African Pencil Cedar (Juniperus Procera) is the only species of juniper whose natural range includes the Southern Hemisphere. It is native to Africa and the Arabian peninsula— and primarily grows in highlands, like Kenya’s Kijabe Forest. Through a partnership with the forest’s trust, Nairobi Distillers source their juniper berries locally.
Juniperus Procera has been studied far less than other types of juniper. The data that is out there for the essential oil of Procera Cones finds them to be quite similar to Juniperus Communis, but with maybe a little less limonene.
However, beyond that Procera Gin is more than just a single African botanical. In fact, in their Blue Dot Gin all 11 botanicals are sourced from across the continent: Moroccoan coriander and orris root; Somalian honey; Madagascar pink peppercorn; Nigerian Selim Pepper; Tanzanian cardamom and mace; Kenyan green tea and two types of citrus.
Most notable is the Pixie Orange (sometimes called the Pixie Tangerine in the states)—a juicy, seedless cultivar that originated in California but has been recently adopted en masse by Kenyan farmers and consumers.
Aroma: Beautifully juniper forward, with resinous, pines shining. There is some complexity though— cardamom, cubeb and lemon notes just underneath. However, juniper is the star.
Flavor: The pink peppercorn shines on the palate, starting at moderate volume and quickly becoming quite bold towards the back of the palate. However, juniper remains the star here.
Citrus is a bit in the backseat, with some quiet cardamom, cubeb pepper (likely the Selim) adding a nice pepperiness and warmth to the finish. Hints of bitter orange flutter by as your palate is comforted by some bold, pine-forward juniper.
Sipped, Procera Gin’s Blue Dot variation is truly a gin for juniper and gin lovers.
Finish: Moderately warm, with a long dryness. Peppery notes and earthy juniper linger after each sip.
Cocktails and suggested serves
Procera Gin is a beautiful Martini gin, best served in a rather dry ratio (>10:1). It perfectly compliments any garnish— olive, Gibson, or twist. I like to keep the focus on the gin itself, so although the Dirty Martini is not my drink of choice, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how well the gin is complemented by some salt and brine. It’s remarkable how even a dash of salt seems to amplify those juniper notes in this gin, while bringing out some of the honey which is subtler when the gin is sipped neat.
Bartenders should be advised— Procera Gin’s bottle is beautiful, but a monster to handle to pour. Then again, at Procera Gin’s lofty price point, you’re unlikely to be grabbing the bottle often.
Overall, Procera Gin
Procera Gin is a beautiful gin that combines a great story with an even greater product. Fans of classic style gins (think VJOP, or Never Never) with bold juniper points of view will find a lot to like here.
My only two reservations are the somewhat awkward bottle (that is prone to spillage even for the careful home bartender) and its lofty price point.
However important those two concerns might be for some gin drinkers, if you’re looking for a great tasting gin for sipping neat or making Martinis— Procera Gin is a must try. Well made, beautifully balanced, and the rare gin that I will go out of my way to buy.