SANTAMANÍA RESERVA may seem on the surface to be an aged version of their London Dry Gin, using the same 14 botanicals in total, but it’s a little more complicated than that…. The botanical line up includes plump juicy juniper berries, coriander seed, liquorice root, fresh Spanish lime and lemon, a touch of angelica and orris root. There are also Spanish pistachio nuts as well as raspberries, cinnamon, white pepper, dry ginger and rosemary. Even though the 14 ingredients are the same – the recipe and proportions are different to the SANTAMANÍA London Dry to account for the fact that the gin will transform in a barrel over 3 months and the juniper needs to be supported in a different way to maintain its dominant flavour.
Matured in French Oak casks and then bottled at 41% ABV – the gin takes on an amber colour as well as a strong aroma. It’s a very different proposition to the original gin. The nose has gone from fresh floral and jammy to more subdued and sweet. Raspberries are still apparent but are less of a feature on the aroma of the RESERVA which seem to favour liquorice root, nuts and ginger. Perhaps it’s the increased ABV or perhaps it’s the fact that they were dialled up in the recipe used for bottling.
To taste – the overall mouthfeel is soft and rounded. Gone are the vibrant berry notes, which have been replaced with more nuanced spices. The finish is smoother in spite of the higher alcohol and the depth of flavour lingers much longer. Clichés aside, RESERVA feels more grown up. As fans of barrel aged gins, we’re easily swayed towards the vanillins and tannins that are leeched from casks and even though in this case the flavour is subtle, they are clearly discernible.
While the team intend to launch individual barrels independent of each other, they are confident that the flavour profile will be similar enough to only be discernible in a vertical tasting. With the recipe unchanged for all the casks and the maturing conditions identical (transported in the same lorry at all times, poured into new casks and introduced in the cellar on the same day, at the same temperature…) – the results have been tested and fine tuned to achieve a consistency.
It’s an interesting new release to the market and more importantly, an interesting move from a young distillery keen to make their mark on the gin scene. With a grape base, SANTAMANÍA Gins were always going to lend itself well to maturing in casks (think Brandy), but the result is more than this – its a sign of a confident distiller looking to find creative new additions to the gin scene. It’s also a clever move from them as a craft distillery as the release genuinely offers something different to their original London Dry Gin and will satisfy those seeking a gin with more body and spice. SANTAMANÍA RESERVA has been considered as an individual gin and has its own place, it diversifies the distillery’s portfolio but it’s forte, perhaps ironically, is highlighting what makes both gins special – their grape base.
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