Articles Tagged: Terroir

Gin Reviews

Vor Gin

vor-gin-bottle

Terroir, the notion that place imbues the plants grown in a certain place with a unique character; or rather the idea that the climate that a plant experiences, the conditions of the soil, the time of the year, the sun, so and so forth, can alter that character of that which you grow in a certain place is backed up by innumerable chemistry journal articles which analyze the essential oil characteristics of such gin staples as angelica, juniper and coriander.  For this piece we’ll call this terroir type I. 

But a further more obvious aspect of terroir is often at play in gins such as Vor. What grows around you natively is perhaps the most readily identifiable aspect of a place’s regional food culture. The same soil conditions that can cause juniper to contain different quantities of linalool also dictates why crowberry or a kind of moss grows in Iceland and nowhere else. And why you might not be able to grow Tapioca in a northern clime, or banana. For this piece we’ll call this terroir type II. 

Vor gin is a gin which uses both affects to delirious effect. And it’s far from just a gimmick: the combination of the two creates a gin which is wholly like anything else out there.

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Gin Reviews

Crossbill Gin

crossbill gin

Photo and sample from David at Summer Fruit Cup.

When I think “Place”-ish gin, I don’t simply think of the physical location of the distillery. Plenty of gins, right or wrong can claim to be “Scottish” based on this alone. As if simply placing your building there allows you to claim something of the land.

But I reject this notion. When I talk about a Scottish gin, I don’t want to just be technical: sure the distillery is there… but it’s not really Scottish, now is it?*

Crossbill is of this new ilk. Crossbill takes provenance seriously. If you’re going to call yourself Scotland, there better be something from the place in your bottle.

In our own <100 Words

Whereas some people saw the litany of articles bemoaning the imminent demise of UK’s juniper industry at the hands of unjust environmental forces and wrote apoplectic click-bait pieces heralding the end times** others found opportunity. Enter Jonathan Engels. Engels worked closely with the Forestry Commission and Plantlife [one of the groups who was sounding the alarm about the aforementioned junipocalypse] to cultivate the juniper for Crossbill gin in Scotland. This means that Crossbill Gin can claim 100% Scotland-sourced botanicals.

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Gin Reviews

Hernö Swedish Excellence Gin

herno-swedish-gin

My love for the great white north of any continent has left me with a somewhat peculiar fascination for the “as far north as you can go” concept. I’ve spent hours pouring over sites such as the “Route de la Baie James” site counting the mile markers of the Transtaiga Highway through other people’s photographs.

So of course when a gin says it is made at the world’s northernmost distillery, you’ve caught my sense of fantasy.  Hernö gin is made in Dala, just outside the city of Härnösand, Sweden. Coat of arms right below.

Unusual Botanical Alert! Two botanicals not often seen in gin appear in Hernö gin.

Meadowsweet: Has a subtle. pleasant aroma, sort of similar to almond. Used in wines, jams and potpourri, but most pertinent to the gin Meadowsweet is traditional component of Scandinavian Meads. Lingonberries: also known as Cowberry in the states, this tart, currant-like berry is probably best known as the red jam sold in every Ikea everywhere.

Tasting Notes: a hint of juniper and an astringent berry-like flavor. Sweet smelling, not too intense. The taste is complex with an emphasis on fruity notes.

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Other Thoughts

Final Thoughts, Origin Series Batch 1

We’ve reviewed all eight of the gins from the initial batch of Origin gins from Master of Malt. It was a lot of fun to try this range of gins from four very different places and I hope that they will keep me in mind when they come out with future batches including Kosovo, Croatia and Macedonia*. And better yet, perhaps I can claim the 100 pound bounty if my mom’s juniper patch ever yields 10kg of juniper**.

But we’ve covered a lot of ground here. And the origin series is a little expensive. 35 pounds for a 700 mL bottle, and for my American readers, Master of Malt does ship to the states, but expect to pay upwards of $60 for a bottle of the Origin gins. So say you want to buy a couple of bottles, or just get acquainted with the series. Let’s do a recap of where we’ve been:

If you are just getting into gin… Make sure that you get the Bulgaria one. Easily I’d recommend this to anyone, because this gin is shocking that this flavor is possible to come just from cold distilled juniper berries alone.

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Gin Reviews

Origin: The Netherlands

Origin: The Netherlands

Where are we Today? We are in Meppel in the Netherlands. While we’ve mostly been in Southern Europe, the Netherlands probably represents are single biggest geographic change in the initial series of Origin gins. Meppel has been a city since 1644, and today has a population of just over 30,000. Of all of the places that gave their juniper to the initial series, this one has perhaps my favorite story of the place.

An old folk story of the region suggests that the people are called Meppeler Muggen, which translates to the “mosquitos/gnats from Meppel.” An old folk tale says that one day people of the city thought their church steeple was on fire. They rushed to its rescue….and then they realized it was just a bunch of mosquitos. Or gnats.

Okay, so the story is probably not true. But one thing is clear, Meppel is a very different place than the previous three entrants into the Origin series.

Tasting Notes

Assertive and juniper-like, but not too bracing. It starts slow and thin before quickly building. Wet and piney, with a little bit of fire, but quickly fading. It leaves a sensation of little sharp prickles on your tongue, fading flavor-wise faster but leaving a little bit of heat in the back of your throat.

