Italian based gin distillery, Poli Distillerie, has caught the attention of the gin community by using a rather unusual still to make their Marconi 42 and Marconi 46 gins. It is produced in a “bain marie” (their quotes) vacuum alembic still.
Let’s start by breaking it down. Firstly, a Bain-marie is similar to a large double boiler. More familiar in the world of Grappa production, it heats more slowly resulting in a more even heat application and slow distillation time. An alembic still is more familiarly known as a “pot still.” And vacuum refers to the use of pressure to reduce the heat necessary for distillation to occur.
In short, Poli’s process is slow heating, high pressure, low temperature, and pot distilled. [Here are more details, including pictures and explanation from Poli Distilerie]
All this means is that the delicate herbal botanicals in Marconi 42 are handled as delicately and slowly as possible. The process and still type may be unusual, but the outcome and goal is not that dissimilar from other gin distillers.
Nose: Intensely, and sweetly camphorous with slight vanilla nuance. While piercing and medicinal at first, heavier herbal notes and a hint of spice give it some roundness and depth.
Flavor: Extraordinarily loud and pronounced— an absolutely vivid palate. Sweet, cooling vanilla kissed mint eases into strong sage, basil leaf, camphor— suggestive of herbes de provence. Wet sagebrush and green lavender comes through later, giving way to some darker botanicals. Pine, oily rosemary and a hit of cardamom towards the end.
Finish: Quite long with menthol, herbal coolness and a kiss of vanilla.
Vibrant and unusual, Marconi 42 is very very herbal. It fits within the category of savory gins, including Gin Mare, Quench Tank Gin, and others. However, compared to others I might say it’s even more herbal than those two combined.
For me, this is where all of the interesting things Marconi 42 Gin did show their negative side. Marconi 42 Gin is incredibly difficult to mix with. The mint/camphor notes are so vibrant and luscious that in the wrong application that can create obstacles behind the bar.
The minty, fresh, summery Tom Collins is a surprising “yes” from me. The lemon seems to bring forth the mint, vanilla and sweeter aspects. It’s more minty fresh than it is Chicken Provencal.
Perhaps the best drink for me is the Martini or Vesper. It pairs well with Vermouth and the intense botanicals are best showcases slightly chilled and on their own. Try it in a stark 10:1 ratio and let the savory herbal notes shine.
Overall, Marconi 42
Chilled, Marconi 42 is slightly improved. The medicinal character on the nose becomes muted and allows the savory herbal flavors to shine. That being said, it’s intensely contemporary. The juniper is a bit of an afterthought, far behind the beautiful herbal notes the novel distillation process has allowed them highlight.
It can be fun, but I recommend trying before buying. It’s unusual flavor, while exceptionally well executed, is going to be a challenge behind the bar and outside of a few narrowly defined cocktails.
But that being said— what a beautiful herbal flavor.