Larios Provenzal: the sweet taste of the Med

Let me be clear. Long before I discovered Larios Provenzal. I was a big fan of Larios gin. I have been a fan ever since I first moved to Barcelona, almost a decade ago. With a local heritage and a long tradition, it has been quietly making a name for itself as a great value Spanish gin. It has been offering excellent flavour at a great price for many years. It’s become one of those gins that you should always have behind your bar.  And it’s a gin with a history that goes back to early 19th century Malaga, when the Larios family moved into the distillation business.  

Since then, Larios has been building a solid reputation across Europe before being bought by the Pernod-Ricard Group back in 1997 before ending up with the Beam Suntory group. This partnership has catapulted Larios into the big time and it is now the number one gin in Spain and continental Europe and one of the top 10 gins internationally.

Expanding the brand…

Once the brand was built and established, they did what many gin brands have done over the last decade – look for ways to expand with new flavours and propositions.  I thought I’d tried most of them, including their original London Dry version (now rebranded as Larios Mediterranea). With its subtle notes of juniper and orange peel, this is a gin you should always keep in your cupboard just in case). I’ve also tried the sumptuous Larios Citrus (with a bitter orange sweetness that gives Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla a run for its money) as well as Larios 12, their premium version, with its 12 exotically sourced botanicals and its complex flavour balances. 
I’ve also heard good things about Larios Rose. One day, I’m looking forward to trying Indigo by Larios with its deep blue Macedonian juniper berries and citrus notes.  And I thought that was about it for the Larios range.

And then, I stumbled across Larios Provenzal while perusing the Duty Free store at Gatwick airport. At just over £12 for 1 litre, it was too good a bargain to refuse. I slipped one into my basket and boarded the plane in anticipation of a nice welcome home cocktail once I had landed back in Barcelona.
And I’m pleased to say, that’s exactly what I did.

Larios Provenzal: exclusive and elusive

Larios Provenzal is an unusual and particularly elusive gin – and now I know why it to be “as rare as hen’s teeth”.  This gin appears to be a “one off” that has been created exclusively for travel retail. That’s why it can only be found at duty free stores, so keep your eye out for it as travel starts to open up again.  It comes in the same distinctively shaped bottle as all the other Larios brands, but this one has a particularly attractive green label that somehow transports you to a Provencal forest.  

A corn base for a smoother taste

This gin has been exclusively created for travelers and it features four distillations of wild juniper.  But what makes Larios Provenzal different is that it uses a corn base during distillation.  The purpose of this is to smooth out the flavour profile of the gin. Once they are happy with the smoothness of the base, they then flavour the resulting liquid with a selection of Mediterranean fruits and herbs. The result is an easy to drink gin with a twist that is both unique and exclusive.  Well that’s what the PR material says, but does this drink live up to its promotion?

There’s only one way to find out…

The perfect pour

I tried this as a perfect G&T.  Larios is as Spanish as it comes, so a large copa glass was the obvious choice for my new experience.  I gingerly dropped two giant, round tonic water ice cubes from my mold into the glass. Then, I squeezed a juicy lemon wedge directly over the ice and wiped the wedge around the rim. Then I dropped it into the glass (with a satisfying “plop”) and drizzled a generous double shot of Larios Provenzal over the ice cubes.  Finally, I poured a bottle of Fever Tree Premium tonic water over the blend to naturally shake up and mix it all together before the big reveal.

Citrus notes and herbal overtones: a taste of the Med

The first thing you notice is the colour – the liquid has a lovely herbaceous green tint that works well with the new label. The packaging instantly transports you to Provence. On the nose, this gin delivers instantly with notes of rosemary, thyme and basil up front.  This is all rounded off with a soft injection of citrus from the oranges and lemons that Larios have become known for.  And then, the all important taste test.  Smooth and well balanced (as promised) with an unmistakable Mediterranean character and a refreshing blast of juniper. So far, so good. 

Sweet, smooth and complex

Larios Provenzal has all the ingredients of a great gin. But that corn base gives it a distinctive sweetness that feels a little unfamiliar to a palette more used to drier, juniper forward gins. It’s this subtle sweetness that pervades the overall taste – and sometimes even dominates it.  If you’re looking for a traditional dry, crisp gin this is probably not the one for you.  But if your tastes errs on the side of sweetness and smoothness, this will not disappoint.  

Just the tonic

At first sip, it was not what I’d expected but now that my brain has caught up with my senses, this gin is really growing on me.  I served it with a Fevertree Indian Tonic water, but I suspect this will also go really well with the new generation of flavoured tonic waters such as the delicious Franklin & Sons Rosemary and Olive tonic water. It would also work with a Fevertree Mediterranean or even a ginger beer topper.  Garnishings can range from Basil leaves to toasted Rosemary sprigs and from lemons to oranges depending on your taste.  This will also be an excellent cocktail ingredient for any gin drink that requires smooth, sweet herbal and citrus notes.  

I have a feeling that this is a gin that will divide opinion.  It may not be to everyone’s tastes but give it a chance. I did and I keep going back for more, so it must be good after all.

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

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