‘Water, water, everywhere’. But not a drop of Gin?! This is what I found myself thinking as I sat in despair and anguish, staring a bewildered gaze at yet another menu featuring nothing more than a lonely offering of either Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s Gin and an empty promise of good times.
The scene of this crime; Evian, France – the home of Evian water and my dear parents to whom I was paying a visit.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not having a go at Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s – they’re both good Gins and some people love them, which is fine by me (by the way, if you do love Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s, you should really consider France as a holiday destination!). I’m just saying that the menus lacked…invention.
I should also state that I’m not having a dig at Evian here. It’s a truly beautiful part of the world, tucked between the Mountains and Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva, depending on whether you’re French or Swiss!) and if you ever get the opportunity to go you absolutely should. I can even recommend my parents B&B to you!
No. This is unfortunately all too common occurrence across France. For a country renowned for its love affair with gastronomy, it seems that when it comes to seeking out good Gin on a bar menu it’s a job best left to Hercule Poirot.
I know some people will probably be thinking ‘he’s being over dramatic’ or ‘he’s not looking hard enough’ (though ‘I’m not’ and ‘I am’). Indeed, some readers will be quick to point out that France is the birth place of a number of outstanding Gin offerings, including both ‘G’Vine’ and ‘Citadelle’ – and they would be 100% correct (and each potentially worthy of a future blog!). My point is that, 9 times out of 10, you won’t find those Gins on offer in most establishments. Believe me, I’ve tried and failed.
But fear not dear reader, for this Blogger had already learned from prior disappointments. And on this occasion I had not travelled alone. This time I’d invited my good friend to accompany me to the land that Gin forgot. ‘Gordon’ – allow me to introduce you to ‘Martin’. Or more formally; Martin Millers.
Whenever I’m asked ‘what are your top 5 Gins’, I take a deep breath as if I’m about to produce a plumbers quote. It’s not an easy one to answer! However, one thing remains a constant. The top spot belongs to what I refer to as ‘the Boss’. Martin Millers Gin. It is quite simply, in my opinion, top dog.
But don’t just take my word for it. Over the last 10 years Martin Millers Gin has won more Gold and Platinum medals than any other Gin around, across some of the most prestigious and respected competitions going. And it remains the only Gin to have ever been awarded 97 points at the Beverage Testing Institute of Chicago. You need only to scroll through the list of accolades on their website to see that this drink is a bit special. Hey, after all, having the slogan the ‘Worlds most awarded Gin of the last ten years’ doesn’t just get banded around by everyone you know.
For this tasting and blog I opted for the Martin Millers Westbourne variety, though the team actually make two Gins for you to choose from (you lucky bunch!).
The original (40% proof) was launched in 1999. There’s a really interesting approach taken to making this little beauty (depending on how interesting you find the process of making Gin of course!) in that the guys use two separate distillations. One for the juniper and earthier botanicals (coriander seed, angelica root, liquorice root, cassia bark, florentine iris, lime peel) which they then lovingly combine with the second distillation used for the citrus elements of their recipe (bitter orange peel, lemon peel, lime peel). There’s also a ‘secret ingredient’ of Cucumber included within the mix as a drying agent…but don’t tell anyone I told you that!
The result? A well rounded, unique freshness and flavour that is, simply put, delicious.
The original was then followed up by its ‘bigger little brother’ in 2002/2003; The Westbourne strength variant. And I say ‘bigger’ based on its step up to the 45.2% proof mark! Whilst the bontanicals used are the same, the balance has been tweaked slightly to give the Gin a little more fire power.
And was the extra work worth it? Well ‘Angela’ (their 100 plus year old Copper Still, with whom it would appear I am on first name terms with) has done the Martin Millers team proud. It’s fantastic! And in the world of awards for 2016, Martin Millers Westbourne Gin has brought the house down yet again, with more Gold Medals than an Olympic team could dream of.
But what of the taste?! Well, I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a glass and got stuck in. It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the stunning bottle was an overwhelming blast of citrus. Aromas of grapefruit, lemons and oranges fill the space between the glass and your nose, the vapours enticing you in. When I first opened the bottle there was a definite strength about its scent – there was almost a slight hint of Tequila to it, complemented by suggestions of lime & Cointreau. But if you leave it to settle for a moment then the Gin really opens up. That initial sharpness on the nose is joined by sweetness and hints of candied peels. The juniper does have a real element of strength, but my key word to describe the scent is ‘juicy’ – it makes your mouth water before you’ve even put the glass to your lips!
And you won’t be disappointed by the taste – I could quite happily sit and drink this Gin neat over ice. Martin Millers cunningly disguises its strength behind an incredible soft sweetness on the tip of the tongue. The citrus flavours are blended and balanced to incredible effect, and you get a real sense of the quality of the total package from the warming feeling you get from your throat to your stomach with each sip. You will, of course, pick up a hint of the herbs and spices we mentioned earlier. But for me it is the citrus that prevails here. And I couldn’t be happier about that!
People will tell you there are a lot of ways to enjoy a Gin. But for me, there is only one way to serve a Martin Millers Gin & Tonic; a premium Tonic Water, served over a generous fist full of ice and garnished with orange peel. Perfection.
Some circles have been moved to call Martin Millers Westbourne Gin the ‘Best Gin of 2016’. I absolutely agree with them. And with the original variety on offer in most good supermarkets for around the £25 mark, this is a Gin that should take pride of place on every Gin Shelf.
So as I await the French Gin revolution (I’m convinced it will follow in the footsteps of their growing manufacturing of Whiskey) I smugly nursed my glass of Martin Millers in my hands, sending ‘Gordon’ back off to ‘Bombay’ with his tail between his legs. And I found myself wondering ‘does Gin get any better than this?’. Currently – I’m not sure it does.
Au revoir for now…Sante.