I visited Ian Hart’s Sacred Spirits Company headquarters in Highgate, London and interviewed the distiller himself in my most recent Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival, now available in 3 (and soon to be 4!) languages.
Sacred Gin is distilled differently than many gins. Each botanical is distilled individually in a high-pressure/low-temperature vacuum still. The distillates are then blended to create the final product. Proponents of vacuum still say that not heating the botanicals during distillation creates a brighter, more flavorful final product.
Sacred Gin begins with a gentle terpy aroma. Quiet, but pine forward juniper, with woody hints suggesting that some of that terpene aroma could be coming from frankincense as well. Gentle floral and grapefruit zest aromas hint at the edges as well. A captivating, and in subtle ways, unusual nose.
The palate is vivid, with each botanical seemingly jumping out of the glass in harmony with one another. Juniper and pink grapefruit at the fore, segue into a piney and woody juniper and coriander mid-palate. Licorice comes on towards the backend. A gentle sweetness accompanied by pepper and hints of violet again.
The finish is exceptionally long in length, with radiating coolness like the kind you get from black pepper and a creamy note suggestive of tonka bean. When sipped neat, the botanicals coat the palate nearly completely and recede glacially. Beautiful stuff.
The back of the bottle includes a recipe for a Martini by Alessando Palazzi of the famous* Duke’s Hotel Bar in London. I suggest using Sacred’s Vermouth (if you can find it, available internationally from Master of Malt), though I think that Alessandro’s recipe is too light on the Vermouth. The flavor of Sacred Gin is strong enough to stand up to a more generous pour. I suggest a 7:2 ratio, garnished with a twist as suggested by Mr. Palazzi. In any event, this is a great cocktail. Worthy of Duke’s Hotel Bar itself.
Fans of Gin and Tonic will appreciate the way that subtle frankincense kissed aroma seems perfectly complemented by Tonic Water. The less sweet, the better with Sacred Gin in my opinion, because it seems to add perceptible sweetness just from it’s botanical presence.
Another of my highly recommended favorites with Sacred Gin is the Aviation. The combination of violet and Sacred Gin is absolutely magical. It’s certainly one of my favorite cocktails made with perhaps my favorite gin for this specific drink.
Bartenders will find Sacred Gin to be flexible enough for most applications. It really shines as a top shelf Martini gin. It has enough classic character within its adventurous nuance to appeal to all Martini fans. It’s good in most cocktails as well, and I think it’s criminally underrepresented behind bars (at least stateside).
Sacred Gin is a beautiful, well designed gin that showcases all of the best qualities that can be achieved through Ian Hart’s distilling methods. The advantages of the botanicals chosen and the aromas/flavors derived from them shows that he’s definitely on to something here. However, it’s in combination that they really rise to the occasion.
It’s a lovely gin that’s perhaps a dash more contemporary than classic, but I think classic gin fans will find enough juniper in here to make it worth checking out.
Recommended in its category.
*One might also rightly describe Duke’s Hotel Bar as Infamous, as it’s also the home of the $27 Martini.