A discernible trend spawned by the ginaissance is the entry of long-established spirits producers, who see the burgeoning popularity of gin as an opportunity to extend their product range with something takes less time to produce and bring to market than their traditional products. Another is for distillers to attempt to capture the spirit and essence of a region through the gin they produce and, particularly, through the botanicals they choose. Gin d’Azur, launched in 2019, encapsulates both trends.
The French family-run Distillerie Merlot et Fil, based in Saint-Sauvant in the south-west of the country, which has been operating since 1850, is famous for the quality of their cognacs. Gin d’Azur is the new filly in their stable and, they claim, draws its inspiration from the sunsets over Gigaro Beach in La Croix Valmer in St Tropez. It is the moment when the sand and sea take on a golden glow, the perfect time for a cocktail or three, their blurb states.
To paint this alluring picture, the distillers have selected botanicals which come from and are typical of Provence, including thyme, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, mountain savory, star anise, and Menton lemon peel. Each is harvested at the optimal moment to ensure that they are at peak ripeness and at their aromatic best. The production process sees each of the principal botanicals distilled separately in an alembic pot still over an open flame to maximise their flavour. before being mixed with the juniper to the distiller’s recipe and enhanced with a touch of Camargue salt.
The result is a fresh, vibrant gin with an ABV of 43%, intensely aromatic on the nose, a complex melange of juniper, thyme, lemon, and lavender in the mouth, before finishing off with a hint of liquorice and a slightly salty trace on the lips. Adding a good quality tonic enhances the floral notes, drawing out the natural oils and causing the spirit to louche slightly.
The bottle, too, provides a welcome splash of sun and cheer, bold and vibrant, to match the spirit inside. It is cylindrical in shape with the glass slightly tinted to give a pale blue, maritime feel, has a wide, flat shoulder, and a moderately sized neck leading on to an artificial stopper. The imagery on the bottle is bright and bold with a golden sun nestling just above the brilliant blue sea, illuminating the headland and its vivid green botanicals.
I am always sceptical about claims made by distillers that they can recreate the essence of a place or an area with their spirit, and not having been to St Tropez, I cannot confirm that it meets its self-proclaimed brief. What I can say, though, is that it is an impressively classy and complex gin which is a delight as well as refreshing to drink.
Until the next time, cheers!