Review – Master of Malt Origin Gin
There is nothing more fundamental to gin than Juniper. The base spirit, botanical mix, and method of production can all vary considerably, but without Juniper it simply isn’t gin. Perhaps it is surprising therefore that no-one has thought to do before, what Master of Malt have done with the Origin range. Taking Juniper from a single location, and cold distilling on its own, the result is a range of gins where the effect of terroir and climate (and no doubt vintage in time as well) are showcased. Each gin is produced in the same way and bottled at the same abv to ensure only the Juniper itself can be the cause of variation. Each bottle comes with a little vial containing a mix of other botanicals at 90% abv (coriander, fresh lemon peel, bitter orange peel, cardamom, angelica, cassis, liquorice, cubeb berries, and camomile) which may be added to the Juniper-only gin to create a more traditional taste profile.
Nose: A relatively light and soft piney aroma with a touch of citrus and tomato vines. Slightly waxy around the edges, as if sealing in the delicate aroma.
Neat: Similarly light-bodied and moderately sweet with a finish more lengthy and creamy than would be expected from this low-intensity gin. The citrus from the nose is again evident, and this is a relatively sharp-tasting gin, although some vegetal notes and a whisper of pepper keep it from being one-dimensional. The addition of the botanical concentrate adds warmth and a feeling of roundness to this gin, slightly accentuating the peppery element but retaining the citrus character.
Nose: This is a much bolder-smelling gin than the Italian version, and altogether more perfumed in character. The Juniper is waxy in nature but somehow still fresh and lively. With lots of top notes, this is a nose to remind you of spring.
Neat: The floral notes are present as suggested by the nose, but they are balanced by some enjoyable earthy tones in addition. Waxy Juniper is bold in its presence and although the abv is the same across the range, the alcohol seems more prominent in this bottling. The addition of the botanical concentrate creates quite a dramatic change in profile, livening things up considerably. In particular the Juniper moves from a slightly jarring mix of floral and waxy to a much creamier balance which is pepped up with a bit of spice. A great example of the importance of botanical balance in gin.
Nose: Things turn rather green with the Albanian bottling. Relatively light-bodied, notes of apple and orange are present The Juniper heads towards the earthier end of the spectrum to create the impression of a much more complex spirit than might be expected with a single botanical.
Neat: A slightly salty entry is appealingly different and, as with the nose, the complexity is impressive. Hints of cocoa and spiced fruit intrigue and delight in pre-botanical addition form whilst post-botanical concentrate it becomes somewhat fresher, sweeter and altogether livelier on the palate. This is a very good gin indeed.
Nose: This is what I imagined a Juniper-only gin would smell like. A classic Juniper profile of pine, sea air and wax.
Neat: The Juniper character is again evident on the palate, perhaps more so than the other three. With a moderately sweet entry, the rounded profile with a mix of earthy and floral Juniper as its central character makes this the most enjoyable sipper in its neat form of the bunch. Such is the enjoyment of this bottling in its neat form, the addition of the botanical concentrate seems to detract something rather than add. Whilst the the resulting spicy notes are enjoyable, the fact that the Juniper inevitably has to take a step back is move away from what makes this gin great.
Botanical Concentrate (reduced to 45% abv)
Nose: Cardamom asserts itself above all other botanicals, but coriander, camomile, and both the citrus peels are also particularly evident. Overall the feeling is of a mix that balances floral, earthy and spicy notes.
Neat: Cardamom again likes to think it is the boss, but the rest of the botanicals aren’t about to let it become a one horse race. Liquorice adds a very characteristic sweetness and the citrus peels are notably livening up the earthy and spicy notes from several of the other botanicals. This is a finely balanced botanical mix that offers a little of everything but with plenty of sweet cardamom and earthy character as its defining profile.
There is no doubting that irrespective of personal favourites, this is a great range of gins that are very capable of making some enjoyable cocktails. Of course it is possible to match the flavour profile with specific drinks, the citrus notes of the Bulgarian bottling might bring something particularly fresh to a White Lady, whilst the sweeter profile of the Netherlands bottling could be said to be suited to a Martinez. However, when compared side by side, the differences become so subtle that in fact the enjoyment of these gins is reduced. These spirits are all about the impact of the terroir from which they hale, and to mix them with the harshness of something like citrus juice would seem to miss the point. Keeping it simple with drinks such as a G+T, or even better a Martini is therefore the way forward to gain maximum enjoyment. The issue of whether or not to add the botanical concentrate will ultimately come down to personal opinion but I’m all for removing any possible distraction to the Juniper and going without. I can however recommend sorting yourself out with a small syringe and adding 1ml to every 70ml of gin. That way there is no need to ‘contaminate’ the whole bottle!
The Master of Malt Origin Gin range are to be applauded for producing such unique and innovative products. As individual gins they range from good to excellent and as such they will make for a great choice for any gin lover. The real interest however lies in the opportunity to compare the full range side by side, where it is possible to conclude that all Juniper is most definitely not the same.
Master of Malt Origin Gin is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.