The Origin series of gins explore the ways that regional differences in climate can affect the flavor of juniper in distilled products. In Fall 2016, I wrote about this phenomenon in Artisan Spirit magazine, but I find that the Origin series (available from Master of Malt) is the best way, short of sourcing and distilling yourself, to witness this variation.
About Dragash, Kosovo
Also known as Dragaš, Dragash is a town and region in Southern Kosovo. The region is located right in the middle of the Šar Mountains. Dragash, Kosovo is named for a 14th century Serbian noble family which once lived in the area. Visitors may find Dragash to be nearly inaccessible, because in some seasons some parts of Dragash are inaccessible. The weather is volatile and the communities are remote. But once you make it, you’ll find skiing, hiking and apparently juniper berries.
Clean bright juniper at first smell. Notes of pine needle, pine blossom and a very traditional juniper aroma. The juniper from Dragash, Kosovo seems to grow darker and more waxy as it opens up. The brightness is quite fleeting, revealing a different perspective in not much time at all.
The palate begins with juniper, but kind of like it did on the nose it burns out rather than fades away. The juniper is all in the top notes. Creamy, slightly vanilla kissed pine blossom and waxy juniper berry on the tip of the palate. When it does come through, the juniper is luscious.
But then it fades away leaving just a slight bitterness of neutral spirit.
Now of course, for gin makers this suggests that Dragash juniper might be a fascinating addition to a botanical blend. With the concentration in the top notes, it frees the distiller to use the mid-palate and back of the palate tasting notes as they wish.
Similarly, I also find gins with juniper that seems narrowly focused in one part of the taste are prone to take 180° turns. They begin as one thing and become something else altogether. When done well, it’s distilling art at its best. Done poorly, it can feel like a bait and switch.
For juniper geeks, there’s several others in the Origin series which I think make better single-juniper drinking gins. That being said, other than a great example for newbie distillers, Origin: Dragash, Kosovo might be an interesting gin for bartenders to experiment with because of that heavy initial palate concentration.
Overall, like the rest of the series: it’s a lot of fun. As a drinking spirit, Origin: Dragash, Kosovo is merely average.