Rawal gin

Rawal Gin: a taste of the sea from the beating heart of Barcelona

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

El Raval. For centuries, it has been one of Barcelona’s most raw and exotic neighbourhoods.  Just behind the gentrified, touristed street that is known as Las Ramblas, sits one of the greatest food markets in the world. La Boqueria is known globally for its bustling, buzzy atmosphere and its generations old connection to this amazing city.  It’s true that tourism has started to eat away at the real, authentic local market that has served the people of Barcelona with fresh fruit, seafood, meat, nuts and treats for generations. But it still retains its extraordinary character and its well worth a visit if you’re ever in Barcelona. And just behind this Barcelona landmark lies a genuine local barrio, with a colourful history of tolerance, integration, culture and hedonism.

Barcelona’s edgy melting pot

For years, El Raval was the place where the immigrants settled.  With it, like every port area, it brought with it a slightly edgy, bohemian atmosphere.  It has been known as Barcelona’s Chinatown. It has been called Rawalistan (due to the influx of immigrants from India, Pakistan and the Middle East).  And taking up the centre ground in the area are the hipsters and bohemians that embrace that diversity and who love a sense of adventure.  So, it’s no wonder that this diverse, hip and tolerant barrio gave birth to some of Barcelona’s best cocktail bars and Barcelona’s first boutique gin. A local gin that reflects the diversity and edginess of this extraordinary neighbourhood.

So, when we heard about the latest craft gin offering from Rawal Gin (pronounced Raval in English!), we were more than excited. Our heads were full of questions.  Why Rawal? Why gin in Rawal? What’s this all about?

A beautiful gin in a striking bottle

So, let’s be clear.  I first saw a bottle of Rawal gin on my Facebook feed.  I was on the hunt for new Barcelona Gins and this one popped into my feed. The first thing that struck me was its beautiful label.  At this stage, I hadn’t even sniffed the gin.  But the label said it all.  It had a Barcelona vibe written all over it.  The diving figure demonstrated risk taking and adventure.  It spoke of the daring spirit of this extraordinary city and it paid homage to its willingness to think differently.  So, I reached out to the man behind the brand to find out a little more about his story. And this is what he told me:

Tell me a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from, what’s your background and how did you get into gin?

My name’s Sergi and I’m from Barcelona. I grew up in El Raval, so it’s been part of my life since the beginning. I feel very connected to this barrio. This story starts after I had been the chef-owner of my own cocktail bar for around twelve years.  Bartending was my passion and I’d been working as a bartender for all that time. The cocktail bar was called “Pesca Salada”. In Catalonia, “Pesca Salada” (salted-fish) is a generic name that the locals use to describe shops that sell salted cod, anchovies and canned fish.

The bar itself had a great atmosphere.  It was oozing with all the memories and shadows of its ancient origins and all the interior decoration was inspired by the sea.  The bar was on the same street that I’d grown up on and it specialized in gins.  It was a tiny bar but it served more than 40 different brands of gin. For all that time, I existed in this small island in the heart of Barcelona’s iconic Raval neighbourhood.  And this is where I first became familiar with the world of distillates and creative cocktails. Submerged in this gin and tonic sea, I had the idea of concocting my own, special Barcelona gin.

What made you start a gin brand/distillery?

I come from a home distilling background and as with most obsessions, it all began as a hobby. But I soon found that I enjoyed making my own fermentations so much, building my own copper stills, designing condensers, capturing the essence of botanicals through experiments. It eventually became a passion and I decided that it could become a part of my way of living. So, after some “Breaking Bad” style experiments, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and I went off to study Brewing and Distilling at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University.

My dream was to create a one hundred percent local, handcrafted, organic gin. After a lengthy journey, the dream finally came true.

We started to produce Rawal Organic Dry Gin in Barcelona City’s first gin micro-distillery. It was anchored in a small spot, in a tiny neighbourhood, in this beautiful city.  And just like the neighbourhood in which it was born, it has a seafaring spirit. So, in April 2019, I decided to moor the “Bar Pesca Salada” for a while and I set sail for my new adventure.

