Every culture has a distinct approach to spirits, and gin in particular. Their culture of drinking, crafting distilling and culinary history forms the premise of many modern expressions of gin, which is surely the most diverse form of spirits in the world today.
In a newish bar in London, the Holborn Dining Room holds the current world record of gins in its bar, over 400!
I was estimate that there are at least double that number of labels currently around the globe (and growing) including small batches and multiple varieties produced by distillers.
Each with their own personality, its happy days indeed for gin lovers!
But there are those purists who frown on many of the modern expressions of gin, and believe we’ve gone too far in using exotic botanicals and flavours for these spirits to be called gin. Just including juniper in the spirit for them isn’t enough.
There is something in this.
When someone say’s ‘gin’ you’ll have an image of what you might expect, and it creates a challenge for makers who want to push the envelope to gain the trust of the drinker.
Which brings me to a first for the Martini Whisperer: a gin from Belgium, and one inspired by that country’s renowned craft of perfecting chocolate.
Gin in Belgium
If you didn’t know already, we owe a debt to the Low Countries, for its from the ancestor of modern gin, Geneva (or Jenever) was created back in the C15th and is still drunk today. In fact Belgium is the only country according to EU regulations that can still produce it authentically.
The region naturally has a very long established spice trade and of cours, the growing of herbs and great produce. So this all comes together in their spirits, and modern expressions of gin are now emerging based on these traditions. Typically they enjoy the gin neat, or on ice.
About the Gin
In their search for gin perfection they makers tried at least 14 recipes and ended up sourcing 45 herb and spices from around the world (plus juniper). Yes, 45.
So we’re some of the finest ingredients like Piemonte hazelnuts, Cacao beans from Columbia, Vanilla pods, Avola almonds wild Madagascan chillies.
Chatting with the Makers
I took the opportunity to find more about the development of the gin and how they see the gin scene evolving via email with Director of the company that produces X-Gin, Stieven Victor.
What was your inspiration for the gin?
We wanted to make something different from everything that was out there and were already into chocolate with our Belgian chocolate brand Xolato. So we decided to try if a cocao infused gin could work. Our first thought was that it would taste horrible. We ended up with more than 20 different versions and found something really delicate and special about the final version.
Can you share something of its development?
We made some 50 bottles for friends & family and ended up the next 3 months producing some 5.000 because we could not keep up with demand.
How do see the craft gin scene evolving?
The amounts of gins on the market will definitely increase before they start to decrease. We are not at the summit yet!
I believe the number of gins on the market will decrease with some 90% over the next 5 years. We hope and work everyday to be one of those remaining ones.
How do you recommend people enjoy your gin?
Our X-Gin can best be enjoyed with a neutral tonic (like fever tree mediterr.). Because of the atypical taste we seem to be doing quite a good job at pleasing just about everyone that likes a drink.
- Neat: Surprisingly light on the palette, this isn’t a liqueur. It has a lingering spiced finish with hints of chilli and cacao at the end. The colour is clear and its nose is delicate. You’re definitely tasting the clean base spirit, and the overall effect is of an elegant product. Oh, and juniper? Yes absolutely, up front on the palette gently setting up the rest of the botanicals.
- Mixed: The gin is surprisingly versatile and they recommend using some raspberries or cranberries as a garnish in a G+T or over ice neat. They also indulgently provide some Cacao nibs in a capsule for a garnish to add lovely aromatic notes. You could also fine grate some other spices to your taste and be a bit adventurous.
- Martini: We’re not in Kansas anymore when it comes to a Martini, but it doesn’t mean that’s not workable. I opted for Dolin Dry Vermouth, only about 10mls, and 50mls gin, with a thin sprinkling of the cacao nibs. The resulting Martini, whilst unorthodox was actually rather good! Spicy and clean with the wild chillies and vanilla coming through.
Other options might be in an interesting Negroni, or dare I suggest it, a Mocotini (yes I know) where you use gin with a cold coffee spirit instead of vodka – see my article on the Espresso Martini for some inspiration.
The Take Home
Beautifully presented and executed, this is a distinctive gin that pushes the boundaries successfully. Its far from a gimmick gin, its a refined product that is successful in its ambitions. If there’s a thing as a date night gin, this might be it! 4 Stars.
- X-Gin website here
- Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/X-Gin-206882952977695/
- Instagram: Instagram.com/x_gin
- Purchase via Masters of Malt online
- RRP: 49,50 EUR
- ABV: 46%
Note: the makers of X-Gin are looking for distributors/importers from all over the world- so please contact them.
Disclaimer: this review is of an unsolicited product provided by the maker, views are my own.
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