Master of Malt, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, UK.
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 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 Istog (also called Burimi or Istok), a town found in the Peć district of North West Kosovo. With mountains to the South of the town, this is a good location for juniper growth.
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 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.
London Dry Gin.
46% (92 Proof).
$$$$$$. 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).
This Gin only uses one botanical: juniper
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).
Origin, besides a play on the word Gin
itself, hints at the use of single estate juniper i.e. the origin of the
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 fresh green pine (juniper) with hints of pepper. On the palate is clear dry pine (juniper). On the close is a warming heat in the finish. With the added botanicals the Gin takes on some light floral notes and a sweeter fruity softness with citrus and spicy nuances.
This is a nice traditional London Dry Gin with the added botanicals and a delight to imbibe. Unfortunately we have only tried the sampler bottle of this Gin so cannot comment on how this performs in mixed drinks. However, we did have a little to try and found it makes a good standard 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 Kosovo, it’s “Zbogom” (Serbian for “goodbye”) for now.
Silver Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.
Silver Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.
Silver Medal, International Wine & Spirits Competition, 2013.