Perhaps it is my inner Brexit spirit buried deep within me but with so many British gins to sample during my extensive investigation of the ginaissance, I have fought shy of any distilled abroad. A staple on the shelves of our local Waitrose is Gin Mare which comes from Spain. Having run through all the other gins in their section and noticing that it was available at a heavily discounted price which with an eight pound voucher, it seemed that now was the time to put my prejudices to one side.
Gin Mare is made in the small fishing village of Vilanova i la Geltru near Barcelona on the Costa Dorada. The distillers are a family firm, Destilerias MG, who have been making aromatic cordials and dealing with wines since 1835, although to obtain global reach it has been part of the Global Premium Brands group since 2007 when this incarnation of the hooch was developed. As you might expect, it has a very distinctive Mediterranean feel about it as most of the botanicals are sourced from the region.
There are of course the traditional botanicals that you would expect to find such as juniper – the berries are hand-picked from the owners’ estate in Teruel and have a very soft skin – coriander seed, cardamom and citrus. The citrus is a custom blend of oranges, sweet from Seville and bitter from Valencia, and lemons from Lleida, which are macerated for a year in a neutral spirit in clay jars before use. But the Mediterranean flavour is provided by rosemary from Turkey, thyme from Greece, basil from Italy and Arbequina olives which are local to the area.
Other than the citrus, each of the other botanicals are macerated separately for 36 hours and then distilled individually in a 250 litre Florentine still for around 4.5 hours. The separate distillations are then blended with a neutral spirit and water to produce the hooch which comes in a distinctive pale blue, rounded, pyramid-shaped, heavy bottle with a grey screw cap. The hooch weighs in at an acceptable 42.7% ABV and the label has a picture of herbs and towards the top of the bottle is the legend “Mediterranean gin, coleccion de autor.”
So what is it like? To the smell it is distinctly herby with juniper and thyme to the fore. The clear spirit has a bold taste, initially of juniper and then the herbs give it a drier consistency, marking it out as a gin the like of which I have not tasted before. The aftertaste is dry and the spices come into play. It is a very flavoursome gin and with such a high herbal content could even be used as an accompaniment to a meal, Mediterranean style of course. My prejudices have been dispelled.
With so much care taken by the distillers, not just of Gin Mare, to create a distinctive taste, it behoves the toper to take some care over which tonic to pour in. I came across a new one on me the other week when I was browsing through the supermarket mixer section, Qcumber. As its rather contrived name suggests – the marketeers have worked overtime – it has a predominant cucumber flavour, although it also has beet sugar and citrus, and is manufactured using spring water from the Welsh hills in Radnorshire. It is light with a very fresh taste and not so overpowering that it ruins the carefully crafted flavours of some of the more complex gins. My preference would be to use it with more floral gins.