Martin Miller’s Gin
Martin Miller’s London Dry was launched in 1999 and prides itself on being the ambassador for super premium gin. Having been launched almost a decade ahead of the gin boom, they not only saw the need for quality gin to be made, but also – helped rejuvenate what was at that point, a rather less interesting category…
Martin and Co Founder David Bromige explain their reasons for creating a gin far more eloquently than we could so have a look at this video for the history –
If distillation is both a science and an art of extracting flavours, then the team at Martin Miller’s Gin are truly the Da Vinci’s of the gin world. The gin, both when it was in its early stages of development and now in its production, embodies an obsession for the very best.
10 botanicals are used to create the Martin Miller‘s Gin recipe including juniper, coriander, angelica root, orange peel, Lemon Peel, Lime oil, orris root, cassia bark, ground nutmeg, liquorice and cucumber distillate.
It’s made at Langley’s Distillery using traditional methods and the aid of a beautiful pot still affectionately named ‘Angela’. They separate and distil the botanicals in two individual batches, whereby the earthier botanicals are distilled apart from the citrus botanicals. The two separate distillates are then combined together with the cucumber added thereafter. This dual process gives Martin Miller’s Gin an added freshness to the citrus elements which is sometimes lacking in other gins.
Not to be let down in their attention to minute details, once the distillation is over, the gin is taken on a 3,000 mile round trip to Iceland to be blended with some of the world’s purest water. Naturally super oxygenated and with a higher surface tension, it is said that the water holds in the volatile elements that can sometimes give other gins that “burn” on the finish, giving the finished product a soft, gentle and smooth taste. While the concept that water, a typically silent partner in a bottle of gin, can have a huge effect may seem a little far fetched, it is anything but. Having been to the water source in Iceland, tasted comparative samples of the gin cut using other waters – we can confirm that while the reasons and science behind why the water has such an effect are largely speculative, they are quite apparent to taste.
The irony of going to such lengths to find such pure water is somewhat amusing given the consequences of doing it are part of the reason they had to travel so far in the first place. It would be amiss of us to not point out just how ecologically unsound it is to perform such a lengthy trip for adding water, before it then has to be shipped to the rest of the world as a finished gin.
There is a good reason for the madness however – the water is genuinely much purer than anywhere else in the world (some dozen parts of impurities per million, as opposed to even the most pure of French bottled water which has around 200 parts per million). Furthermore, it wasn’t not possible to ship the water to the UK and blend it there when they began in 1998, as import laws and the tanks required to ship it in required it to be demineralised (processed) – which would remove some of the water’s properties and nullify the entire point of using it in the first place. Today, with technology and storage systems developing better standards, the ability to ship the water has become possible and some of Martin Miller’s is bottled in the UK, sparing some of the back and forth necessary back in the late 90’s.
So what does Martin Miller’s Gin taste like?
At 40% ABV, Martin Miller’s Gin has a full citrus taste with the juniper notes emerging half way through. It has a clean soft finish, underpinned by warming cassia notes giving the gin a rather enjoyable depth. There’s a dryness to the finish too the leaves a satisfying edge. It’s one of those gins that can be really enjoyed neat – genuinely try it and you’ll be surprised – and whose fresh mineral like, crisp quality works well in a Martini for those just dipping their toes into the classic cocktail.
In a G&T, the options are endless as for perfect garnishes as the gin can be tilted in many directions. If you want to compliment the fresh citrus aroma and soft nature, try using basil leaf and pink grapefruit peel. If you want to add more spice to the finish, try adding strawberries and black pepper.
The second offering in the Martin Miller’s Range is bottled at 45.2% and named Westbourne Strength (named after the London area Westbourne Grove, where the idea for Martin Miller’s Gin first really began to take shape). It has a richer, spicier feel in the mouth due to the more dominant taste of juniper at a higher proof. There’s an added bite on the finish from the slightly higher ABV where the cassia also seems more pronounced. It’s an interesting alternative for those who like a more assertive spirit in their drink and out of the two, would be our choice for a Martini or Negroni.
Contrary to popular belief, Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin is not the same gin as the original, merely bottled at a higher proof. While the dual distillation process and botanical selection are the same, the team slightly changed the recipe and proportion of the two distillates being blended together to accentuate the length of finish and reach their desired balance at 45.2%.
The gin is named after Martin Miller. The man himself certainly added a distinct flavour of his own too; self-described as ultra-gregarious, Martin Miller dabbled in many walks of life from publishing, photography, working as hotelier and later a gin mogul. One simply has to take a step into one of his boutique hotels to see the attention to detail and eye for the finer things in life, something that seems to be echoed in the gin.
Sadly, Mr Miller died on Christmas Eve 2013. He may have passed away, but he left behind a legacy that will do his passion for the finer things in life justice for many years to come. We like to remember him as a pioneer in the Gin world and a man brave enough to both pursue opportunities and to inspire his co-founders to go on and create a new generation of gin fans long before anyone else even considered that such a thing might be possible.
In an interview with MAN junior magazine, Martin Miller described the final steps in choosing the final botanicals and recipe – “In the final batches, which we tasted at a large party in Miller’s Residence, we had a favourite, sample 7. Nonetheless we wanted to double check. We had been working on it for so long that we were beginning to doubt our sanity let alone our taste buds! So we invited an audience of sommeliers, and barmen/mixologists and, making them work for their supper, made them taste all the samples and mark them. Luckily, number seven was the clear winner by a mile. It was the sample that had all the ingredients in place. Dual distillation, Icelandic water and the addition in Iceland of a tiny amount of cucumber distillate used, not as a flavouring, but as a ‘drying agent’ to the finish. I remember at the time people thought it crazy and pure weird to use cucumber.”
Why Martin Miller’s Gin isn’t bigger than it is today is a little bit of a mystery to us. They were on shelves before the gin boom, had all the foundations to capitalise on a rejuvenated market and the team who created it also gave birth to what became Fever Tree. For some reason the level of adoption and their status as instigators never quite happened nor cemented itself on the scale that one might have expected.
Don’t get us wrong, the gin has been commercially successful with considerable market shares in both the UK and abroad. However, many other gins have been more successful and established their brands faster, or to wider recognition (Hendrick’s & Sipsmith being two notable examples). Given the design, taste and story behind Martin Miller’s Gin, it feels like from a brand recognition perspective, they haven’t lived up to their potential yet.
While this may be a tough sentiment to state about the efforts of a team who have spend 17 years building their company – we say so as it is genuinely exceptional liquid that easily outperforms so many in blind tastings. Also, we say this because we are excited about what the future holds for them as there are rumblings of line extensions, new campaigns and the dawn of something exciting seems to be underway. They have all the right elements to be a dominant name in the gin category and if we can safely say that two multi-award winning gins and a longstanding heritage of quality is not the best they can do – then what ever happens next, be it a continuation of the status quo or more – the future is good for gin fans.
Martin Miller’s Gin is a gin that you should seek out and taste because of it’s rather unique spirit, both in essence and in flavour. It tastes fresh and lively neat and it deserves recognition as one of the brands that brought back gin to a new generation.
For more information about Martin Miller’s Gin, visit their website: www.martinmillersgin.com
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