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Tasting Gin | Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength

miller 008If money was no object and you just wanted to make the most wonderful gin possible, what would you do? This was the starting point for Martin Miller’s Gin. And it’s not a bad starting point, if money is no object.

Martin Miller the man came to prominence publishing an etiquette guide called Success with the Fairer Sex. I can only imagine what that was about. He established the Miller Academy, a Victorian style salon, but he got bored with burlesque at about the time in became a major plot point in Gossip Girl. I have sympathy for that. Somewhere along the line his attention turned to gin.

The Process

The neutral spirit is flavoured in a single pot still called Angela. No source is mentioned for the spirit so it is probably a grain spirit. The earthy botanicals are infused overnight in spirit and hot water, while the citrus peels are distilled separately. Now, this is where it gets interesting. The heart cut from the distillation is sent to Iceland at full strength where it is mixed with fjord water. We did say money was no object! The Westbourne strength is mixed to 45.2% ABV.

Botanicals

This is not an exact list, it is put together from various hints across the website.

Juniper
Cassia
Coriander
Orange peel
Lemon peel

Tasting notes

This is not a fragrant or perfumed gin. It is very light on the nose with ethanol and juniper detectible, but otherwise it is indistinct. On the palate it is clean and bright and surprisingly soft for 45.2% ABV. It’s well rounded with juniper, citrus and spice in a very pleasing balance. The most remarkable thing about this gin is how clean fresh it tastes. I can’t help but picture shiny, fresh snowfields and adds for toothpaste when I’m drinking it, and I mean that in a very good way.

Drinks

In a gin and tonic you need to use a high quality  tonic water (Fever Tree or Capi) as the flavours are so subtle that a cheap and sugary tonic water will completely overpower the gin. It’s a very soft and clean drink, very enjoyable with a cucumber garnish as the creaminess of the cucumber offsets the softness of the gin beautifully. A sliver of lemon peel also works nicely.

In a martini you want to keep it dry and clean, this is not a gin to dirty up with olive brine. A few drops of vermouth if you must, but I’d suggest Churchill style (look at the vermouth as you pour the gin) with a twist.

What others say

The Gin is In
Gin Time
The Gin Blog
The Whisky Exchange
The Drink Shop

Where to buy

Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength is available in Australia, I have bought it from Vintage Cellars but a quick scout of their website doesn’t prove fruitful. Your better independent bottle shop should stock it, or you can buy online from Nicks, free delivery for orders over $200.

Disclaimer after I had prepared this review I was offered a bottle of Martin Miller’s Gin (not Westbourne Strength) to review. While I appreciate the generosity of Martin Miller’s distributors in sending this sample, my appreciation has not effected this review. 

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Tasting Gin | Willliam Chase Gin

// gin, William ChaseWilliam Chase Gin is a gin I desperately wanted to love. William Chase is the only gin in England made from a neutral spirit made by the distillery; all other distilleries buy in their neutral spirit. Most gins are made with a grain based neutral spirit, William Chase make their spirits from cider apples. So you can see why I was excited to try it.

The process

Chase Distillery have a field to bottle approach, they grow apples and potatoes for their vodka on their property in Herefordshire. They make their base spirit, essentially vodka, by fermenting then distilling the apples and potatoes. The base spirit comes out at about 96% ABV.

To make their gin they put the botanicals into a pillowcase (yep, a pillowcase!) and toss that into the carter of their still, Ginny. As the vapours pass through the pillowcase they are flavoured with the botanicals.

Once flavoured, the spirit is mixed with water drawn from a source on their property, down to 48% ABV.

There’s no reason not to describe this gin as London Dry, although they do not market it as such.

Botanicals

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Liquorice
Orris
Orange
Lemon
Hops
Elderflower
Bramley apple

Tasting notes

With an ABV of 48%, ethanol overpowers the botanicals on the nose. There is a sense of juniper, but it’s very subtle. On the palate, again the neutral spirit is the star with the botanicals very difficult to detect. Given the provenance of the spirit I expected it to be more remarkable, to have a more distinct flavour, maybe the deficiency is in my palate, but it really didn’t taste the difference in the neutral spirit and found the botanicals almost undetectable.

When I was in London I tasted the William Chase Vodka, which I thought was delicious and wonderfully smooth. Look, I’m a bit confused about this too.

Drinks

I only had a 50mL sample bottle, so after tasting it neat I only had enough left for a gin and tonic, with Fevertree tonic and lemon peel. I was hoping the mixing the William Chase with tonic water would open up the flavours of the botanicals, but I found the flavour of the lemon peel overwhelmed any subtle botanical flavours.

What others say

The Gin Blog
Drinks Enthusiast

Where can you buy it

I can’t find an Australian supplier for William Chase Gin, but you can order it from Master of Malt in the UK, just watch out for the shipping!

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Tasting Gin | G’Vine Floraison

I’m in Melbourne for Christmas and popped into Acland Cellars for a scout around their interesting range of imported spirits. (We’d had dinner at Blue Corn Mexican around the corner first, highly recommended!). They had a reasonable collection of uncommon gins, 47 Pink, both Martin Millers, Bulldog, as well as the usuals. I’ve had my eye on the G’Vine for a while so I decided to splash out and put down $90 on an untried gin. Spolier alert: not disappointed.

gin, g'vine, review, florasionG’Vine is a French grape  based gin. The neutral base is made from grape spirit. This makes for a very smooth base to the botanicals. The grapes are Ugni Blanc from the Cognac region, well regarded for their high acid and neutral flavour, a perfect blank canvas spirit.

The first note on the nose is floral and herbaceous with a hint of citrus. On the palate the first thing I thought was cinnamon. Then cardamom and myrtle. It doesn’t actually have any cinnamon in it, but the warmth and spice from cardamom, ginger and nutmeg and the earthy cassia fooled my tongue. The myrtle I think is from the the slightly eucalyptus note in the cardamom along with lime. The unique botanical in the G’Vine Floraison is vine flowers. They are the delicate flowers that bloom on the grape vines just before they turn into fruit and give this gin the most delightful floral note that hits right in the middle of the tongue after the earthy spice dissipates from the front. The base spirit really is so smooth that it just leaves a gentle warming glow at the back of the throat. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about juniper, it’s almost undetectable. Similar to the way cassia or angelica root are often used as a binding earthy note rather than a distinct flavour.

As we’re away from home and staying in a hotel we had not much option but throwing in some ice and Schweppes tonic. It’s surprisingly delicious even in the most basic of gin and tonics. The cardamom really sings and the floral sweetness along with the bubbles give it an almost buttery mouth-feel. A perfect summer gin and tonic.

G’Vine also make a Nouaison style with the slightly older vine flowers that have hit small berry stage. Looking for to finding and tasting that one soon.

Don’t just take my word for it, there are lots of very experienced people writing about gin on the internet so I’m going to start sharing links to reviews from other bloggers and websites on my tasting notes.

What the others say

The Gin Blog
The Gin Is In
Everyday Drinkers
I would have linked to Gin Reviews but their notes are horribly sexist, so no.

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Making Gin | What is gin?

The simple version is gin is a flavoured white spirit. Ethanol, neutral spirit or white spirit can be made from anything really, grain, potato, sugarcane etc. This is made in a distillery. Straight ethanol must be at least 96% pure alcohol.  This is mixed with distilled water in roughly equal measures so the spirit come to around 40% alcohol, and that is vodka. To make gin, the vodka is flavoured with juniper primarily, and other botanicals to make it delicious! There are a number of ways to flavor gin, some of the better than others, but we’ll get to that in another post.

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