Gaucin, based in the Andalusian province of Southern Spain, is one of those fairytale places. White, wonky houses spread themselves higgledy-piggledy atop a mountain range some 626m above sea level, while cicadas sit in the trees all day calling out for mates. Beautiful blossoms shift on the breeze, floating down to land on locals and holiday makers alike as they wend their way through the medieval streets.
This village of hairpin bends and lung-snatching views is a particularly unforgettable one; the sort of place that gets ingrained in your soul – the place you never really leave. Certainly, that’s the case for Belgian entrepreneur Paul Van den Heuvel, whose holiday home in this very village has a garden that is utterly filled with an incredible array of Mediterranean botanicals.
We’re going to give it to you straight, here: it takes greater strength to turn away from the world of puns than we at Gin Foundry HQ can muster. Van den Heuvel, too, is a victim of this insidious brand of humour, so when he decided he wanted to combine the fruits (and, indeed, the herbs) of his holiday home’s 16-acre-farm with classic Belgian craftsmanship, Gin proved to be the way forward. Thus, a Gaucin Gin. Thus 2, GauGin. Invisibility in the world of Google autocorrects due to famous artists aside, who could resist!?
GauGin Classic London Dry Gin is made at the family owned and run Braeckman Distillery, based in Oudenaarde, in the Flanders region. The distillery, founded one full century ago, is currently being helmed by Master Distiller Filip Braeckman, and is known for a rogue selection of grainy Genevers and small-batch, handcrafted spirits.
In total, Van den Heuvel worked with Braeckman for 20 months to get the recipe for GauGin Classic just right. While for the most part it’s a secret (some Gin makers believe there is magic in mystery), we know a good handful of the ingredients in the mix. There’s juniper, of course, along with Andalucian lemons and oranges harvested from Gaucin. These are macerated in a neutral spirit for a full 24 hours before distillation.
The oranges and lemons, incidentally, are worth picking out for discussion. As Gaucin is so high in the mountains, the temperature in winter plunges down to below freezing, and while in the summer it is blisteringly sunny, it never really gets too hot. Because of this, the oranges and lemons take a lot longer to ripen than in other areas of Spain, resulting in a much higher sugar content and a remarkably different flavour profile.
When it comes time to start the distillation process, another handful of Van de Heuvel’s garden botanicals are added in, but this time they’re placed in the botanical basket. Rosemary, thyme, lavender and wild sage sit above the spirit, allowing the alcohol vapour to pass through them on their way to the neck of the still. This prevents the herbs from being cooked and taking on a bitter, stewed taste; rather they come through in the gin with their just-plucked taste.
Two-thousand litres of liquid are produced at a time, but given that Braeckman’s still is 2500-litres in capacity, this allows for a great deal of copper contact. In fact, the distiller opts for a long, long cook, warming the pot so slowly (at almost half the typical speed, if that’s such a thing) that the resulting spirit is a great deal smoother than its alcohol content would usually dictate.
GauGin to taste…
On the nose, the ABV flickers the nostrils, with soft orange and zingy grapefruit rising up alongside a calming Provençal duo of rosemary and lavender.
The same combination occurs to taste, but this time, the juiciness of sweet oranges let themselves known, while the fragrant nature of lavender and rosemary are short-lived as the gin transitions into juniper alongside something more savoury, such as bay leaf. The sage is quite clear towards the finish in particular, but it never dominates the agenda, choosing instead to support the juniper core and extend it’s presence a little longer.
Herbal, yet floral, citrus forward yet juniper rich, it’s an exceptional journey and one that’s very well thought through.
At 46% it’s a beast, but the distilling method and the oily botanicals culminate in a spirit that doesn’t attack the tongue in the slightest, but rather greets it with a curtsy and puts out its hand for a shake. Van Den Heuvel takes a particularly strong stance on the G&T, stating, somewhat boldly, that “if you need to add an extra flavoured tonic, then your gin is no good.”
We’re on board with that in many ways; a gin should be tasty enough to fight its own battles, to push through a tonic and dominate the palate. Tonic is the vehicle, whereas gin is the driver. If you’re looking for a garnish tip though, try pink grapefruit and rosemary, as this will accentuate the two central protagonists on the aroma and the taste. The craft tonic market has expanded so widely in the past few years we can’t help but think about how well GauGin Classic could be accessorised with the likes of Schweppes’ new range – it feels almost rude not to accessorize, despite the wishes of the distiller.
GauGin Classic isn’t a standalone product – in fact, it was third in the line-up. The first, GauGin I, placed its emphasis on oranges, while the second, GauGin II, put its onus on lemons. In this light it’s easy to see how the Classic is altogether more balanced, with both citrusses being clear, alongside a much greener tone inspired by the Mediterranean garden.
Each of the gins are wrapped up in pretty, apothecary style bottles with simple labels. As a package, they’re neat and somehow global. They don’t carry the dusty look of old Belgian genevers, nor do they wear the bold colours of Spain. This is a gin that straddles more than the two countries it calls home; it seems to celebrate the history of Gin from all corners of the continent.
There’s a lot of positives to take from it as a brand and flavour wise, it is all but guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning of Gin fans. It’s certainly one that we hope will do well, but with all that said, it’s unlikely to really get far in the saturated UK market at present. It takes a huge amount to standout and a huge amount of hustle to survive, so a small but cool little project that takes a few minutes to fully appreciate, in a sea of repetitively loud, instantly gratifying and often visually slick is going to struggle for the time being. If you see it in a bar though, get a G&T ordered double time – you won’t regret it and you’ll be thinking of Andalusian provinces and billowing blossoms within a few sips.
To hear more from GauGin, visit the website: gaugin.eu
Or say hi on social media!
Copyright © Gin Foundry