Can you really conjure up the spirit of a place through a bottle of gin? The ginaissance has spawned so many gins that the geniuses in the marketing departments have to burn the midnight oil to give their product a distinctive edge, sufficient to make it stand out in the crowd. Gin O’ndina, another impressive small batch, premium aka expensive, gin to come out of Italy, this one distilled by the Milanese company, Davide Campari-Milano SpA, is said to conjure up the “glamour and carefree spirit” of the Italian Riviera in the 1960s.
To reinforce the message the logo at the front of the bottle features a young woman looking longingly into the distance, gazing at a curved bay with white sand and a large sun sinking below the horizon. Oddly, there is no glass of O’ndina in front of her and the swirling geometric design immediately beneath her makes her look like a mermaid. Perhaps she is waiting for her Romeo to deliver her drink which will make her perfect day more perfect still?
The bottle is elegant in design, a squashed heptagon in shape with a short neck leading to an artificial stopper with a deep blue cap. The glass is clear and the blue colour scheme is meant to evoke the warmth of the Ligurian Sea. The labelling at the bottom fifth of the bottle tells me that it contains “fresh basil from Liguria, citrus from southern Italy and a mix of native herbs, selected to portray an Italian coastal landscape in every sip”.
Frustratingly, this is as much information as we get about the contents, although the gin is supposed to use 19 botanicals. The variety of basil deployed is Grande Verde di Genova which, I’m told, is characterised by its very bright green colour and especially refreshing sweetness. The juniper is sourced from the Apennine Mountains, the orris root from Tuscany and the liquorice from Calabria while the foothills of Piemonte provide sage, marjoram, thyme and fennel. It does annoy me when you cannot get a full list of the runners and riders.
What makes me wary of some European gins is their use of a wine base spirit which, in my experience, makes for an acerbic starting point which very few combinations of botanicals can ever successfully eradicate. However, I cannot detect its presence here, a distinct plus point. The spirit and botanicals are distilled in fresh, clear Alpine spring water and bottled with a very impressive ABV of 45%. This is not a gin to while away the sunny hours with; it has a kick.
On opening the bottle my senses were assaulted by a heady mix of pepper, herbs and citrus with a welcome hit of juniper. In the glass it is crystal clear and the juniper, forward and bright, immediately makes its presence known before allowing the herbs a place at the table and the citric notes to breathe expansively. There is a hint of liquorice which lingers into the aftertaste which together with peppery spices and another blast of juniper leaves a lingering and satisfying taste.
Overall, I found it a well-balanced spirit with enough variety in the taste sensations to interest me and make me want to take another sip. Considering its strength, I did not find it as spicy as I had anticipated and the juniper maintained a prominent position throughout, always a plus in my book. If you are looking for a classy, elegant gin, this will not disappoint you. Did it remind me of the Italian Riviera? Not really, but that is marketeers for you.
Until the next time, cheers!