Gin Sul is made in Hamburg but has roots in Portugal, where fresh lemons from the western Algarve and rock rose from Costa Vicentina are used as feature botanicals.
Price: ~ £38 (500ml)
Rock rose (Cistus Ladanifer)
Gin Sul was a completely spur of the moment purchase I made when ordering a whole bunch of gins from Germany a while back. It sounded interesting, so I took a punt (plus buying from Germany meant I paid about half the UK price)!
Made in a 100 litre still with the lemon peel, rosemary, and ‘rose’ petals sat above the liquid so that the vapour passes through them rather than stewing with the other botanicals. Gin Sul is a hand crafted love letter to Portugal, from Germany, and at it’s heart is the word ‘Saudade’, or ‘soulful longing.’
The bottle is white clay, glazed and screen printed, and is a nod to the original bottling method of jenever. The clay is also said to protect the contents from fluctuations in light and temperature. It is a simple, common shape with a nice simple cork stopper. In honesty I’m fairly ambivalent towards it. To be sure, ceramic or clay bottles do stand out purely because they are not the standard glass we are all so used to now, and the name of the gin certainly stands proud. It’s simplicity works in it’s favour, but for me it’s also a little on the dull side.
Gin Sul is a fairly subtle smelling gin at first. Nothing much leaps from the glass, instead a rich, heavy cloud of citrusy pine slowly climbs up, sweet and spicy. For me, the cinnamon plays a big part in the aroma, which I like a lot, but I’m surprised not to get more lemon, based on what I’ve read and how strongly featured they are. It’s fragrant, but not ostentatious, instead leaving you feeling comfortable that what’s in the glass is, while modest, likely very capable.
Neat, I was expecting those lemons to make themselves known, but again that’s not what strikes me first. There’s a beautiful mingling of rose and cinnamon that I can’t recall every really experiencing before. It’s a sweetly spiced, floral flavour that really dances around the mouth, followed by a lovely savoury herbal note from the rosemary. The lemons I suspect act as much more of a backbone to the whole flavour, rather than a showstopper and there’s definite light tang throughout. You’d never suspect it has an ABV of 43%, and though it’s not what I was expecting (a ‘lemony gin’), I’m much happier with what I’ve got!
With the addition of water, that cinnamon expands a bit, becoming more robust, as does the rosemary. It really is a beautiful marriage of the cinnamon and herbal/floral notes that the other botanicals bring. The lemon finally starts to creep out with a definite base layer of citrus that I would describe more as hearty than zingy and as I usually find, all of the flavours are given a little extra room to expand.
Finally a G&T (2:1 Lamb & Watt Original) with a sprig of rosemary and a lemon wheel (the website recommends orange peel but I don’t have an orange and I wanted to try to bring out the lemons more). The result is an absolutely beautiful drink. Though I have to say, for me, this gin is all about the cinnamon! I can still taste it above everything else and it’s one of the best cinnamon flavours I’ve ever had in a gin. It’s as fresh as a bite of bark. Beyond that, the lemon and rosemary are doing a stellar job of adding a freshness to the drink that I think otherwise the cinnamon might be in danger of overpowering. This is absolutely wonderful.
Gin Sul is an unexpected delight. For me it’s not a classic gin, in the sense that juniper has played a very minor role, but the flavours that are there are not only wonderfully fresh, but they work together better than I would have imagined. The floral/cinnamon dynamic is a wonder to behold, and when those greener, herbal notes come through they still manage to dance to the same tune. It’s a touch on the expensive side at UK prices, but it’s an expertly balanced gin that’s well worth trying!
Remove up to 1 feather if you like your gin classically junipery! Add half if you love cinnamon or money is no object.
Gin Sul is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.