Words: Ben Davidson
As one of the founders of Martin Miller’s gin, David Bromige has the honour of being one of the trailblazers of the craft gin explosion that has taken over the world in the last 20 years.
Drinks World recently sat down with David on his visit to Australia, and in celebration of World Gin day we get inside the mind of the creator of a one of a one of kind and still a bartender’s favourite gin.
Nestled into the corner of the bright and airy and appropriately named Reign in Sydney’s Queen Victoria building, I find the relaxed and unassuming Englishman behind Martin Miller’s gin. I’m immediately handed a delicious G&T with an aromatic garnish with sliced strawberries and cracked black pepper and before I know it we’re chatting freely about the early days of Martin Miller’s gin.
When looking back to the late 1990’s David remembers that, “When we first decided to make a gin it was about wanting to bring the category back to life, that was one of the aims we had. It was a category we loved and we actually setup the business Reformed Spirits to look at categories that could be reformed into something better. I had this love and enthusiasm for gin, Martin was a gin drinker and our third business partner Andreas Versteegh, from Sweden, got to like gin”. Always good to have people with different skills sets!
What started as a moment when they were served poor quality G&T’s at a local pub, developed into a conversation between friends and eventually became an obsession to create a new gin brand with the belief that they could create a unique and ‘better’ gin than what was available at the time. David remembers, “And it was Martin who actually said look at this, this is England’s national drink! What are we going to do about it?” And with that declaration the Martin Miller’s journey had begun.
Working as Drinks industry consultant and working on new brand development projects, David saw that there was an opportunity for a super-premium positioned gin that amplified the ‘how and the where’ it was made, similar to the messaging in the emerging super premium vodka. He went on, “I tried to infuse the drinks business with the idea of a gin revival and my view was that it was about to happen for gin because they tend to generational lifestyle trends and there were enough vodkas in the world already”, foreshadowing that the time of premium and hand-crafted gin was coming.
After seeing a niche in the market where Bombay Sapphire and new premium gin drinkers were wanting more new hand-crafted expressions and the emerging focus of bartenders creating fresh and premium cocktails the time was right for Martin Miller’s to come to life.
“Our thought was, how can we do something different? For us it was all about how do you get a better balance between the juniper and the citrus” and by using the feedback from sommeliers, they discovered that a more citrus forward gin was more preferred than the traditional juniper heavy gins. They actually snuck a sample of a half London dry and half lemon vodka into the lineup and that was often the pick of the bunch in some of our early tastings! That was telling us something”.
When it came to develop their botanical formula the decision was made to distil the citrus botanicals separately from the other botanicals and then blend the two distillates together to fine tune to final balance of flavours. “But something wasn’t quite right”, David remembers, and because of their connection with the Icelandic vodka project and the knowledge that it tasted incredibly soft when blended with spirit, “so the idea occurred to us that what would happen if we sent the distillate to Iceland and blend it down with Icelandic water?” The result achieved the softness that they were looking for, although Martin thought, “it was really nice but it’s too easy to drink.” It was the Icelandic Spring water which gives it its gentle bouquet and trademark softness.
David recalls, “After thinking about what we had for a while we realised that the finish still needed something and it was Andreas who thought about adding a cucumber note to add a dryness and length and added complexity to the finish and in the end it was the last piece of the puzzle. It ended up being a two year process of good intentions, trial & error, and filled with luck and good fortune along the way”.
Martin Miller’s Gin is, and always has been, a dry gin in the classic sense, with a well-chosen, balanced cast of botanicals. Top billing, of course, is given to juniper and then, in support, coriander, angelica, lime peel, liquorice root, nutmeg, cassia bark and Florentine iris.
Coriander gives the distinctive aroma of ginger, sage and lemon while angelica imparts its woody dryness. Liquorice and cassia root add sweetness and spicy aromas in equal measure and lime peel adds extra freshness. Finally, underpinning and binding it all together, is the aromatic and floral Florentine iris.
By 2003, due to the rise of cocktail culture with the UK and USA, Martin Miller’s Gin Westbourne Strength was created. David mentioned, It was born out of a response to mixologists requesting a higher strength or Navy strength style that would give a more ‘old school’ authenticity to the classic cocktails, as well as inspiring them to create more complex, fully flavoured cocktails.
“What we did with Westbourne was keep the botanicals the same but push up the ABV, and what we found was that higher strength alcohol the botanicals tasted different, and at around 45% there was a sweet spot that delivered a spicier and more peppery note”.
In talking more about the Icelandic water David recalls, “It’s key to the taste profile and initially it was about the romance of the story but it was adding something that we didn’t know about. The purity story is one thing, but when we decided to start shipping the water to the UK In response to the moniker that we were the ‘little gin brand with the largest carbon footprint’, we discovered that when the water was demineralised, to help stabilize it during transit, it was reducing the surface tension of the water and changing the taste dramatically”. That’s not a problem anymore since they’ve been using a sterile 10,000L bag to ship the water to London which is immediately decanted and blended with the spirit to make the gin which naturally stabilizes it, maintaining its high mineral content and soft mouthfeel.
Martin’s Homage to Gin
“I always remember a loving relationship with gin. For me it will always be the most seductive of drinks. History, romance and adventure in the cup. When creating my own gin I wanted to live that love, to possess the aroma of oriental flowers in the shadows, the fragrance of the orange trees in a warm Sevillian night and the refreshing whisper of the winter wind in a birch forest.” – Martin Miller
MARTIN MILLER’S – JUST THE FACTS
Martin Miller’s Gin was born in London in 1998 when, in a small establishment of Notting Hill, appalled by the lack of quality gin at that time and wanting to encourage a younger audience into the gin fold, Martin Miller with Co-Founder David Bromige decided to create a unique gin, no matter the time, money or effort invested to get it.
DISTILLED IN ENGLAND
Martin Miller’s Gin is distilled in a traditional copper pot still to this day. To create the final two separate distillations, one for the juniper and earthier botanicals, the other only includes citrus peels. The two distillations are then carefully blended, then rested for at least ten days in stainless steel containers. This blending enables the distiller to exercise great control of the balance between the deeper juniper notes and brighter citrus.
BLENDED IN ICELAND
After being distilled, Martin Miller’s Gin makes a 3,000-mile boat trip to Iceland, to mix with the purest water of the arctic, which requires no processing or demineralisation. Thus achieving the purity and softness that characterises the soul of this gin.
WHAT MAKES MARTIN MILLER’S GIN SO UNIQUE?
- It was the first super premium gin of the modern line market.
- In its production, two separate distillations are carried out between the citrus and botanical ingredients to achieve a unique clarity and freshness.
- It is the only gin mixed with water from Iceland: one of the purest waters in the world and key to the exceptional characteristics of the product.
- Is one of the most awarded gins in the world.
- It was not created with a commercial objective, but for the desire to develop the best tasting gin in the world.
MARTIN MILLER’S GIN – THE ORIGINAL
- On the nose, it has a mild aroma of lemon skin, garnished with some floral notes.
- The palate is elegant and with a beautiful citrus flavour. Emphasizes its dry fruitiness and the subtle touches of juniper and peppercorns. The finish is smooth, long and softly citric, with a delicate aftertaste that allows one to appreciate its delicate elaboration.
MARTIN MILLER’S GIN – WESTBOURNE STRENGTH
- On the nose the soft aroma of lemon skin is interspersed with a symphony of floral notes.
- The palate is more robust, maintaining smoothness and clarity, dominates the juniper for a long time, getting a more spicy sensation.
- The end is very long, soft and gentle, highlighting sweet fruit notes that invite you to discover more and more.
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