Review: Occitan London Dry Gin

It’s probably safe to say that one doesn’t got to Italy in one’s mind when you think of gin.

Lovely cars, Negronis, aperitivo time, la dolce vita, Stanley Tucci, and all those wonderful things.

But Italy has been in the gin business for well over 100 years, and there now a new wave of gin makers making an appearance, not being immune to the global gin craze we are living in.

I estimate there about about 40 gin makers in Italy currently, some new entrants to the market, some moving into spirits with a long background in wine making or fortified spirits, and so expanding into the segment with deep experience in other forms of production.

I’ve been delivering a series on Italian spirits over the past year and am always struck by both the overall quality of what’s been offered, the interesting backstories, and very often a commitment to using botanicals sourced locally for their particular gin expression. I don’t think you can point to a particular Italian gin style, rather they tend to speak of their place of creation and the style of the company behind it’s production.

So when I spotted a bottle of the London Dry at one of my local stores I was keen to try it. I know how well Italian gins can handle juniper, often freshly harvested and distilled.  Suffice to say the first bottle didn’t last very long at Martini Whisperer HQ, when it was purchased a few months ago and was an instant hit.

So I bought another, and that’s gone too!

Occitan is Bordiga’s London Dry Gin, which they have made continuously since 1900 (the distillery was founded two years prior), it is Italy’s oldest known gin recipe. Located in the North of the country near a city called Cuneo, this gin is made still from the original recipe.

According to their website: “Pietro Bordiga was a bar owner in Turin before he relocated to Cuneo at the end of the 19th century, with the distillery just out of town on a road leading into the mountains. This location was essential for Pietro, as the Occitan valleys are home to a vast array of herbs and other botanical ingredients, essential to making traditional vermouth, aperitivi and amaro.”

Using orange and lemon peel, only four main botanicals are used: wild juniper from the Maritime Alps, angelica, cardamom. There is also a secret ingredient harvested locally in he Occitan Alps. The juniper used grows wild in the Maritime Alps, some of the highest mountains in Europe.

The distillery produces a wide range of products, very much inspired by what they can source locally. Each botanical is handled by hand and may be dried at altitude and then they extract the oils and the extraction is achieved through maceration in triple-distilled grain alcohol in the original wood-burning copper still, with each botanical steeped separately, then blended.

Tasting Notes

  • Nose: Bright fresh juniper with hints of cardamon too, and very clean, no spirit volatility.
  • Neat:  Quite warm and oily on the palette with a lingering cardamon finish, with the citrus present in the middle palette, with lingering juniper notes, very long on the finish.
  • Martini: I opted for 5ml of Dolin Dry Vermouth to go with the chilled gin and an it was exceptional.  Crisp on the palette, with the juniper forward on the palette very evident, with very harmonious spice, and a super clean spirit base.

The Take Home

This is simply one of the best London Dry style gins I’ve experienced.  It you want a masterclass on how juniper should be handled, with each supporting botanical balanced in perfect harmony, on a crisp clean spirit, then try this.

Elegant and crisp on the palette, it shines in a Dry Martini. To think I’d only just discovered this gin that has been made so wonderfully for over 100 years!


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