Years ago. No, eons ago. We reviewed the Westbourne Strength () variant of Martin Miller’s gin, a spicier, warmer, stronger version of their original. The original has a dear place in my heart. It’s one of the gins that ignited the fire in me for the world of gin. It pushed the boundaries just enough to stand out from everything else behind the bar at that time, but it stayed within familiar confines enough to be clearly and readily identifiable as gin. Martin Miller’s gin is one of the forebearers of today’s contemporary style. Keep in mind, that this gin was on shelves back in 1999.
All Gins containing: Iris
We’ve reviewed some Gins from Buss Spirits before. This past June we took a look at their White Rain Gin (), but the Raspberry was the flagship entry in their Author Collection. Founder Serge Buss, best known for founding Bar Bounce in Antwerp, has since expanded the product range to include the aforementioned White Rain, but also a Peach variation as well. Bottled at a relatively low 37.5 ABV, first impressions have me thinking to expect a spirit with some liqueur like sweetness. The color is vivid, dark rose, with red hues that evoke the simultaneously the notions of fruit punch, but also [and unsurprisingly] raspberries. Let’s get past this book’s cover and get down to bussiness (ha! get it?)
Tart berry, cucumber, and faint intimations of banana as well in the background.
Hailing from Antwerp, the folks at Buss Spirits began somewhat backwards as far as gin might go. They started with their Raspberry version and only later released their White Rain variation, which is herbal and more traditional with an emphasis on Belgian botanicals. In short, these guys specialize in flavored gin. Their base spirit is 100% grain and this gin contains juniper, coriander, licorice, angelica, vanilla, cardamom, iris, citrus, lemon verbena, and Marjoram. Yep, Marjoram. While indigenous to the Middle East, it’s been a part of European food culture for centuries. And gin culture since at least last summer when White Rain was released.
On the nose, lovely rich classic gin aroma. I’m enamored with it, especially because just underneath the fresh herbal juniper and slightly citrus and heady coriander lift, there’s some green notes and rich spice in the under-story. Cardamom surely comes to mind at first but hints of iris and nutty vanilla as well, and leafy green, herbaceous intimations even below that. Quite nice. It gets more contemporary as it warms, unraveling the complexities therein. Quite nice.
On the palate, it is most definitely contemporary in character.
I’ve been talking about Spain as the “other frontier” of the contemporary gin movement [the United States being the primary one]. If you’ve been staying tuned in to us, you’ve seen a couple reviews of gins from Spain in the last month. And a couples things have become clear. The Spanish distillers love experimentation and are not afraid to use something completely novel. And these gins are custom made for Gin Tonica.
With the focus seemingly on making this one drink [and making it well] gin distillers have set their sights on making a great gin which compliments tonic water [that will explain at least one of the unusual botanicals in No. 0]. But this bottle doesn’t stop there. It aims to provide “premium” gin at a lower price point than other brands. I’d say this is one trend that is very present in discussion of Spanish gins which I’d posit isn’t even a trend in the American market. Most “premium” or ‘craft gins’ come in at around $30. Number Zero’s point of difference isn’t just flavor, but that at 17 Euros [$22] it’s cheaper than many other similar offerings out there.
The first thing I thought upon seeing Magellan’s blue gin was that it was a gimmick. Blue gin? C’mon people. color gin? Gin drinkers are classier than Vodka drinkers. We don’t need fancy colors to tell us a gin is good. If it’s good we’ll drink. Hell if it’s good, we’ll get two. Magellan gin taught me an important lesson: don’t judge a gin by its color. Blue or not, it stands up as a solid gin.
Not to harp too much on the color, but another thing worth pointing out for the organic-lifestylists and anti-food-coloring folks, that this eerie blue hue is not from chemicals. Its from the final part of distilling process where Iris flowers are soaked in the gin. Some of the flavor, color, and aroma comes through in the final product which is distinctly floral, but not overwhelmingly fruity.
Magellan gin has a bite to it that you might not expect upon first smell.
Let me begin by getting this out of the way. This is my favorite gin. Hands down. The Miller’s regular strength (80 proof) is a solid choice, somewhat more inexpensive ($31-35 for 1 L) and while it still has all of the outstanding features, they’re just a little less pronounced, and a bit more subtle.
Miller’s gin balances a crisp clean Juniper flavor with a hint of Citrus sweetness. These two flavors are in such perfect harmony, that Miller’s is the epitome of versatility in gin. Whereas some gins are decidedly Citrus (Bluecoat) and others are about the Juniper (Tanqueray), this gin walks the line and is a good choice for whatever you drink of choice is. Despite the strength of the Westbourne (90 proof) it is remarkably smooth, and very drinkable straight.
As for other London Dry Gins I’ve reviewed, this one strays the least from the classic flavor profile. Miller’s Gin contains some faint hints of other herbs and spices, but nothing like Tru2 or Gabriel Boudier’s.