Gin O’Clock – Part Eighty Two

If Lantic Gin has the feel of a gin made by an enthusiast, then today’s gin, Monterey Helford Gin, has much loftier pretensions. Such are the variations in approaches that the ginaissance has spawned. It comes in a wonderfully ornate, tall, octagonal bottle, four short sides at the corners and four longer faces, with a glass stopper. The label, a dark green background with predominantly gold lettering, has a profusion of art deco style geometric shapes. It tells me that it is “gin for the discerning”, I would expect nothing less, and that its ABV is 43%.

I bought my bottle, number 62 from batch one, from the Constantine Stores on a recent visit and it came in a splendid white presentation box, resplendent with the art deco Monterey logo in gold. It is an impressive object and stands out on my crowded gin display.

The name of the gin, distilled in Helford, near Falmouth, in Cornwall ties in nicely with the art deco feel of the bottle. Monterey pines, which stand tall and proud along the banks of the Helford river, overshadowing the indigenous oaks, were introduced in the 1920s and 30s from California. They found the area to their liking and have not looked back. The brains behind Monterey gin wanted to create a gin that resonated with the days of speakeasy bars, flappers and when cocktails were de rigueur, a gin that would be equally at home as a component of an extravagant cocktail as the companion to a tonic.

There are eleven botanicals in the mix. Frustratingly, they do not reveal what they are save that you will find Gentian Root, it is the main ingredient in Angostura bitters so you get the idea, Mate, a form of tea from Argentina, and Sea Buckthorn. The starting point is an organic grain spirit into which the eleven botanicals are steeped in a copper still named Shirley. As the still heats up, the infusion is allowed to evaporate and then is cooled and condensed. Once the Heads and Tails of the batch are disposed of, the Hearts are diluted down to its fighting weight using de-mineralised water.

What this process, known as “one shot” distillation, means is that other than the water dilution, the spirit isn’t changed – what goes in is what comes out and all the oils and flavours resident in the botanicals are retained – but it is also a time-consuming process and means that the number of bottles obtained from any one batch is on the lower end of the production spectrum.      

The key question, though, is; is it all fur coat and no knickers? Does it live up to its image and hype?

I don’t know why but I was expecting a bit of a let down but my endemic pessimism was misplaced. The aroma told me that this gin was going to be juniper-led and that spice, peppers and some citrus elements were going to be in the mix. To the taste it was a smooth, complex drink with all the elements coming into play once the initial juniper hit had passed. The aftertaste was long and slightly spicy.

It went well with Navas tonic, the lightness of the tonic emphasising some of the subtler flavours in the gin. Not only does Monterey gin look good, it tastes good and you can’t ask for better than that.

Until the next time, cheers!

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