Alkkemist is a gin from Spain that is distilled only twelve times a year ‘by the light of the full moon’.
Price: ~ £41
A self-proclaimed ‘ultra premium’ gin, Alkkemist hails from Madrid and features an impressive 21 botanicals, of which Muscat grape is arguably the star as it also claims to be the first gin to use it. There’s not a great deal of personal information to be found on this gin, instead the brand seeks to elicit an air of mysticism by alluding to quests and elixirs distilled by moonlight! It’s a captivating story, if perhaps a little self-indulgent sounding at times! Nevertheless the website has a nice amount of detail, describing how the gin is made using a 3-time distilled base of grain spirit which is added to traditional copper alembic stills and quadruple-distilled. Of course the jury is well and truly out about precisely what effect distillation by full moon has on the gin, but it makes for a memorable slogan if nothing else!
The bottle is round and tapers inward towards the thick base, while the neck is a medium length and is topped by a large gold screw cap in the shape of a wedge, sort of like a golf club, with the name of the gin embossed on top. The cap puts me in mind of a building in Tokyo that has a large golden shape sitting atop it, though I shan’t repeat the nickname locals give it here!
There is one label covering the front of the bottle in textured white, with the name of the gin and tagline above a black and white image of what appears to be driftwood. In large faded letters around the bottom half of the label are the botanicals, and in the top corners is the usual information. A tamper label runs up each side of the neck, but once they’ve served their purpose, very much detract from the aesthetic in my opinion. It’s striking in its uniqueness, and the cap certainly makes it stand out! Personally, I don’t quite ‘get it’ but I’ve got nothing against it.
The nose is fresh pine and salty lemon, wonderfully bright with hints of chamomile. It’s very clean and crisp, full of cooling menthol, herbs and citrus and though it smells lovely, it is not an aroma that lingers. There’s very little warmth here, and though I would describe it as a lack of body and depth, I don’t really mean it in a negative way. Instead it evokes a different sense, one of fresh breezes and fleeting moments. Delving a little deeper and the mint is evident along with hints of tea, then towards the end that recognition of crisp grape comes at last. What impresses me about this though is how well handled some of the botanicals are. I often find chamomile can overpower, and this gin contains two types, but it exists as little more than a suggestion, which for me is perfect. Similarly sage can come across overly powdered and floral, but here it helps build up the herbal elements of the aroma. It’s well balances, if possibly a little short.
As a final note, just as I was about to take the first sip, I got a beautiful, full-bodied hit of dessert wine. Wow.
The grape positively sings on the tongue, backed up with dry citrus and subtle but fresh herbs. The chamomile is there too, but nicely restrained, and classic notes of dry gin: juniper, angelica, and coriander, exist as the canvas on which the other flavours show their colours. Hints of oolong tea appear here and there, along with a very soft mint, whereas mild herbal notes flow like mist. Considering the number of botanicals, it’s not at all heavy, with the samphire and citrus especially being surprisingly light. There are certainly other botanicals I can’t pick out at all, but I have to say it really is all about the grape for me, and it’s a wonderful flavour with all the body that threatened not being present on the nose.
Add a little water and a surprising change takes place, bringing out much heavier herbal notes and a little bitterness. The grape remains dominant, and the chamomile gets a little heavier, but there are definitely more earthy notes for me now. I feel as though a bit of the freshness has gone out of it, but I’d also say it’s more pungent and packs a bit more of a punch, flavour wise. It’s an interesting development, but I think I prefer it neat so far. The focus for me is now a bit more plant based, green leaves and dry earth and woody notes.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Lamb & Watt Naturally Light Tonic with dried lemon and rose petal to garnish). I confess I had to add a dash of sugar syrup to this particular combination, which helped it immensely. Overall though it feels as though it’s lacking something for me. The lemon works well as a garnish (though don’t use too much) and there’s a nice herbal counterpoint to the citrus and tonic, but I’m missing a lot of what was there when it was neat. Now… having added an extra glug of gin, probably taking it closer to 2:1, things have improved again. The Muscat grape comes through now, adding a pleasant viscosity and flavour that works really well with the lemon. Hints of herbal flavours come through nicely, as does a lovely tannin element from the tea, which sits at the back and works exceptionally well now that the rose petals have imparted a little flavour. It’s not your usual G&T and it takes a bit of work to get it right, but it’s good when you get there!
Alkkemist gin makes for a very interesting experience. On the nose, I thought it was going to be all about the samphire, citrus, and chamomile… but when the Muscat grape makes itself known, it really does take over, and while some may not like such a dominant flavour, for me it was a very welcome one. That dessert wine flavour when sipped neat is really something, and I don’t actually think the grape dominates so much that other flavours can’t be appreciated. That said, this is very much a contemporary gin, and not your classic London Dry. Sipped neat, there’s plenty to appreciate, and as a G&T I’d recommend you take it on the sweeter side, with more rose than lemon if you’re going to garnish it like me. From there, if dessert wine sounds like the kind of flavour you’d like, I think it’d be hard not to really like this gin. It’s well made, and I think has the potential to make the right drinks really shine. I’m just not quite sure what the right drinks are just yet!
Remove up to one feather if you prefer classic gins
Alkkemist is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.