28 January 2011

Martin Miller's Gin

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.

Gibson Cocktail

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:

50mL Gin
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.


Sam k said...

Nuttin' like a good sloe screw to end the night. Dig the glass, but i hate gin.

- Sam from Brokewino.com

Benito said...


Gin is weird in that the cheapest ones are painfully bad, and the great ones are sublime, but there's not a lot of middle ground. My favorite bargain brand is New Amsterdam, which is perfectly serviceable for martinis and other cocktails. But a nice cold shot of Junipero, Hendrick's, or this one? Pure bliss.


fredric koeppel said...

50 cl of gin and 5 cl of vermouth? that's a 10 to 1 ratio, about as dry as you can get without putting any vermouth in the thing.

i got these samples too. I'll try them soon.

Benito said...


You reminded me that I had the wrong units unless you're making a whole lot at once--I have corrected it to millilitres, but the proportion of 10:1 remains the same. Why? Back when a Martini was half or even two thirds vermouth, the Gibson was a really dry variation. Now that most people and bars serve their Martinis that dry, the only distinction is the garnish.

Although I love vermouth and will happily sip it straight, when it comes to a really good gin I don't like to change the flavor. For instance, I never put vermouth in Hendrick's.


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