So there I was. 10 years old and I’m sat there in the back of an aging Ford Mondeo with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall…
We’d been in the car for around 10 hours, with plenty more road left ahead of us, but the guys were diligently taking it in turns to sing their way through their respective back catalogues to keep our spirits high!
I know that this might sound like an unlikely situation. Surprising to some perhaps? But in reality, this was nothing new to me. In fact, we made this journey together every year without fail, travelling from the Midlands to the South of France, for our summer holiday together. In all honesty, I’d started to become a little blasé about the whole thing… Sure, it’s definitely a lot of egos to try and squeeze in to one vehicle. But my bigger concern was whether the blood was still able to circulate to my extremities, given the way that I needed to contort my body to negotiate the variety of luggage that my parents had managed to hem my brother and I in place with for the trip (footwells and all)! The Ford Mondeo is not a long distance travelling companion for those who are faint of heart…
This illusion would only broken as we’d start to venture towards the sunnier climates of the Dordogne region, and the combination of the stifling heat & occasional bumpy road surfaces would lead to the CD skipping, interrupting the 17th rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, ‘Wonderful Tonight’ or Mick worrying that ‘if I didn’t know him by now, then I may never ever know him at all’ (Mick, after all of the years of constant listening, I feel I know you better than my wife!).
What? You didn’t think that I meant that all three of them were physically in the car with us, with instruments and a full PA set up?! As much as they would have been more that welcome to join us (assuming they chipped in with petrol money and toll booth fare) there was hardly enough room for even my brother and I.
On reflection, I do wonder whether my parents only owned three CD’s for the first 18 years of my life… but the music has stayed with me ever since, as a happy reminder of family holidays abroad.
And it was a recent arrival on my doorstep that offered the opportunity to transport me back to the summer climbs of my youth, though Ford Mondeos and toll booths would not be required. As for the music? Well, in a juxtaposition to my childhood, the soundtrack would be optional. It was time to head to the French Riviera, for some summer sipping with Gin d’Azur.
Gin d’Azur; we’re all going on a summer holiday…
Describing itself as being “the ultimate French gin for the discerning escapist”, Gin d’Azur has been designed with a mission in mind. To represent the flavours of the Côte d’Azur, aiming to transport drinkers across the length and breadth of the French Riviera. So provenance and a sense of place are at the heart of this gin then, with all of the carefully selected botanicals harvested at their aromatic peak.
Each ingredient used is indigenous to the French coastal region, with century old flavour pairings kept firmly in mind. In Gin d’Azur, you will find;
- Mountain Savory
- Camargue Salt
- Star Anise
- Menton Lemon Peel
Gin d’Azur is produced in a family run distillery in the gastronomic heart of France, the Cognac region. I think the region may also be fairly famous for some other booze related exports, but none spring to mind right now… (I’m talking about Cognac. Oh you got it? Cool. Just checking).
Traditional distilling methods are put to work to create the gin, with an attention to detail seen as a point of pride. Each botanical is separately distilled in an Alambic Charentais (copper pot Still), over an open flame, with “a customised profile designed for each botanical, specifying its own temperature, cuts of foreshots and feints and pressure of gas in order to capture the best aromatic compounds of each ingredient”. A level of geekery that I can get onboard with!
And if you thought that the effort going in to the liquid was impressive, the bottle is equally easy on the eye! It really is a work of art.
The design incorporates an iconic sunset over the welcoming blue haze of the azure waters, framed by the lush greenery of the regions flora and fauna; it perfectly captures the feel of the Mediterranean.
What I love about the design is that it feels proudly French. The botanicals and backstory are printed around the body of the bottle in both French & English, with the red, white & blue of the national flag hoisted prominently around the robust cork stopper to indicate the gins origin.
