Ivan on TripAdvisor – ” I understand what you say about Malawi gin, it really is up there with the best.” and “Malawi gin is amazing, a real well kept secret, (magic as part of a G&T)”
Sadie on GinFestival.com – “My mum first had a bottle of this gin back in the 70’s and has never stopped talking about it being her favourite gin ever”
Phillip Briggs in Brandt Travel Guide Malawi –“The Malawi Gin is well-loved, so much so that manufacturers can’t always keep up with the demand….[the] MGT – Malawi Gin and Tonic that is – is practically mandatory.”
Howaboutwetryagain on Reddit /r/alcohol – “I’ve just returned from Malawi and I loved the gin they had over there. It’s just called Malawi gin. I wish I’d brought some back with me but I forgot.”
AppleBlossom on Trip Advisor – ” She was blown away by [Malawi Gin] and so bitterly regrets not be daring enough to try the elixir when she first received it! Hence her desperation in replenishing her stock!”
Ian60 on TES.com – “Malawi Gin is truly wonderful! I’ve always thought that they could see off a sizable chunck of the national debt through proper marketing.”
You can do the search yourself. The fact that the bottle looks somewhat dubious and the fact the gin comes from both an unexpected place, and a nation not usually associated with gin only seemed to have added to the mystique. So much so that the legendary gin was picked up by a distributor in the UK and is now widely available! Thanks to David for the sample.
In < 100 Words
There is scant detail about the spirit available, but what we do know is that the base spirit is distilled from cane, and the flavoring is likely from juniper and other essences. The gin was first launched in 1965 and has been a big part of the local bar scene since. Though generally it was brought on to the market to cater to the growing expat population and British tourists, it has gained a following among locals and expats alike. The drink is so popular, the initialism MGT has entered into the local vernacular.
Clean, rather light nose, lacking in any real clear top notes. As it warms, hay, sweet orange and juniper emerge. It becomes more citrusy and sweet on the nose as the spirit begins to breathe. There’s plenty of mid and low notes emerging. It’s subtle in terms of its impact, but I do find it quite inviting.
The palate is rather lively with a bright, sweet citrus laden burst. Right away, it crescendos! Sweet orange and mandarin, with peaks of lemon, and sweet lime, juniper is present, but rather flat. There’s the requisite piney note, with a faint spicy character behind it. It ends suddenly, without much of a finish.
It’s rather smooth and easy to drink with only the slighest bit of heat. The finish is blank and mildly warm.
But what I do find rather intriguing about it Malawi Gin is how well it goes with tonic. In fact, some of the very things I’m a little critical about neat don’t seem to be issues when mixed with tonic. The quinine adds a nice finish; the initial flavor rush seems brightened with the addition of lemon or lime, adding some essential oils and some of that “real” zest character. It’s a refreshing MGT for sure and I can definitely see how this might be one of those vacation beverages.
As for other cocktails, I found the citrus notes to be a bit cloying in a Martini, though again, the addition of real citrus for a Gimlet seemed to round out and push those citrus notes back into the realm of real fruit (and out of the world of Skittles).
Being a gin critic, evaluating it as a gin, separate of the emotional impact of falling in love with a gin on vacation, I have to admit: It tastes a bit fake to me, with some of the aromatic essences imparting a simplified palate. That being said, I think it’s better than some other gins on the market which try the same trick. It has some pretty nice balance going for it, and like I said above, it really does make a nice Gin and Tonic.
Overall, I think that Malawi Gin risks entering a crowded marketplace where there are many other gins doing the same thing. It risks compromising the romanticism, exoticism, and excitement that it gained from being unobtainable. It loses that MGT and a beach in an expat bar story that made it so tantalizing. These are awesome things, and I think they can have a real effect on how one thinks of a spirit, drink, food, or really anything. But here, in the less exotic, everyday, I just don’t think it has a ton of magic. It tastes like an inexpensive gin, albeit one which makes a good gin and tonic.