Filliers Dry Gin 28 uses 28 botanicals (although the name 28 is also a reference to the year 1928…) in addition to juniper in order to create this historic and traditional concoction. That’s not the only gin this Belgian distillery make either – their range is quite a treat!
Filliers is one of the oldest brands in the world, after Bols Genever amongst very few others. They now sell a variety of spirits from Genever through to Whisky, Vodka and Liqueurs. Their interesting story and longevity proves worthy of a condensed history lesson, so please grab a drink and settle in…
To start from the very beginning we go back all the way to 1792, when their first master distiller was born, Karel Lodewijk Fillers. Born into his Belgium based family farm, it was not until Karel was older that his interest grew in Genever. His passion grew so much so that his love for Genever passed on to the rest of his family, which continues to be in their line of work to this very day. Having met the current members – we can vouch for this. They are both passionate and nice, and equally humble!
When Fillers started, Belgium was one of only a few producers for Genever alongside Germany, parts of France and the Netherlands. With juniper‘s seductive powers enrapturing everyone on the continent and later the British, the market was ripe for the new entrepreneurs to establish themselves. Therefore Karel, sensing this opportunity, founded a distillation business to go alongside the Filliers usual daily working farm-life. Using malted barley and selected grains to create their malt wine, necessary for the Genever, they soon found that with the increase in sales there was a need for further expansion. By 1880, when funds had finally been collected, they installed a new steam engine for the distillery that would enable a quicker distillation time period, aiding sales and furthering Genever products onto the spirits range. Kamiel Fillier, son to Karel and second generation member from the Filler’s family farm and distillery, helped to push through these various expansion driven instalments. By building on what his father had left, he brought an ambitious and ever-growing Filliers into the 20th Century.
A couple of decades later, now well into the start of the 20th Century, worldwide politics and relations between a major contingent of European countries had unexpectedly taken a dramatic turn for the worse. With the First World War looming ahead, and with the third generation of the Filliers family now involved in the distillery, Genever production was forced to slow down. Thankfully, by 1928 the Great War was finally over and for a few years a more peaceful atmosphere was present and felt across most of the world. This was seen as a good time for Firmin Filliers to take over from Kamiel, allowing the Filliers distillery to welcome in a new Europe with a fresh pair of eyes and a completely different kind of spirit, that of genever’s descendent, and now increasingly popular spirit – Gin! Firmin created the 28-botanical-strong recipe himself before releasing it in 1928, under the appropriately named Filliers Dry Gin 28.
Firmin established his gin recipe after realising very simply that as the juniper berry played such a central role in the creation of gin, similarly to it’s presence within genever, then the establishment of such a drink within the Filliers distillery should not be difficult to process. The very fact that gin came about due to the English failing to copy successfully the flavour profile of genever showed their was an opportunity for Filliers to try and craft this “London Dry” derivative using all the know-how of an established genever producer.
Whilst their gin was established and sold in 1928 it has kept rather quiet until more recent years… This was partly due to lack of interest in gin in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and partly because it was not exported to the UK. Filliers Dry Gin has only really been in the British market since 2012. This coy nature coincides with other aspects of Fillier’s best-kept secret, including the well-hidden botanical list. Based upon the 29th ingredient, juniper, the gin keeps a mild yet flavourful profile that we know includes citrus, spice and all things quite nice (herbs and roots too). Whilst each ingredient has been carefully picked, there does not appear to be anything too controversial added that can be detected on either the nose or the palate – no rare dragon fruit, snake oils, unicorn tears or other obscure references here – just traditional, tasty botanicals!
Filliers Dry Gin 28 –
On the nose there is a strong citrus aroma supported by coriander, with a backbone of juniper. Fresh notes of cardamom sweetness can also be noted if you’re nosing neat. This is similarly replicated on the palate, with a bright citrus appeal that works alongside the juniper. Gentle and mild, the juniper is touched with a slightly sweeter edge that leads to a dry gin finish. It’s a relatively classic, understated gin but not because it doesn’t deliver. It’s tasty and well rounded, yet without a distinct tone that means it’s often (and wrongly) overlooked. If you like the orangey nature of the gin add an orange wheel to accentuate it in a G&T. At 46% ABV, the gin isn’t drowned out with tonic (or in cocktails) and makes for a versatile addition to the shelf.