What was the hardest thing for you to do as you launched Rawal Gin?

The hardest part is getting people to know about your product.  If you don’t have a large marketing budget it takes much more time and effort to make your product stand out. Especially now. That was definitely a challenge in the early days and it remains challenging now.

Is there a clear philosophy behind your brand and what do you stand for?

Rawal Gin is a local product, organic and environmentally friendly. My original purpose was to bring a level of environmental awareness into the world of distillation. It was also a formidable challenge to build a micro distillery in the city.

Over the last decade, we have been lucky enough to see many successful craft breweries open up in our country. So, it’s a really good feeling to be able to say that I built Barcelona’s first micro distillery and that I’ve transferred this philosophy to distillates.

The main philosophy behind Rawal Gin is “do-it-yourself”. As you can imagine, making gin  requires a lot of time and effort. But if you make it yourself, it can also be very rewarding indeed.

Tell me about the gin: what process do you use to make it and what makes Rawal Gin stand out from the crowd?

Rawal Dry Gin is a natural product.  We add no sugars or chemicals. The neutral spirit is made from organic wheat and all botanicals used to flavour this high quality neutral spirit are organic certified.

We infuse 12 distinctive botanicals for 24hours in the diluted neutral spirit and then we distill it using a hand-made copper still that we call Rufino. Even the copper still is home made and I built it myself through a combination of speculation, imagination and the practical  soldering of large diameter copper pipes. The result was a still that was perfect for my needs. Rawal Organic Dry Gin is craft-distilled in small batches of one hundred bottles. That’s because the slow pace of distillation requires a full working day to produce this number of bottles.

What botanicals do you use and how would you describe the flavour profile of your gin?

These are the basic botanicals that make up the unique flavour profile of Rawal gin:

  • Juniper berries
  • Coriander seeds
  • Angelica root
  • Liquorice
  • Cassia
  • Allspice
  • Cardamom
  • Orris root
  • Almond
  • Lemon peel
  • Orange peel
  • Kombu

Through accurate doses and increasing familiarity with each other, Rufino still continues to delight us with a distillate where juniper berries are still clearly in charge. It delivers the essential and familiar character of gin, offering up the refreshing notes of pine leaves with a slight bitterness, which leaves the palate crisp and dry.  This delicate distillate balances sweet and bitter tones with warm spice and floral mellowness, all rounded off to deliver a drink that has the unmistakable taste of the sea that inspired it.

What is the perfect serve to enjoy Rawal Gin?

For first timers, I always recommend simply mixing Rawal Gin with a good, premium tonic water.  They are a perfect match for each other and by starting off like this, you’ll be able to notice more of the subtle nuances of this delicious gin. We all know that perfection doesn’t exist.  But we think a Rawal G&T with a twist of lemon peel and a small strip of Kombu is about as close to perfection as any of us are likely to get.  

You have a very distinctive brand and label. What’s the significance behind the design and who designed it?

The design relates to my old cocktail bar, the “Pesca Salada”.  This is where the initial idea of creating a gin began. Also, I was born in a port city, so the sea has always been part of me. It was an essential requirement to create a gin that was related to the sea.  After a long period of research I realized that an algae called Kombu would be my partner in crime.

I came up with the idea of using a swimmer for the brand design – but the folks at Dorian Studio were able to really bring the design to life. In Spain, we have a saying, which is: “tirarse a la piscina”.  This is used to indicate that it is time to take a risk.  The closest English expression would be: jump in the deep end. This image of a guy diving head-first into the sea is also a metaphor of my own sense of daring and adventure.

What are your ambitions for Rawal Gin? Will you be producing more gins?

I’m not an ambitious guy but if making gin is enough to make me a good living I will be very happy. I love experimenting with new botanicals so it’s highly likely that I will produce more gins to add to my range. I’m already thinking about organic vodka too.

