This is a thoughtful gin that begs to be the centerpiece of a martini.
There’s likely no other family of spirits that are so easily tailored to reflect the terroir of their homes as gin. Regardless of where gin is produced, the spirit’s botanical-based flavor profile invites the inclusion of whatever fruits, herbs or spices are considered iconic products of the region. This is a truism reflected in numerous gins we’ve tasted this past year at Paste, whether it’s the California-centric profile of Grey Whale Gin the Indian spices of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin or practically any of the dozen entries in our gin zodiac. So yeah—although I’ve never actually sampled something labeled as “Mediterranean gin” before Gin Mare, it’s a concept that immediately makes sense for this Spanish product.
Made in the Spanish fishing town of Vilanova, on the outskirts of Barcelona, Gin Mare markets itself by featuring one of Spain’s most famous agricultural products: The arbequina olive. Indeed, the company notes that there’s actually a degree of variance from bottle to bottle because of those olives, saying that the changes in acidity in each year’s harvest results in slightly different gins. Despite the focus on the olive, however, Gin Mare is perhaps even more notable for its focus on classical herbal components among the botanicals, including rosemary, thyme and basil complementing the expected juniper and citrus elements. Together, these botanicals create a gin that is ultimately quite well balanced, reflecting some of the spirit’s London dry origins as well as the sweeter, more citrus-driven evolution of the spirit in the West.
On the nose, I was immediately searching for that “olive” note on Gin Mare, but was surprised instead by the fact that I instead registered a bright shock of fresh citrus, with vivacious lemon and orange aromatics, which segues then into resinous pine/rosemary and a very distinctive hint of thyme savoriness in the fleeting moments of each sniff. This is unique enough to bear repeating: I’ve never really gotten such a pure thyme note in an herbal gin like this one, to the point where there’s really no missing it.
On the palate, this is a nimble fusion of older and newer gin-making styles, and I appreciate the way it borrows some of the best elements of both London dry and New Western gin. The expected combo of red fruit/pine needles from the juniper berry is complemented nicely by the similarly resinous profile of fresh rosemary—those two are a natural duo, really—while a hint of salinity and vegetal flavors note the presence of the olives, although they really aren’t what you’d call the star flavor notes. And that’s just as well, probably—this is a thoughtful gin that begs to be the centerpiece of a martini, which you could just as easily add additional olives to, or simply do without. What it does feature more strongly are lovely citrus impressions, amplified by moderate (but not too assertive) residual sweetness, and supporting spice notes that evoke cardamom and coriander. All in all, it’s a wonderfully balanced profile: Off dry and quite easy to drink, with well integrated alcohol (a judicious 85.4 proof), working surprisingly well for neat drinking (maybe on ice?) or as a mixer or cocktail base.
Despite the Mediterranean theming, this is ultimately very much an all-purpose gin, to be used freely in pretty much any recipe that calls for it.
“Imagine gazing at pure blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea while sipping a gin cocktail and basking in sunshine on the Costa Brava. Well, this unique gin will take you there. It’s a virtual vacation in a glass. What makes it special? Hailing from Spain, the botanicals Gin Mare uses are a cornucopia of aromas from around the Mediterranean basin. Thyme from Turkey, rosemary from Greece, Spanish olives and Italian basil impart savory notes that I adore but rarely find in gin. Salud!”