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Gin Reviews

Origin: The Netherlands w/ Botanicals

Origin: The Netherlands

This review is the companion piece to the Origin Netherlands w/ Just Juniper ()

Tasting Notes

Citrusy and earthy, surprisingly different. The materials that came with this gin described it as a “Coffee-rich Finish” and I quote them because I’m not sure I can come up with a better way of describing the way that the flavor feels. Its a bit like black coffee. Rich and earth, dark and lingering, slightly bitter but never overpowering. Again, the citrus really stands out among the botanicals which seems about part on course of the Origin gins, but this one is more assertive and although I found the juniper mellower in the “juniper only” batch than the Arezzo, it is much more assertive in the final product than the Arezzo. Smooth and with a fair amount of heat once again, the flavors calling to mind an almost yeasty, bread-like flavor, with smokey woody notes, this is quite an interesting gin here. Gin purists will appreciate the juniper forward manifestation here, but those who are in search of something a bit more balanced might complain that the juniper is too “vegetative” or “dark” in here.

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Gin Reviews

Origin: Italy

italy origin series bottles

Where are we today? We’ve been to romantic countrysides and historical villages. For the next stop on the origin tour, we head to a commune of about 100,000 south of Florence.  Arezzo is located in a fertile floodplain on the Arno River, which is among the most important rivers in central Italy. Arezzo has a temperate Mediterranean climate, and for those of you taking notes for trivia nights at your local bar, the University of Oklahoma actually has a branch in Arezzo. According to my notes, this Origin gin is the closest the state of Oklahoma has come to having a gin thus far.

Just the Juniper: This is what I expected all of the origin juniper-only gins to taste like. Bright, piney, sharp but light. The gin has an almost watery character. Quickly dissipating leaving a long bright juniper after taste in the back of the throat. Significant heat and alcohol lingering, but the juniper sticks around a long time after the initial sip. Bright fresh, but lacking. On its own, its a good example of what the juniper tastes like, but as a gin I find it somewhat lacking.

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Gin Reviews

Origin: Bulgaria

bulgaria origin gins

Where are we Today? The town of Veliki Preslav is the site of an important historical/archaeological region of the nation of Bulgaria. In fact, just down the road was the first capital of the Bulgarian state. Veliki Preslav was the location of a fortress constructed over 1000 years ago under the rule of Knyaz Boris the first. An important cultural center of the early Bulgarian nation, Preslav has a heritage that spans the entire existence of Bulgaria. So it seems appropriate that for Bulgarian’s entry into the juniper terroir competition comes from a place with a history such as this.

Gin: Just Juniper Bright and almost night and day when compared with other entries in the series. Floral and bright. It almost reminds me of the taste of Hendrick’s gin. As if you don’t need the rose for the flavor of that gin. Just grab some juniper from Bulgaria. I went back for a second shot of the straight up juniper version. I just can’t believe how floral this is on its own with only juniper in it. Remarkable. It does taste like juniper, but I can’t believe that this is only juniper.

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Gin Reviews

Origin Bulgaria w/ Botanicals

bulgaria origin gins

This is the companion piece to Origin: Bulgaria with just juniper ()

Tasting Notes

Elegantly different. And if this is the exact same botanical mixture as the other origins, I’m shocked. Bright, notes of Cassia and almost anise coming out. Still bright and floral, but the extra botanicals emphasize the juniper side of this batch. Not as overwhelmingly floral. No double-take here. Its just a good gin. It could definitely work exceedingly well in a Negroni and even that floral side could make for a top notch Aviation. I can easily recommend this batch for mixing. It is a good gin period.

Vitals

Price: £34.95 / 700 mL Origin:  United KingdomJuniper Terroir: Veliki Preslav, Bulgaria Best consumed: Aviation’s, Martinis and Gin and Tonics. This gin could do it all. It might be a little too juniper forward to some, but for gin drinkers who really like gin, this will perform every cocktail. Availability: Master of Malt online.Website:http://www.masterofmalt.comRating: What a difference provenance makes. Bright and floral, radically different and that’s just from the juniper. Recommended, if you buy one Origin gin as a comparison point, be sure to include this one.

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Gin Reviews

Origin: Albania

albania origin gin bottles

Where are we today? In Albania, in the hills of an 8,000 hectare national park. The region we’re in is named for the Valbona River, one of the cleanest rivers in the country and the river whose meandering path over millennia has carved out the said valley. It looks rather beautiful from the travel website [Albania’s new frontier!]. Quaint, green mountains, cute little cottages and vibrant rivers. But we’re not there for this, we’re there for the juniper today.

Tasting Notes

A little quiet at first, building sharply. Almost sweet though, warm dark cherry. Rich, but bracing and still somewhat sharp. Clean long lasting juniper flavor hanging on the edge of the palette. Somewhat sour and bitter, but still clearly juniper. As a juniper forward gin, this actually kind of works. I could see it mixing nicely, though outside of a martini the really interesting notes from the juniper will be a bit lost.

This is the companion review to the Origin: Albania with botanicals ()

Vitals

Price: £34.95 / 700 mL Origin:  United Kingdom Juniper Terroir:  Valbonë, Albania Best consumed: Sipped neat to first appreciate the flavor of the juniper.

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