It’s well known that Pinot Noir from California tastes different than Pinot Noir from France — even if the wines are made identically. But does the concept of terroir extend to spirits like gin, too? Can juniper berries sourced from the far ends of the world really express their differences after going through the long process of distillation and bottling as gin?
Master of Malt sets out to find the answer with this, the Origin Series of Single Estate gins. Seven versions are on offer, each made with juniper sourced from a single location, each in a different country (all are in Europe). Each batch arrives in a bottle that is distilled just from juniper, with no other botanicals added. However, a small add-on vial of distilled botanicals (the usual gin stuff) comes with each bottle. To turn your juniper-flavored spirit into real gin, just add the vial to the bottle and you’ve got single-estate gin, with all the fixings. (Note: You can buy them as minis if you don’t want to shell out for full bottles of seven experimental gins.)
We tried four of the Origin Series gins, both as straight juniper spirit and with the botanicals added. Each is cold-distilled and bottled at 92 proof. Thoughts follow on each… along with the answer to the question: Does terroir matter in gin? (If you don’t want to read: Surprisingly, yes.) Ratings are based on the whole package — both as juniper-only spirits and with the aromatics.
Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gin – Valbone, Albania – As a juniper-only spirit, it’s mildly earthy, but light on its toes. The juniper takes on a hot and somewhat bitter character on the finish, though, with cigar/tobacco smoke wafting on the finish. Adding aromatics gives this a much sweeter character with better balance and a creamier texture. B
Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gin – Arezzo, Italy – Much more perfumy on the nose. Lots of citrus, and a very tart finish to back the solid juniper character. Very likable, even without aromatics. Surprisingly, the overall effect with the aromatics added isn’t incredibly different. It’s bolder and more exotic with the aromatics added, a full-fledged but citrus-forward gin with excellent balance. A-
Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gin – Veliki Preslav, Bulgaria – Very herbal and hot at times, similar to the Albania bottling. A little muddy on the palate, with a short finish. Not significantly better with aromatics, but the extra sweetness helps give it some life. B-
Master of Malt Origin Single Estate Gin – Meppel, The Netherlands – The northernmost juniper of the bunch. Subdued, again with somewhat earthy overtones that harken back to field notes — fresh grain and a little barnyard at times. It’s not at all harsh, though. While the notes speak to manly pursuits, its light body and general restraint make it the most delicate and feminine of the spirits in this bunch. Botanicals round it out, but create an almost candy-like finish, with curious red berry notes. B