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 in 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 only uses juniper berries grown in Skopje,
the capital of Macedonia. Skopje is an ancient city with evidence of habitation
dating back to 4,000 BC and is famous (for many) as the birthplace of Mother
Teresa. It is situated in the North of the country in the center of the Balkan
Mountains and is the biggest city in Macedonia with a population just in excess
of half a million. Many rivers converge into the Vardar River as it meanders
through the city with over five bridges spanning different parts of Skopje. The
mountains and the converging rivers have created many ravines and we suspect
the surrounding countryside provides ideal growing conditions for juniper.
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 an unusual (for Gin) aroma of sweet grassy floral notes with just a hint of pepper. On the palate this lightly sweet spirit has a fruity (apple & grape) pine taste with floral notes. On the close is a warm pine finish with hints of salt and pepper. With the botanical distillate added there is more depth of spiciness added to the aroma, taste and finish.
This is a soft London Dry Gin with the juniper present but not too forward. It makes for a nice warming drink taken neat on a cold winter evening. Unfortunately we have only tried the small sample size jar of this spirit and therefore have been unable to try this in mixed drinks. It will be interesting to see if it can hold its own in a Gin & Tonic and expect it will make a very nice 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 Macedonia, it’s “zbogum” (Serbian for “goodbye”) for now.