100 years of gin making in Menorca: Spanish gin, the old-fashioned way.

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Most gin lovers have already heard of Gin Mare – probably the best known of the Spanish brands. But Spain, having changed the way the world thinks of gin, is now starting to discover a range of new gin brands to add to its traditional gin distilleries. This new attention is also helping to revive the fortunes of some older Spanish gin brands that have been around for a long time.

One of these is Gin Xoriguer, made by Destilerias Xoriguer on the tiny and beautiful island of Menorca, set like a glittering jewel in the beautiful Balearics – it’s the perfect setting for a gin and tonic.

Gin and Menorca – not something you would always connect, but there is a reason why this little distillery exists. In the mid-18th century, Menorca was briefly under Dutch and British rule and the locals were encouraged to make gin to keep the naval forces happy. At one stage, there were 5 distilleries on the island, producing a diverse range of gins, but now there’s just one.

In 1910, master distiller Miguel Gusto established a little distillery on the harbour front of Mahon and the Xoriguer distillery is still making 60,000 litres of Mahon gin every year along with a couple of budget gins and almost a dozen local island liqueurs.

This local gin doesn’t get much airplay outside of the island and is heavily juniper dominant. In fact, that’s the only botanical they use in their domestic version. The berries, hand picked from the Pyrenees, are stored in hampers for a couple of years to concentrate the oils before being macerated and added to the neutral grape based spirit.

While the ingredients and the process are simple and the product perhaps lacks some of the complexity of a Monkey 47 or a Silent Pool, it packs a big juniper punch with a hint of pine sap and a soft, oily palate. Peppery and with a hint of tobacco, it’s a great drink to sip on while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, nibbling on local cheese and sucking on plump, juicy giant olives. Drink it with tonic, by all means. But to drink it like a local, have a “Pomada”, traditionally made by mixing the gin with freshly squeezed local lemon juice. And at only 38% ABV, you can afford to have a couple of them!

For more information, click here

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Barcelona in a bottle

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Barcelona – the capital of gin and one of the design centres of the world. Think Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and more, Barcelona is a design classic. It’s so laid back, they even named a chair after it, so why wouldn’t they name a gin?

Barcelona GINRAW isn’t actually made in the city of Barcelona but in a little town down the coast called Vilafranca del Penedes by four avant garde, Barcelona-born entrepreneurs with a real passion for their city. Either way, this gin is a design classic that deserves its place in your cocktail cabinet, for looks alone. This 42.3 ABV gin packs a reasonable punch and its bottle and label will make you look twice.

The striking design is a tall, thinnish bottle with a curved necknad a subtly frosted exterior, topped by an extra wide ash wood cap, covered by a subtle metal band. The label is a trendy sideways one and a little leather tag on the neck gives it that extra edge in the style stakes. But gin isn’t just for looking at, it’s for tasting as well, so what’s this one like?

Distilled at low temperature in a traditional copper still it’s made in small batches of 5000 (my bottle is labelled 953 out of the first batch they produced!)

The labels describes it as a gastronomic gin and claims a low temperature distillation process to make the most of the botanicals inside, which include lemon peel, kaffir lime, laurel leaves, black cardamon and coriander seeds. This mix delivers a citrus twang and the notes from the spices such as the smokey black cardamon and coriander lifts it from the ordinary.

Serve this with some ground black pepper, a generous slice of lemon or maybe even some burned rosemary to give it an extra Mediterranean twist. Sit back, pour into a long glass, add your favourite tonic water and ice, garnish to taste – and drink. You’ll love this on a hot summer night in Barcelona – and it will add an extra element of style to your gin cabinet. Enjoy!!

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Vive la France!

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France and gin are not two words that you’d often put together. But the land of the grape is starting to make some pretty decent gins including the well known Citadelle and the delicious G-Vine, but here’s one you might not have heard of. Introducing Saffron Gin, imported by Gabriel Boudier from Dijon.

Dijon is more known for its mustard than its saffron, but these guys have they’ve infused one of the most distinctive and expensive ingredients in the world into a beautiful old school bottle to give the gin a golden colour more suited to a scotch whiskey or an Irn Bru than a simple gin. The result: an unusual gin, probably best for a special occasion to impress your friends rather than as a cocktail cabinet staple.

Gabriel Boudier have been making Cassis in the French countryside since 1874, and you can see that in the bottle.

