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Review

Origin Bulgaria Gin

Distillery

Master of Malt, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, UK.

Website

Master of Malt

History

Master of Malt is one of the UK’s leading online liquor retailers. Established in 1985 they originally concentrated on Whisky but this soon grew to encompass a full range of spirits.

Ben Ellefsen, Sales Director at Master of Malt, first encountered a phenomenon when he was making their Professor Cornelius Ampleforth Bathtub Gin. He noticed there were differences with the flavor from the juniper berries (even when from the same country) and this got him thinking. Just as the same varietal of grape grown in two different locations (e.g. Bordeaux, France and California, USA) taste very different, Ben wondered if the same was true of Juniper. The difficult task was to actually source juniper berries from just one specific location, in sufficient quantities, to really test the theory. 

This Gin was launched in summer 2012 and does contains juniper grown in only one particular location, and is just one from their range of 7 “Origin” Gins. The aim of these Origin single estate Gins is to explore the effect of a given regions terroir upon the Gin’s flavor. Spoiler Alert: The end result is the Origin range does demonstrate the terroir of where the juniper is grown (e.g. altitude, climate, soil etc.) does indeed affect the flavor of the Gin.

This Gin uses juniper grown only in Veliki Preslav, or Great Preslav, a town in the Shumen Province of North East Bulgaria. The town is found at the foot of the Stara Planina Mountain (part of the northern Balkans), with the surrounding countryside providing an ideal habitat for juniper to grow. It has a population of around 10,000 and was the ancient capital of Bulgaria from 893 to 972 AD. A fortress was built during this time and housed the Royal Palace of Prince Boris the First, becoming one of the most important medieval centers of Europe. Today the ruins of the 1,000+ year-old fortress is a protected historical/archaeological reserve.

Production

Each Gin is made in exactly the same way. The juniper from a specific location is ground and then steeped in a neutral base of English wheat spirit for 24 hours. This mixture is cold distilled (at room temperature) using a rotary vacuum still before being condensed to produce the Gin.

The rotary vacuum still is also used to produce a second separate distillate of the other botanicals, at 45% ABV/90 proof. This is provided in a small (third of an ounce) jar, which may be added to the bottle of juniper Gin (to create a more rounded or complete Gin) if one wishes.

The Gin is presented in a clear, cylindrical bottle with rounded shoulders and medium length neck. There is a large light yellow label with colorful hand drawn images of the botanicals used. “Origin” is found in large black colored letter toward the bottom of the label. The bottle is capped with a black wax seal.

Category

London Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

46% (92 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$$$. Not available in the USA. Try Master of Malt in the UK however expect to pay an additional 50% for shipping. This is also available in a 3cl sample jar for around $6, or you can purchase a sampler set of 5 Origin Gins (those using juniper from Albania and Croatia are excluded) for just over $30 (but add another 60% for shipping).

Botanicals

This Gin only uses one botanical: juniper berries.

A separate jar of distillate is provided, to add to this juniper Gin, made from 9 other botanicals, which includes: angelica, camomile, cardamom, cassia, coriander, cubeb berries, lemon peel (fresh), liquorice and orange peel (bitter).

Name

Origin, besides a play on the word Gin itself, hints at the use of single estate juniper i.e. the origin of the juniper berries.

Tasting Notes

Choice is a great thing but sometimes this choice makes it much more difficult to decide. In this situation, given the Origin “experiment” is all about how juniper from a specific location can vary the flavor of the Gin, we certainly had to ponder the addition of the botanical distillate to the Gin. In the end we tasted the botanical distillate by itself to gauge the effect it might have upon the juniper Gin and found this helped (to some degree):

On the nose is cardamom with citrus and other herbal spice notes. On the palate this sweet tasting spirit (liquorice) has clear cardamom with citrus whilst in the background there are hints of earthy spice and floral aspects.

However, the best piece of advice we found was from The Cocktail Geek. They suggest, rather than adding the whole jar of botanical distillate to the bottle of Gin, using a syringe to add 1ml to 70ml of Gin - we tip our hats to them accordingly. This is a perfect way of tasting the Gin and distillate together without affecting the Gin for further tasting. So, with this in mind, let’s get on with the tasting!

On the nose is green pine (herbal juniper) and floral grassy notes with fruity citrus (lemon) and a hint of pepper. On the palate this lightly sweet spirit has clear floral juniper with citrus (lemongrass), some report a waxy flavor to the Gin but we haven’t found this ourselves. On the close is a short bitter mouth tingly earthiness with hints of pepper and chocolate. This is lifted all round with a clear spiciness, more juniper and heightened sweetness by the addition of the botanicals.

This is a strangely green floral (spring meadow) featured juniper forward Gin with a little harshness at the end making it unusual to drink neat and so we believe it is best reserved for mixed drinks. It makes a refreshing Gin & Tonic and is best with a slice of lemon garnish; it is best of all with the spicy addition of the botanicals. This makes a nice creamy fresh dry Martini and again is lifted and improved by the addition of the botanicals. In an Aviation the floral notes work well, we experimented further by making an Aviation cocktail with a 50/50 combination of this Gin and the aptly named Aviation Gin, the result was really nice. This is clearly a versatile Gin with the added botanicals.

Ben Ellefsen and Master of Malt have our heartfelt thanks and praise for producing this Origin range of Gin. It is a very interesting experiment and we are so pleased they have made this commercially available. Whilst it might be of limited use to many Gin drinkers, for those wishing to understand and appreciate more about Gin it is a wonderful opportunity. If you haven’t tried their Origin Gins we urge you to do so, it is a real education for novices and connoisseurs alike.

Well, as they say in Bugaria, it’s “Dovizhdane” (Slavic for “goodbye”) for now.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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