It’s been said that if you want to really be on the forefront of innovations in gin that you don’t need to look to the UK nor the US, but instead to the Mediterranean Sea. There’s probably more types of Tonic Water (esp: Tónica) being made there than anywhere else in the world. And there’s at least as many new gins (esp: Ginebras) per capita coming out of Spain as the United States. So in saying this, the fact I haven’t reviewed any Spanish Gins as of late is a grievous omission on my behalf; but simultaneously a reflection of how few of these gins have made made it to stores in the United States, and how difficult it is to get these gins period. For example, Master of Malt (who stocks a couple Spanish Gins and ships to the US) shipping is another thirty dollars on top of the actual cost of the gin. Difficulties aside, you’re probably here to hear more about the actual gin.
Denominación de Origen
All of the botanicals in Port of Dragons are of “certified origin,” which basically indicates that they come from a specific place and are of a certain quality. For example, the juniper berries come from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains range. Port of Dragons are certainly in what I might describe as one of the biggest trends of the last few years in liquor by paying so much attention to the origin of the juniper.
The gin is distilled four times distilled in a classic fashion, using a copper still. It has all of the markings of a “premium gin,” but the proof isn’t in the process or the origins, its actually in the taste.
Olor y Sabor
The nose has hints of something vegetable and floral, as well as the distinct aroma of ethanol. I think I can pick out a bit of Hibiscus on some deeper inhales, with a complimentary smell of orange. There’s a lot going on here, but I’m not altogether convinced with the nose.
There some distinct notes of juniper on the taste, but not as strong as I would expect from Port of Dragon’s juniper-heavy offering (we’ll be reviewing 100% floral later this month). There’s a bit of earthy bitterness, but the flavor of the alcohol seems to come through still. It doesn’t have exactly the flavor profile that I would expect from a premium gin. The taste is smooth, never too sharp, and the finish does have a slight drying character. You can pick out a nutty almost chai like character in the tail, hazelnut and cardamom coming through with more of an ambiguous citrus (lime, lemon, and/or orange).
Ginebra a la Tónica
As it has been said that the explosion of gin in Spain is due to their “elevation of the gin and tonic to an art form” I thought that was the best way to try this gin. I found that the sweetness of the tonic helped offset the notes in the Port of Dragons 100% Pure that I thought were a little off of type, primarily the alcohol taste. It helped emphasize the floral notes, tasting even more like a contemporary style gin than it did neat.
As for thoughts in other cocktails, I think this is a gin which might work best in a complex cocktail. Not convinced it would make a good Martini nor a gimlet. I think that it holds it own flavor wise, but I’m just not convinced that flavor wise that it compares to some of the other offerings out there.
It definitely has its own point of view, and a distinct flavor owing to the 14 botanicals present. It definitely sits squarely in the contemporary gin camp, and although it does some interesting things, I’m not sure that I think the flavor combination is altogether successful. It feels a little unbalanced, and in need of one of the botanicals to really assert itself here. But by all means, this is a gin that boasts a unique profile, and will find definite fans among gin drinkers in search of something smooth and novel.
Price: ~$35 / 700 mL
Origin: [flag code=”ES” size=”16″ text=”no”] Spain
Best consumed: Makes a good Gin and Tonic, but I could easily see this working well in Tom Collins, Aviations, Negronis, Leap Years, and other mixed drinks with complex ingredients. It will hold its taste but without adding too much punch in terms of proof.
Rating: All in all, a smooth gin with a non-traditional profile sure to make some fans, but I found it calling out for a stronger point of view and a little more balance.
International Gin Exchange 2012 >>>
Thanks to David over at Summer Fruit Cup for helping make this tasting possible. Because the bottles are small sample bottles, this review is not as thorough as my normal gin reviews. There’s only enough for some tasting neat and no more than one normal-sized cocktail. Although I do my best to give as full of a review as possible, complete with ratings, the tasting is not as complete as I would normally want to do.
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