Small’s Gin Makes a Big Impression

Small's Gin from Ransom Cellears In Oregon
Small's Gin from Ransom Cellears In Oregon

It’s sort if ironic that my spirits blog would start out with so many posts about Gin. I never really considered myself a gin drinker and would often defer to bourbon, tequila or mezcal based drinks. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been on sort of a quest to find a gin that I really like.

So far I’ve had one pretty solid hit with the Organic Nation gin (based in Ashland Oregon), which I found light, flavorful and incredibly easy to mix with.

Small’s Gin by Ransom Cellers (also located in Oregon) hasn’t been as easy a slam dunk for me. Small’s Gin made a huge impression with me when I first tasted it during a tasting session I had with whiskey guru Lance Mayhew.  Unfortunately that impression wasn’t necessarily a good one.  Many gin’s I’ve tasted have had pretty pronounced juniper notes, but Small’s swaps out the juniper for cardamom. This is a really interesting choice and results in a distinctively unique spirit, but the cardamom is so strong it’s hard to see how it can be tamed in a mixed drink.

I put the Small’s challenge to Brian Gilbert at the Teardrop Lounge who tried to  mix his way past the harsh and unreasonably long cardamom finish of this gin.  While Brian made an admiral attempt it seemed almost impossible for anything to find its way past such a strong and harsh finish. It’s possible that they named Small’s Gin after the fact that it’s so strong you really don’t need that much of it… any more than 1/8th of an oz and you’ve got a cardamom battle on your hands.

At heart I think the Small’s gin is an interesting idea, the gin’s label talks about other notes they’ve worked to cultivate in the gin including: orange, lemon, coriander, angelica, caraway, star anise, and raspberry. Many of those notes are in there but are overpowered by the cardamom. I’d love to see Ransom Cellars enhance the citrus and berry flavors and better balance the spice of the cardamom with the caraway and star anise.  Underneath that monster of cardamom lies a potentially good gin.

Small’s Gin is 86 proof and is distilled by Ransom Cellars. They also make an Old Tom Gin that I hope to sample at some point. They have a nice video up on youtube showing off their still.

Drink Spirits Rating for Small’s Gin:
Mildly Recommended – for hardcore fans of cardamom only, if you’re looking for an easy mixing gin, this isn’t it.

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  • Harry

    First off, congratulations on creating a great blog. I have been pondering doing the same for about a year, or so and I may get it going soon. I have not had the Small’s Gin, as Ransom Cellars products are not available in my home state of Michigan. However, I have had the distinct pleasure of imbibing the Ransom Cellars Old Tom Gin while visiting Goose Island Brewery in Chicago a couple of years ago. This gin is indescribable and converted many of my acquaintances that had previously been staunch “anti gin” people. It is reminiscent of a bourbon, but the taste is TRULY unique. My brothers and I love it so much that the last time our brother from Chicago visited, we had him bring us an entire case. I implore you to try this superb gin as soon as time and opportunity permit. I am looking forward to your review. Also, for your gin consideration, do yourself a favor and try Knickerbocker Gin which is made here in Michigan and Rogue Pink Spruce Gin which is from Rogue Brewery/ Distillery. It is aged in Pinot Noir barrels…the Dead Guy Whiskey is also good. Thanks for your time.

    • Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I’ve contacted Ransom about trying their Old Tom Gin but haven’t heard back from them yet. Will check out Knickerbocker as well. When I contacted Rogue they were pretty disinterested in getting any of their stuff reviewed, really odd considering how enthusiastic most of the other distillers have been when I’ve contacted them.

      Either way my journey through Gin has been pretty fun.

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  • This is an excellent review of Small’s as it is very accurate. I agree with the with cardamom heavy profile of the gin which will be a hit or miss with some people. We do a lot of Indian cooking at our house and love the scent and taste of cardamom. We have been working on some cocktails that utilize this spirit to be posted soon at Thanks again for such an excellent post.

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  • Susan

    Agree wholeheartedly! The cardamom and also the anise stuck with me for longer than I would have liked. Really hard to get past it. I’m sticking with the Hendricks for now. Still hoping for a small-batch local (I’m in WA).