Where is your gin stocked and how can people buy it?

Right now, you can buy it online from my website.  You can also find it in many of Barcelona’s best bars and liquor stores.

Any final words of advice for our readers?

Please taste it!! And if you like it, please taste it again…


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

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Aspersand gin

A great value citrus gin for under 15 euros: it can be done!

Are you looking for a great value, sub 15 euro gin? If so, you could do a lot worse than keep a bottle of Ampersand London Gin on your shelf for those unexpected visitors. This tasty little number shares its DNA with both the UK and Spain and the result is a delicious, smooth, accessible gin with refreshing citrus notes.

Ampersand London Gin: easy-to-drink gin with citrus zest

Ampersand London Gin is a classic London Dry that has been 4x distilled in the UK before being shipped to Spain for bottling. The predominant taste here is citrus.
Ampersand London Gin gets its flavour from a wide selection of botanicals. These include the obligatory juniper, cilantro, angelica, pepper, hand-peeled sun-dried orange and zesty lemon peels. The result is an easy-to-drink London Dry with intense citrus aromas on the nose.

Smooth and zesty – great for a G&T

But sip on it and you’ll find a smooth, pleasant drink which allows the fruits and citrus to dance on your tongue.  Then there is a lovely, warm spicy finish driven by the pepper that will stay with you long after you’ve finished your sip.  This is a great choice for a G&T, served with a good, freshly opened tonic water. And it comes in at 40% ABV so you still get a blast of alcohol that makes you feel like you’re sipping a proper gin.

Tastes good, looks good..

Plus, this delicious gin comes in an attractive frosted bottle with a narrowed waist. It’s topped off with a cool-looking metallic cap and a striking yellow Ampersand logo reflecting its citrus roots. This is a bottle that will stand proud on your gin bar. Plus, its frosted texture and gathered waist make it very tactile. So much so that your guests will want to pick up and touch it before pouring.

Ampersand London Gin perfect pour

One of the things we like about this gin is its versatility – it’s smooth, citrus notes work well with good quality mixers, premium tonic waters or even juice. It will also work well in citrus based cocktails.
But we like to enjoy this gin in a standard gin and tonic, which allows the citrus and spice up front:

  1. Pour a decent sized measure of Ampersand London Gin into a copa glass filled with large ice cubes.
  2. Cut a wedge of orange and wipe the rim before squeezing dropping into the glass.
  3. Fill to the top with a premium Indian Tonic water such a Franklin & Sons.

Pull up a chair, put your feet up and enjoy.

Please note: this gin is made by Osborne and Co in Europe and should not be confused with gin’s made by Canada’s Ampersand Gin co.


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

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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gin mussels

Gin mussels – flexing your tastebuds

We all know how versatile gin can be and increasingly it is appearing in more and more interesting recipes. With so many complex ingredients and unique flavours, a carefully chosen gin can add layers of undiscovered flavour to traditional dishes that would have probably been unthinkable only a few years ago.
But as the gin revolution has accelerated and gastronomy has gone mainstream, the two world’s have collided with some interesting results.

Creamy, bacon sauce, fresh mussels and rosemary

Over the last year, Barcelona Gin has shared a selection of gin recipes to delight the senses. From gin venison casserole to orange gin drizzle cake and from gin ice cream to gin scampi, we’ve found some great recipes that are packed with flavour, delicious to taste and easy to make. But here’s something we haven’t explored: gin and mussels.
The UK mussel season used to last from winter to mid March. But these days, it seems to be extending, so good, fresh, plump mussels are more accessible than ever. As we’re still on the edge of prime season, we thought we’d share this delicious recipe which calls for a large dose of gin to bring it properly to life.

We’ve hunted down a delicious, creamy gin-fuelled mussels recipe that features the compulsory gin and mussels alongside the smoky richness of bacon, the herbal spice of thyme and rosemary, the savoury taste of celery and the comforting richness of cream to finish it off.
We think you’ll like it – it’s really easy to make, absolutely delicious and you can do it all in 10 easy steps.

