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Review

Origin Croatia 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 late 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.

The Gin uses juniper grown only in Klanac, a small village (population less than 200) in the central North West of Croatia. It is surrounded by several national parks near the beautiful mountainous Karst area, and not far from the 16 Plitvice Lakes. This is probably one of the most idyllic juniper growing areas, within the Balkan region of Central Europe.

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 an earthy fresh green pine (juniper), which changes to more spicy sweet nutmeg when the botanicals are added. On the palate is a smooth soft juniper flavor, which changes to include fruity spice notes with the addition of the botanicals. On the close is a peppery warm and spicy finish, which increases to include more sweetness, citrus and hints of vanilla following the addition of the botanicals.

This is a softer juniper style of Gin and has strong winter Christmas aspects to it, making it an ideal tipple at that time of year. It is hard not to like this Gin due to its relative uniqueness. Unfortunately we only tasted a sample size and were unable to consider this in mixed drinks. However, whilst on the soft side we expect this should stand its ground in a Gin & Tonic and sincerely expect this to make a very pleasant Martini.

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 Croatia, it’s “Zbogom” (Croatian for “goodbye”) for now.

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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