Friday, August 19, 2016

Martin Miller's Gin with Gavin Maxwell

Martin Miller's gin is another ground breaker, and one I'm particularly fond of. It first saw the light of day in 1999 which was the same year I started working for Oddbins. One of the things I loved about being there was when we got new spirits to launch (in those days we would often be the first off licence to have them, and way ahead of supermarkets). I can't remember exactly when Martin Miller's hit the shelves, but I do remember trying it for the first time at a wine fair (neat, and it's still one of the few gins I find I could enjoy neat). I also remember the incentive scheme they ran to push sales. Every bottle sold was a point towards various prizes, sell 25 bottles and you got a magnum of Miller's. I got 3 magnums, one empty one is still doing duty as a toilet roll holder.

It's a great gin, and deserves a bit more shouting about then it gets. Martin Miller's was the first super premium gin to come along after Bombay Sapphire. The unique selling point was that after distillation the gin was shipped up to Iceland to have water added to bring it down to 40% abv, and then shipped back to the UK (hence the map on the bottle). The reason for this is that Iceland has the purest water in the world, and for whatever mysterious reason it apparently really does make a difference to the taste.

To drink it's quite citrusy, with the juniper coming in the middle of the palate, the finish is soft and clean, and there's a depth to the flavour that really underlines the quality of this gin. Of all the gins I've chosen for this project, this is the one that I'd urge people to try if they haven't already (and are inclined too. No hard sell here, I promise!). It's easy to find, it's not horribly expensive, and it's very, very, good.

It's the map on the label that puts me in mind of exploration and adventure, the shipping forecast, and a certain northern sense of romance. These are all things I associate with Gavin Maxwell's books, but in this case particularly 'Raven Seek Thy Brother' where he visits Iceland to research the possibility of farming Eider ducks for their down (predictably with Maxwell this was a failure, but it still made me want to go there - and one day I will).

I'm not clear if Maxwell was an alcoholic or not, it seems in questionable taste to pair his books with alcohol if he was. He certainly seems to have drunk a lot though that might have as much to do with the drinking culture of his time. Whatever the truth, amongst all the other things in his books there is a sense of martini drinking, a bottle of whisky stashed in the cabin of his shark fishing boats, or brandy in his club, along with a whiff of cigarette smoke, and fish oil, tar... A gin enjoyed responsibly is surely an appropriate accompaniment.


  1. I have just been reading up about the gin, it seems to be very highly regarded and awarded! One that I will chase down, starting tomorrow. Thanks for the intro.

    The idea of anyone farming Eider Ducks makes me quirm, they are my favourite water birds.

    1. It's a brilliant gin, and the other good news is that eider duck farming seems to be very benign. It's all about encouraging the ducks to nest somewhere peaceful that they'll like, keeping predators away from them (I'm not investigating that element) and then collecting the down from the nests when they leave. The down is worth a fortune (John Lewis had a super size quilt going for £10000) so lots of happy breeding ducks have to be the aim. I love them too. Especially the way they sound like gossiping old men when they all get together.

  2. I have tried this one - and loved it. Love the association you make.

  3. It's a definite favourite, and thank you too.