Add a dash of gin…

We suggest that you pair this with Spain’s delicious Gin Mare (to dial up those rosemary notes) or try it with a creamy gin to add richness and depth to the dish. You could also try our old favourite, Bertha’s Revenge or branch out into the Scottish islands with the beautiful Tobermory Hebridean gin (with a dash of local whisky to add a little depth).

Gin Mussels recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 kg fresh mussels
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 50g butter
  • Thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, red chili
  • 2 sticks of celery (plus leaves)
  • Ground paprika
  • Hot chili powder
  • 200 ml gin
  • 100 ml cream

Method:

  1. Clean mussels in cold water and remove the “beards”
  2. Scrub the shells and soak them in cold water to remove any grit
  3. Finely chop the onion, garlic, chili and bacon and fry in the butter
  4. Tie the herbs in a bunch and add to the pan
  5. Stir the pan to ensure the herbs are covered in butter
  6. Add the gin, cream, chopped celery sticks, chili powder and paprika
  7. Simmer to reduce and thicken the sauce
  8. Add mussels and celery leaves
  9. Cover and steam for 3-4 minutes until mussels have opened up
  10. Serve in bowls, pouring extra sauce over the top.

Serve with chunks of crusty bread and a strong G&T – and dig in!


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

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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GinCity London

GinCity, London: the star of your bar

I love GinCity.
Every so often, you come across a gin that takes you by surprise. So, when I received a bottle of GinCity London this Christmas, I was initially seduced by the beautiful bottle.  Elegant and tall, the glass is intricately etched with a map of my home city in exquisite detail.  Every London street seems to exist and I had some fun finding all the different places I had lived over the years.  And then, I discovered the disco button.

Under an adhesive strip on the bottom of the bottle is a little bump.  Push it once and this beautiful bottle lights up with a gentle, blinking, pulsing red glow. Push it twice for a slower, gentler vibe. Or push it three times for a steady glow of red. Whichever you choose, with a simple push, this bottle is turned into a talking point. GinCity, will be the undoubted star of your bar.

The real deal…

But here’s the thing. My experience with gimmicks and promotions isn’t good.  Generally, the hype gets you in the door and the taste often makes you want to lock the door from the outside.  That’s why I didn’t rush to open this bottle.  I knew that its time would come. And so, this weekend, I turned the lights down low, switched the bottle to disco mode and poured.  I was pre-conditioned to be disappointed.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Not only is this a stunning addition to my collection, but it tasted delicious.  And that’s what really matters.

So, what is this new gin, where does it come from and what does GinCity taste like?

A tale of two cities

GinCity London is one of two GinCity branded gins from their collection.  The one I tried is red and is etched with a detailed map of London. The other one is yellow and is etched with a beautiful street map of Valencia.  GinCity gins have been made by the team at Bodegas Vegamar, who have made their reputation from wine, but have recently turned their attention to gin. Their GinCity brand currently features the two gins we have mentioned.  Each of them have been meticulously produced and each has a completely different character. 

The Valencia version is the sweeter of the two and is made from a Muscat base that has been infused with the sweet aromas of orange blossom. Mediterranean flavours are then added, including chamomile, thyme and marcona almonds to give it a real warmth and softness.  Or at least that’s what it says on the website.  We haven’t tried it yet, but we will.

GinCity London – it’s all in the detail!

On the other hand, we’ve dived straight into the London version and we were deliciously (and pleasantly) surprised. This is no average gin in a novelty bottle. This is actually a delicious gin in a beautiful bottle. So, let’s take a look beyond the flashing lights and find out what it’s all about. 

This is a modern London Dry gin. It’s elegant and contemporary, with a beautifully blended selection of botanicals that include ginger, cardamom, cilantro, angelica, orange and lemon peel and mint. There’s also plenty of juniper, which helps retain its London Dry characteristics. This is a good thing. The result is a delightful gin, that despite being named after London, is actually packed full of Mediterranean flavour, as befits its birthplace, sunny Valencia.  But it’s not just that Spanish sunshine that makes this gin special. 