But why France and gin?

For many years, the French and the British had competing interests in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Southern Indian cities such as Pondicherry. Somewhere in that period exotic spices started turning up in France, the culinary centre of the world, and some of these recipes were recently discovered into the Boudier archive and were resurrected to make this startling gin. The look is dramatic and the saffron is quite forward and gives the gin a dry, savoury taste which dominates any tonic water. In addition to the Saffron other botanicals in the mix include Juniper, Coriander, Lemon, Orange Peel, Iris, Angelica seeds and Fennel. When mixed, it takes on a golden colour but despite its unusual history, I like it as an occasional drink and it’s complex enough to be drunk “on the rocks”. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s not a heavy hitter in the alcohol department, but as a curiosity and a talking point, it’s well worth a go.

http://www.boudier.com/gamme/gin/

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Bertha’s Revenge Gin: gin made from milk!!

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In our relentless quest to find the most unusual and interesting gins from around the world, let me introduce you to Bertha and tell you a story about her revenge. Bertha was a lovely cow from the beautiful green fields of Co. Kerry in Ireland. She lived a happy life, chomping her way through the famous green grass of her homeland and was so well looked after that she lived to the ripe old age of 48. By the time she passed on to chomp on the Elysian fields, she had become the world’s oldest cow and gave birth to a staggering 39 calves over her lifetime.

She became a living legend in Ireland and her memory now lives on in Bertha’s Revenge, a fantastic, flavour packed small batch gin made by the Ballyvolane House Spirits Company, who have honoured her existence by creating a unique Irish gin made from (wait for it…) MILK.

Using whey alcohol from Irish dairy farmers, and incorporating a formidable mix of locally foraged and grown botanicals including many of the usual suspects (and some unusual ones such as sweet woodruff, elderflower, almond) alongside other listed ingredients such as “love”, “laughter” and “childish enthusiasm”, this is a delicious drink full of complex flavours. But don’t try pouring it on your cornflakes, since it packs a decent punch at 42% ABV.

But all the clever marketing in the world can’t disguise a bad gin, so what’s it like?

We had a little gathering to find out and in a blind test of 4 of our favourite small batch gins, this was our runaway favourite with a unanimous 4 out of 4 tasters making it their top choice.

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Silent Pool Gin

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© 2017 animam photography

Silent Pool Gin – April’s Legendary Gin of the Month

Hand made in small batches in the beautiful Surrey Hills, south of London, this is not only one of the tastiest gins we’ve tried recently, but it comes in one of the prettiest bottles we’ve ever seen.

It even has a 600 year old legend attached.

Named after a local beauty spot near Guildford known as the Silent Pool, legend has it that some time in the 14th century, wicked King John of England was passing by the pool on his horse when he spotted the local woodcutter’s daughter, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, bathing in the crystal clear water. He wanted his wicked way with her and she refused to yield her honour to the evil monarch and waded backwards into the water to escape him, when she stumbled and drowned.

Even now, her ghost is said to be seen at midnight in the reflections of the dark water of The Silent Pool.

And now for the legendary gin itself – the bottle is stunning, with an unusual glass stopper and a beautifully intricate design of autumn colours set against an aqua tinted bottle reminiscent of the pool itself. The bottle features scenes illustrating the legend (including tiny figures of the King and the Maiden hidden among the leaves). The gin is made on site by Master Distiller Cory Mason who uses a copper pot still heated by steam from local wood, burned in its wood fired burner.

The result is a delicious full-bodied, fresh gin full of complex flavours derived from its blend of 24 specially chosen botanicals including local lavender and honey. These well chosen ingredients enliven the senses and play tricks on the mind, but the result is a taste sensation that is sure to get people talking. Its dominant botanicals include locally sourced chamomile, kaffir lime, elderflower, coriander, lavender, orange and pear (amongst others).

It tastes of the English countryside and is fed from the same spring that feeds the legendary pool itself. Mix it with a decent tonic water such as Fever Tree and garnish it with a thin orange wheel or a wedge of lime (to bring out the citrus notes). You could even add a mint sprig (or two) to give it a fresh twist and wait for the honey and lavender to come through on your tongue. You’ll love it.

ABV 43%

Gin tours available by arrangement

Other products available (including seasonal gins)

Order on line www.silentpooldistillers.com

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