations that include Crab Trapper, a whiskey made using an invasive species of green crab, and Eau de Musc, which draws on an old-school flavoring technique that uses oil extract from the castor gland of the North American beaver.
Grasse also runs Quaker City Mercantile, a beverage creative and marketing agency, and sees Tamworth Distilling as “a test kitchen to see what’s possible,” he says. “We work with all the big spirits companies, and the distillery was really set up for us to learn more about spirits […] so that we can better work with our global clients. It’s not a gimmick. It’s literally why we exist.”
The limited-edition scent and cocktail garnish is available for $80 a bottle starting May 9 at seelbachs.com and tamworthdistilling.com.