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Saffron

23/10/2013
Written by Gin Foundry

Deceivingly intriguing with its orange hue, don’t think that Saffron Gin is a merely a gimmick – it comes from a very respectable distillery.

Saffron Gin is produced in Dijon, France by the distillers at Gabriel Boudier, the well-known French distillery with a roaring reputation for liqueurs trickling back to 1874, notably famed for their Crème de Cassis de Dijon for which they were awarded countless awards and the esteemed French Legion of Honour.

The House of Boudier is run by Battault’s descendants. After Gabriel Boudier died in 1918, his widow sold the business to Marcel Battault who kept the trading name due to its already established reputation. The business has been handed down two generations and continues to be family owned to this day. In 1969, as a result of growing expansion, the distillery was moved from Boulevard de Strasboug to Rue de Cluj in Dijon.

Saffron Gin was launched in 2008 and was a concept ignited by Jean Battault, Chairman of Gabriel Boudier, when he was asked by their British importer, Emporia Brands, to supply a French London Dry Gin, “It is not because I am selling Vodka to the Russian that I would be successful by selling my London Dry Gin to the British.” Jean Battault turned to British cultures and lifestyles for inspiration – “Today the preferred main course of British people is not Yorkshire pudding and beef, but curry because of the Indian and Pakistani influence. British people were opened to spices and I asked myself what is the most suitable spice with juniper – that was saffron.”

Battault then remembered he had seen an old recipe buried deep in Gabriel Boudier’s book collection. This book, which heralds back to the 19th Century when France had colonies in India including Pondichéry, Chandernagor and Madras, boasted about exotic botanicals as the highest form of fashion. The recipe found in Boudier’s archives is held close to their hearts and their traditions prevent us from ever knowing when this gin might have been last distilled or when it stopped being produced. However, it’s easy to see the lineage between the history of gin during the Dutch East India Trading Company, the use of tonic in Africa and India and the widespread use of saffron as an Indian spice. This all culminates in one very big story about gin’s heritage which we won’t delve into here but suffice to say, there is good cause to think that while unusual, saffron may well be a traditional botanical in the early days of gin and genever.

Hand crafted and produced in a traditional pot still in small batches, Saffron Gin is made from nine fresh botanicals that include juniper, coriander, lemon, orange peel, angelica seeds, iris, fennel and saffron. Saffron is surely the most expensive ingredient. The small purple flower Saffron Crocus give rise to bright crimson stigmas. It takes roughly 150,000 flowers to yield 1 kilogram of dry saffron threads and an average of 40 hours of manual labour to pick the flowers, hence the hefty price tag. Gabriel Boudier play a game of chess when it comes to buying their saffron as they make sure they get enough to meet demand but also try to buy in bulk when the exchange rate is most beneficial.

The botanicals are macerated in wheat spirit before distillation mirroring as much as possible the London Dry style. They believe that interactions between botanicals are unique when distilled all together, whereas the effect is lost through separate distillation. However, with Boudier’s addition of saffron at the end of distillation, for colour and exotic flavour profile, the end product can no longer be qualified as a London Dry Gin. It is worth noting that Saffron Gin is not the first gin to use saffron in their botanical line up. Cadenhead’s Old Raj Gin, which distils each botanical separately, was first produced in 1972 and even though they do not add any saffron at the end, their gin is of a slightly yellow hue as well.

The amber orange colour of the gin is the first thing that catches everyone’s eyes so in that respect well done to Gabriel Boudier in making a product that will stand out and intrigue drinkers looking for something different. On the bottle, the saffron flower adorns the glass and also takes pride of place on the milk yellow label, giving the bottle a lovely tactile element. The label is simplistic in design and type face but also shies away from the eccentric styles often seen in other Boudier labels. Why would you want to distract from the orange hue anyways?

On the nose, juniper and coriander, not saffron, are the first botanicals to stand out leaving the spice in question to emerge later. After all, it is a gin and therefore juniper must be present first and foremost. To taste, Saffron Gin is a classic gin that doesn’t amaze nor disappoint. Saffron makes an appearance by lingering well after all the other botanicals have left and slightly leaves you wanting more. It has a lovely buttery texture to it, and the subtle spice is not overwhelming at any point. Bathtub Navy Strength Gin has more spice and punch to it if that’s what you are looking for – Saffron Gin is more soft buttercup territory (not in a bad way, just more subdued).

It might be fair to say that the novelty outweighs the quality of this gin, but that’s not to disrespect it – it’s a very unusual concept and this helps what is a decent, if unexceptional gin to stand out.

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For more information about Gabriel Boudier, visit their website: www.boudier.com

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