Namibia situated on the Western coast of Southern Africa (just north of South Africa) is maybe best known for its wildlife sanctuaries— that is, if it’s known at all. For centuries it was under Colonial rule. In 1990 it became independent from South Africa. The country is named after the Namib Desert which spans wide swaths of the country. Nam Gin pays homage to its place— not just in name, but in botanicals and base spirit.
Botanically speaking Nam Gin is distilled in three rounds. First, juniper, cubeb and cardamom. Second, the citrus fruits. Thirdly, the remainder of the herbs and spices. These three distillates are blended together. However, the signature botanical is a local plant known as the Devil’s Claw. The hooked fruits give the plant its name, but the roots were an important part of indigenous medicinal traditions.
In terms of the base spirit, Nam Gin is unique. It is distilled from fermented dates. While they’re not the first or only, they are the only gin (I know of) using a date based spirit for their gin. It takes six rounds of distillation before their date ferment is ready for being used in gin. Nam Gin intentionally distills their date base to preserve some of that date eau de vie flavor and character.
I’m not even at the glass and I can smell citrus from feet away. Nam Gin seems botanically intense. A closer nose reveals a complex blend of citrus present, but overwhelmingly leaving the impression of Makrut Lime leaves.
Sipped, Nam Gin is far more than a one note citrus bomb.
Citrus, heavy ginger driven spice with a mentholic glow drive the first impression. It honestly reminds me a bit of Gin 1495, with some of the spice suggesting notes of clove and cubeb. It is intense.
A murky mid-palate note reminds me of Holland-style gins and other gins where the base spirit isn’t rectified to 96% ABV. If I didn’t know the brand story and the base spirit, I would probably think this was distilled from grain. Hints of mushroom, hay and forest floor provide complexity. It’s not clear if that is base spirit alone or a combination of the other botanicals.
The finish is warm with the spice leading the way, but eventually giving the way to terpey, pine-forward rosemary and juniper notes. Rosemary and lavender linger on a fairly long, warm finish.
Nam Gin is not easily typified. The citrus is strong on the nose and strong early. But spice and herbal facets dominate the mid and late palate. This is tough to mix based on facets alone.
My advice is to accentuate it’s unique and multi-faceted botanical bill. Try it in a Martini.
On the other side, a Negroni is ideal for playing up its heart. That will emphasize it’s spiced heart.
But overall, I’m not sure it’s an ideal gin for more general mixing. I’d stay clear of citrus forward shaken cocktails.
Overall, Nam Gin
It’s exciting to see the diversity of countries getting into the gin game. Further, it’s exciting to see novel and unique approaches to making gin.
Beyond novelty, Nam Gin has appeal for its citrus/herbal flavor profile and it’s bold, memorable aroma. Fans of gins like Crow’s Gin (similar citrus profile) or Malawi Gin (cult-favorite with a unique aroma) will also really enjoy Nam Gin.
Bartenders are advised to mix with caution. It’s light on juniper and will likely trigger some ‘fake gin’ comments among purists; however, for a contemporary style gin embracing local and unique approaches— Nam Gin is worth seeking out.