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Review

Martin Miller's
Westbourne Strength Gin

Distillery

The Reformed Spirits Company Ltd., London (made by Langley Distillery, Birmingham), England, UK (and Borganes, Iceland). Imported into the USA by Kindred Spirits Inc., Miami, Florida.

Website

Martin Miller’s and Kindred Spirits.

History

Martin Miller is a true entrepreneur and has numerous successful ventures to his name: Author, Photographer, Hotelier and Concert Organiser; he is best known for his Miller’s Antique Price Guides. With an estimated fortune of $60 million he has concentrated on activities that interest him and it was perhaps only a matter of time before he made a foray into the world of Gin.

The original Martin Miller’s Gin was devised in 1997 between three friends: Martin Miller, David Bromige and Andreas Versteegh. It was finally launched in the UK in 1999 and in the USA in 2003. The on-trade (bars, hotels etc.) were asking for a higher strength edition to use, so in 2002 they started developing this Westbourne Strength version which was launched in late 2003.

Production

This is made exactly the same way as the original Martin Miller’s Gin: The base is the cleanest neutral grain spirit possible, made from wheat grown in the counties of Essex and Norfolk, in England. This Gin is small batch distilled in Still No.2 a 1903 John Dore & Co. 3,000-liter copper pot still affectionately called Angela, after Langley’s Managing Director’s mother. The Gin is made from 3 separate distillates, the first consists of the “earthy” botanicals e.g. angelica, cassia, juniper etc. (although does contain a little lime peel), which are steeped overnight, and the second distillate consists of all the citrus peels. Note: all of the heads and tails produced during distillation are discarded rather than being reused. The two resultant “earthy and “citrus” distillates are blended together and left to rest for a few days.

Initially this blend of distillates was shipped 1,500 miles from Immingham (between Grimsby and Hull) in North East England to Borgarnes in Iceland (a 10-day, sometimes dangerous, journey), blended with Icelandic water and bottled, then shipped back again. Today, as sales (and thus production levels) have increased a change has been implemented. If the Gin will be for sale in USA it follows the above-mentioned process but instead of shipping back to the UK, it is shipped from Iceland to the USA. If the Gin will be for sale in Europe and Asia, the water is shipped to the UK instead, where it is blended with the distillates and bottled in the UK, ready for sale. This may seem like a lot of trouble, cost and time to go to just for some Icelandic water. However, we have already heard (see “History” above) what impact this water had on the Polstar Vodka and thus (for us at least) worth investigating further:

All distillate produced is a high proof alcohol and has to be reduced down to a drinkable level by blending with water (most Gin is in fact 45 – 60% water). Many Gins use neutral or demineralised water and according to Icelanders this is “dead” water as it has lost it’s “life force”. Iceland, known as the land of “Fire and Ice”, has a glacial and volcanic geological landscape. Their rain fell millennia ago and has taken all that time to filter through the granite and lava, and in particular has created the unspoilt and soft Selyri spring water in the village of Borganes. This is situated at the head of a fjord on the West coast, about 30 miles North (as the crow flies) of the capital Rejkjavik. This 40,000 square mile sized island has just over 320,000 people, making it one of the most sparsely populated places in the world. Despite their remote, often dark and cold location it has an advanced culture with 95% of adults owning a computer and 100% literacy (in fact more books are written per capita than in any other country). However, they do believe in the “hidden people” (either elves or trolls) who live in rocks and water, giving life to the natural world – hence treated water is “dead”. What you choose to believe is up to you, we do know good water produces good Gin, and this Gin is very soft and smooth.

Anyway…back to the Gin’s production…and the third distillate! A small amount of a third distillate, made from cucumber, is added when the other two distillates are blended with the water. The use of the cucumber acts as a “drying agent” (not an intended flavoring) to the palate and whilst Reformed Spirits do not list this as a botanical it is noticeable (to us and others), so we include it as such. Not surprisingly, the idea of using cucumber came from using it in the creation of the Polstar Vodka. Interestingly, we believe this makes Martin Miller’s the first to use cucumber in a Gin and not Hendrick’s, as people tend to believe, who launched their Gin later in 1999 after Martin Miller’s.

The Gin is presented in a squat clear rectangular shaped bottle, with a bulbous neck as used on traditional Whisky bottle style necks. There is a small grey and navy blue colored label at the top and screen printed on the back (and visible through the front) is a grey colored olde world styled map.

This Gin is gluten free.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

45.2% (90 Proof).

Price Range

$$$ - $$$$. A little hard to find (at a sensible price), try online at: K&L Wines, City Wine Cellar, Cask Store, Ultimate Wine Shop, Astor Wines or D & M Liquors.

Botanicals

Made using the same 10 botanicals as the original Martin Miller’s Gin: angelica (France), cassia bark (China), coriander, cucumber, juniper berries (Tuscany, Italy & India), lemon peel, lime peel, liquorice root, orange peel (Seville, Spain) and orris root (Florence, Italy).

Name

Named after one of the creators of this Gin, Martin Miller, and his Westbourne base in Notting Hill, London.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are (pine) juniper and light citrus (lemon with hints of other citrus) plus earthy floral notes. On the palate this very smooth slightly sweet (liquorice) and softly full-bodied spirit has pine (juniper), bright fruity citrus (lemon & some orange), and light spice (coriander) with hints of fresh greenness (cucumber?) and parma violets (orris root). On the close is a long dry and smooth peppery spicy finish with floral notes. This is a very well balanced Gin with nuances of complexity (albeit a little hard for our palates to decipher sometimes).

Compared with the original Martin Miller’s Gin this is closer to a classic London Dry Gin, with more juniper upfront giving traditional Gin lovers that “bite” they like. The soft smoothness means it is an easy sipping Gin, but the alcohol is more noticeable so, it is better with ice and a slice. It works wonderfully well in a Gin & Tonic, particularly with Fever Tree, and we suggest adding a lime and cucumber garnish. This makes a mighty fine Martini but you may find a drier version works best of all, even try a Pink Gin. The change in flavor profile from the original lends itself to good use in other cocktails and works particularly well in a Negroni and a Gimlet (a favorite of ours). This is a very versatile Gin, even more so than the original.

We like this full flavoured Gin a lot and cannot recommend it more highly; it is perhaps the best juniper forward Gin on the market and certainly makes our Top 10, but we are not alone in thinking this. Aaron Knoll over at the Gin is In, sums up this Gin with: “There’s (sic) few better gins out there…if I could pick just one gin, this gin would at the very least be near the top of the running”. 

Awards & Accolades

97 Points, Beverage Testing Institute (their highest score ever awarded to a Gin).

92 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2013.

Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.

Gold Medal, World Spirits Awards, 2012.

Silver Medal, International Wine and Spirits Competition, 2011.

Bronze Medal, International Wine and Spirits Competition, 2010.

Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2009.

Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2009.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2008.

Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2006.



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