Bottled very appropriately in a traditional brown-glassed medicinal/apothecary style, its simple appearance harks back to its ancient history. With a string-label tied around the bottle-neck, and a little paper bound booklet hanging from it, the look is completed with white curved writing that marks the front. It is instantly eye grabbing but not too over-done, and with the rest of the Dry Gin range encased in such a manner, Filliers has given itself an attractive uniformed signature look that is easily recognised and not easily forgotten.
Filliers Dry Gin 28 Barrel aged
Taking their flagship Gin, the distillery released a Barrel aged version. For fans of “yellow” gin (as it’s known), this is a rare treat worthy of top 5 lists. The wood is noticeable, bringing with it oaky undertones and the familiar vanillin elements seeping in, but it’s never overpowering. This is a gin with an oak touch. On the nose the spirit has grown earthier and woody, with the juniper a touch more resinous, yet the citrus teases at what is yet to come. To taste the ageing is palpable, with oak merging with the orange upfront, leaving way to the core Filliers Gin flavours (juniper, coriander seed, cardamom). The finish is much longer with a cheeky nip that lingers with you. It is one of the best examples of barrel aged gins we know of, as it is not overwhelming. The wood plays a huge role in the flavour, but it is first and foremost a gin. Perfect for a Negroni.
Filliers Dry Gin 28 Tangerine Edition
The distillery released a Tangerine Filliers Dry Gin 28 version in 2013 and the variant makes for an interesting summery gin. They do not infuse the gin with Tangerines, rather they alter the recipe so that the fruits are distilled in with the other botanicals. It’s bottled at 43.7% ABV yet seems to carry the same weight of flavours as their original. The tangerines are evident on the nose, with their distinct citrus acidity upfront. There’s the familiar sweetness that it shares with their classic offering too, alongside an earthiness that grounds the aroma. To taste, the citrus recedes fast, allowing the juniper, cardamom and other botanicals to bloom and transform the gin into a multilayered proposition. This is not a one trick pony – it’s actually well rounded gin with a big tangerine element. It’s an interesting sister product and one to taste if you ever get the chance. Even through Tangerines are more commonly associated with the winter season in the UK, we found it worked well both in summery, refreshing G&T’s with a rosemary garnish as well as in a Gin punch.
Filliers Dry Gin 28 Pine Blossom
As the name might suggest, Pine Blossom is the key element here. For those who haven’t come across them – we’ve always found pine blossom to be similar to Pine kernels but with a floral streak. Bottled at 42.6%, the botanical adds to juniper’s verdant nature and enhances the herbal element in the overall flavour profile. To taste, there is something almost nutty and savoury which combines with the cardamom, juniper and underlying sweetness, which we feel calls out for a rosemary sprig as a garnish in a G&T.
As a gin, it’s more on the fringe of what many are used to and while being their most memorable, is also the most divisive flavour profile in their range. If you love gin in general and / or love Filliers Gin, this is for you – it shares many of the elements of their other gins, especially just how smooth it is. Even though it is much like their other gins in that it is well balanced, the pine blossom adds an intriguingly complex piney note to juniper and therefore turbo charges what we all love already. If you are just getting into the category however, opt for one of the others in their range as a starting point, building towards this bottling. It’s delicious and worth seeking out but quite classic and more herbal so less accessible and easy going.
Filliers Dry Gin 28 Sloe Gin
Last but not least is the distillery’s Sloe Gin, bottled at 26% ABV. Burgundy red and leathery in colour, familiar red fruits, marzipan and almond aromas burst from the glass. The sloes are rich and ripe here, leaning towards blackcurrants rather than cherry. It’s not cloyingly sweet, once again showing the “house style” of integrated flavours and subtlety of touch. There’s an evident finesse and this is a great Sloe Gin to use in a festive version of a French 75.
Now managed under the fifth generation of Filliers from the distillery’s conception in the mid 19th Century, this Belgium located family business has grown exponentially in the last fifty years. It is an extraordinary feat to keep a family business running for decades, other similar companies are few and far between. Filliers should be commended for their commitment to rejuvenating the brand without loosing touch of their past. With a successful range of spirits, Filliers has grown from just being focused on genever, to a point in which a variety of spirits are released every year – consistently made with quality from start to finish. Their forte is their understated, carefully integrated nature. These are all gins that would appeal and as a range, are phenomenal in their ability to share characteristics while also bringing one botanical to the fore.
It is no wonder that their gin is starting to receive the air-time that it always deserved. Having won the silver medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2012, and the gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013, we look forward to seeing how the next few years go for them and where the story will lead to next.
For more information about Filliers Dry Gin 28, visit their website: www.filliers.be
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