Five macerations…

These guys do it properly.  They divide the base spirit into three separate tanks, each of which macerates a different selection of botanicals.  In the first batch, they mix up juniper, cardamom, cilantro and angelica root.  In the second tank, they macerate a mixture of ginger and peppermint. And in the third tank, they macerate the citrus fruits including the lemon and orange peel. 

After 24 hours, each tank is redistilled with its own botanicals and with each distillation, the “heads and tails” of the gin mixture are discarded, leaving only the best of the gin in three new, high quality distillates.  Then, in a final flourish, all three mixtures are distilled for a fifth and final time, resulting in a fresh, powerful and flavour-packed gin that is easy to drink and deceptively intricate.

The verdict: oranges and lemons (and a hint of Yuzu)

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. I absolutely loved this gin. It is a complex mixture but its five distillations ensure a smooth, rounded and sophisticated drink that will suit most tastes. On the nose, there are the distinct floral notes of orange blossom. The lemon and orange peel lends it a citrus aroma that is a lovely signpost to the treat that awaits you. You can certainly smell the juniper bitterness, which is softened with hints of verbena and almond. These delicate notes linger on long after you’ve put the glass down.

And then when you taste it, you’ll probably pick up the silky smoothness of the blend that releases big, fruity citrus notes and a rich flavour that is rounded off by the sweet warmth of the Marcasa almonds. Long after I took my last sip, I was tasting the citrus notes, which almost tasted like Yuzu. The result is a gin to remember.

GinCity London: the perfect pour

This worked well as a Spanish style Gin and Tonic. I served a double shot in a copa glass filled with large, round ice cubes. Ice in first, then a gentle stir. Pour in your preferred amount of gin. Then cut a wedge of lime, squeeze the juice into the glass, wipe the rim with the wedge and drop it in. Top up with a freshly opened bottle of Franklin and Sons Premium Indian tonic water, sit back and enjoy. This is a gin to sip and respect.

The Gin Apple cocktail recipe

But, while this works really well as a G&T, it’s also a great gin for cocktail making with its lemony/ginger roots and yuzu like taste, it lends itself to your imagination. The folks at Gin City have recommended a few cocktails and we’ve chosen one to share with you if you fancy pushing the boat out one of these days. Introducing the Gin Apple, from the good people at Gin City.

Ingredients:

  • 30ml of GinCity London gin
  • 30ml of apple liqueur
  • 120ml of premium Indian tonic water
  • Plenty of ice
  • 4 apple slices

Method:

  1. Pour the ice, the gin and the apple liqueur into the glass
  2. Stir gently and add tonic
  3. Garnish with 4 apple slices
A macaronesian gin bottle at the sea's shore

Macaronesian Gin: crafted from earth, wind and fire

If you haven’t tried it yet, give Macaronesian Gin a whirl. Gin is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tenerife, but this unique and delicious spirit could rightly be called the essence of the Canary Islands.
Made with volcanic water, these guys have already won 3 International Wine and Spirits Council awards and one San Francisco World Spirits Competition award since they cracked open their first bottle of this special gin a few years ago.

For anybody who hasn’t been there, Tenerife is one of Spain’s most dramatic islands.
The island has a hot subtropical climate. It’s closest mainland land mass is the Sahara desert. But Tenerife’s island status, surrounded by sea and strong trade winds, mitigates the worst of the heat.
In addition, the dramatic, volcanic nature of the island means that fresh water sources have been filtered through the island’s volcanic rocks to give it a distinctive pure, natural taste.
Apparently, Tenerife also has subtropical forests within its interior which host as many as 20 different species of trees and flora – including juniper, which is the dominant botanical in this gin.

