Although Martin Miller's gin is relatively new (invented in 1999), the process is traditional and performed using old methods and equipment even if more time and labor is required. We've seen it with food and wine, but this philosophy exists in the world of spirits as well. Here one might be tempted to call it the Sloe Gin Movement.
All right, sloe gin is something entirely different... This is a classic London Dry, distilled in a century-old kettle named Angela. The old pot still method is similar to what's used in the production of great Scotch. After the second distillation with all the flavorings (more on that below), water needs to be added in order to bring the spirit to a point where it can be safely consumed and isn't in danger of catching on fire if it gets too close to an open flame. And this is where things get interesting... Many companies will use distilled water, or spring water, or maybe even plain tap water, but Martin Miller ships the high-proof distillate to Iceland, where melted glacial water is added and the gin is bottled. The promotional material has a lot of talk about water trickling through volcanic rocks and elves and some other odds and ends. I can't speak directly to the quality of Icelandic water over other sources, but it makes for a damned interesting story.
Martin Miller's Gin Westbourne Strength
$35/750mL bottle, 45.2% abv.
(This gin also comes in a standard version at only 40% abv.)
Very smooth, and the best way I can describe it is as being similar to Hendrick's but swapping the cucumber and rose for a stronger juniper profile. Some gins are so strong with juniper that it's like chewing cedar boughs, but here it's just the most noticeable out of a group of subtle aromas. Other contributing ingredients include orange and lemon peel, coriander, licorice, cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg, angelica, and orris root. At 90 proof it requires a little ice or further watering down from stirring or shaking. (If you don't have Icelandic glacial water on hand, you'll have to make do with what you have on hand.) The aromas are gentle and well balanced, and it goes down rather easily, like a nice vodka. Round mouthfeel, not astringent or burning. It's almost a shame to use this in a cocktail, but I decided to try one that was fairly minimalist.
The Gibson is, of course, just a Martini with pearl onions in it. But in the interest of disclosure, I made this one fairly dry:
5mL White Vermouth
Two pearl onions
I shook it up with some ice and poured the cocktail over the onions. The garnish provides a spicy, savory element to the gin, and if you use pickled onions, you'll get a salty boost from the brine.
Note: This wine was received as a sample.