Gin d’Azur to taste
Wondering whether I’d feel a sense of guilt to break the seal on something that looked so good was only ever a fleeting thought…
In reality, the allure of the Mediterranean waves was too strong to resist. The water was warm, and I was about to dive in…
The lemon citrus is mind bendingly big on the nose! It presents as a combination of the sharp juice of the fruit, the bitterness of the pith and a sweetness of lemon sherbets. It is bright and vibrant – it feels alive. There’s a lime like zing and a squeeze of grapefruit to the scent; neither of which are present but the mind is tricked to thinking they might be!
There is a fresh picked bouquet of mountain greenery to the aromas. Floral lavender delicately perfumes the spirit, with a weighted support of thyme, rosemary and provincial herbs. There are bold scents of aniseed and a sweet liquorice earthiness, which help to provide a unique body to the gins character.
It is rounded off with a subtle waft of fresh sea salt air to the back notes of the vapours, giving an unexpected coastal freshness to the feel.
To taste, and I’m thrust in to plumes of yellow and green citrus fruit – the flavours are so vivid that the colours feel tangible.
That lemon is a standout; in one sense carrying a candid sweetness, whilst also bringing the sharp zing that you’d hope for. But on the taste, when sat alongside the almost menthol nature of the leafier inclusions, there’s an almost medicinal quality to the neat gin. When I say that there is a hint of ‘Lemsip’ to the flavour profile, I mean that in a positive way! It delivers an elevated sensation of aniseed, perhaps providing a nod towards the more traditional French aperitif Pastis.
The herbs feel freshly picked, as if dropped straight in to the bottle, carrying a sense of place that is delivered to the palate and transports you to mountain ranges and scenes of French alpine terrain. The lavender delivers a floral, purple sweetness, with rosemary and thyme providing a more savoury backdrop to provide balance for some of the sweeter elements.
At 43% ABV, there is no real sense of heat or aggression on the scent or taste; it feels well balanced and impeccably smooth. The juniper is much more prominent on the tasting, though I must confess that it perhaps at times is more of a passenger to the bigger citrus and herbal hitters.
Make no bones about it, it’s delicious and catches my attention based on the uniqueness that it boasts; it’s very different. The brightness of the fruit, the freshness of the herbs, the ability to metaphorically drop you in to a location. It all serves to tie seemlessly in to the gins ‘product of the sun’ strap line.
Gin d’Azur G&T
To serve, I headed straight for a classic G&T to start proceedings.
The brightness and sweetness of the lemon continues to sing loudly, alongside the delicate perfume of the lavender. The warmth of the menthol greenery and earthy aniseed vibes transcend in to the longer serve, bringing a refreshingly dry finish to the drinking experience.
This is a summer time G&T if I’ve ever tasted one! And that ability to translate flavour in to provenance isn’t at all diluted – you instantly feel like you are connected to the landscape.
Gin d’Azur Martini
In a Martini, this gin is at home. It is perfect. It’s as simple as that.
Delicate and soft whispers of lemon go hand in hand with the soft peach notes of the Cocchi Americano Bianco vermouth. The juniper feels more pronounced, with the perfume of that lavender ebbing and flowing throughout. The herbaceous menthol and aniseed flavours continue to add strength and backbone, bringing a character that is utterly intoxicating (in more than one way here!).
This is a Martini that I will be returning to time and time again. It’s brilliant.
C’est tout – Fin
So there you have it. And you can colour me impressed!
As some of you will know, I’ve interspersed previous reviews of French gins over the last few years with snippets of my frustration at the slower pace at which the French market seems to move. But in Gin d’Azur, I sense that there could well be a change on the horizon…
The team have managed to take a location, and bottle it. It is encapsulated in every aspect of the gin, from the bottle design, the distillation process and (most importantly) the taste.
The attention to detail and standard of execution suggests that the future of the gin scene in France is bright. And rising above the rest is Gin d’Azur, with that golden sun shining from its label feeling very apt indeed.
Many thanks to the team at Gin d’Azur for my complementary bottle of their fantastic gin.
To stay on top of all of the latest news from the French Riviera, be sure to follow Gin d’Azur across social media:
Facebook: @Gin d’Azur
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!