A unique taste, true to its island roots

This unique gin is packaged in a classic, traditional white clay bottle with a solid cork stopper, which will definitely stand right out on your gin shelf.
But with all this exotic geography and geology, what does the gin actually taste like?
Well, the first thing to say is that it weighs in at a decent 40% ABV, so it retains a bit of its alcohol taste up front. Once in your mouth, you’ll pick up notes of juniper alongside an exotic mix of botanicals that include cardamom, Angelica roots, licorice and lemon peel. This results in a rich, fresh tasting gin where the citrus notes come through like a blast of Canary Island sunshine. This really is sunshine in a glass.

Filtered through volcanic rocks

The water in this gin is filtered naturally through the volcanic slopes of the island. The result of this natural process is the purest natural water, that has never been exposed to light and whose natural properties remain completely unaltered. This water, alongside the unique locally sourced botanicals, results in a pure, clean, juniper forward gin that’s simply bursting with citrus notes.
The final part of the process is when the gin is decanted into its distinctive white clay bottles, whose opacity serves to protect the properties of the gin from excess temperature and sunlight.

The perfect pour:
We think this unique gin is best served tall, in a Tom Collins glass.
A decent slug of Macaronesian gin goes in first, followed by loads of ice.
Wipe the rim of your glass with a slice of fresh lemon then fill up to the top with a premium Indian Tonic Water such as Schweppes premium or Fever Tree.
Garnish with a generous slice of fresh lemon, give it a gentle stir and sip.
This winter, when the cold weather gets too much and you want to remind yourself of better weather and island sunsets, reach for the Macaronesian gin and dream…


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

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Ginraw: an avant-garde gin packed with Barcelona style

Barcelona is a city known for its avant-garde style, creativity and sophistication. Over the years it has nurtured artistic geniuses such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.
But visionary engineer Ildefons Cerdà really put it on the map at the end of the 19th century as he designed the beautiful Eixample area in all its modernist beauty. The city extension that he created was recently named the best neighbourhood to live in the world according to Time Out magazine. And the flair doesn’t end there.
We couldn’t possibly talk about Barcelona without mentioning its extraordinary cuisine and its disproportionate clutch of Michelin starred restaurants. This is the place where some of the best chefs in the world have set up shop and built their reputations. This includes some run by the world famous Ferran Adrià who championed molecular gastronomy, right here in Catalunya.
Add to that heady mix, the classic cocktail of blue Mediterranean skies, sunshine, music, beaches, countryside and culture. You even have a ready selection of stunning rooftop terraces to choose from when you decide to sip your drinks.

Ginraw: a stunning gin, a stunning bottle

If this all sounds inspiring, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that when a chef, a sommelier, a mixologist and a perfumier all got together they wanted to celebrate their city in all its creativity. And they did so with a gin. Ginraw is a true triumph of both style and substance. Barcelona’s modern design heritage is apparent in the striking, semi-frosted tall, thin bottle with its distinctive wide-brimmed wooden cap and aluminium band.

Ginraw

El Clásico…

Its beautifully designed leather information tag tops it all off in style and the bottle is truly unique. But quality is everything here and Ginraw is distilled at a low temperature for a smooth, easy to drink gin, simply packed with flavour. Fresh botanicals including lemon peel, kaffir lime and laurel leaves combine with smoky black cardamom and savoury coriander seeds. The result is a true Barcelona classic. With strong notes of juniper up front, there are also hints of peppercorn, coriander and lime zest. On the palate, the early indicators are savoury, before a citrus wave wafts in to save the day. And the cardamom seeds add some welcome spice to the finish of this exquisite, smooth and beautifully designed bottle of gin.
We highly recommend this Barcelona classic, preferably sipped on one of our gorgeous Barcelona roof terraces watching the sun go down over the terracotta rooftops of the old town.

The perfect pour: serve Ginraw over loads of ice in a large copa glass and garnished with a lemon leaf or a slice of lime. And if you want to spice things up a bit, you could try pairing it with a slice of apple or a little bit of ginger for some added heat.