A friend of mine loves to shop, and when she can no longer justify purchasing things for herself she puts all her energy and focus into buying the perfect present for friends or family members.
I'd not heard of this gin which is made in Slovenia, primarily for the export market, I believe, until my last birthday when I opened a pretty bottle bag from Jill and pulled out a very smart looking bottle of gin. I do like gin but I tend to drink it mainly in the summer and I couldn't be labelled a particular gin fan, so I made what I thought were the right noises and beamed politely. '"Look at the label, it's Slovenian gin!" Jill told me, clearly hugely excited; and so it was. My thoughtful friend had obviously gone to town buying something that would be a little connection with my adopted home.
London Gin from Slovenia?
'London' does not refer to the origins of this type of gin; it's a type of gin that is made in a traditional still by re-distilling ethyl alcohol with natural botanicals. There are a few laws that must be adhered to if gin is to be correctly labelled 'London' but although there is a long tradition of gin making in London, it was only in 2008 that the exact requirements for a gin to be called 'London gin' were set down by the EU. Obviously this means that London gin is not a protected product in the way that, say, Parma ham or Wensleydale cheese is; it can be made anywhere as long as the rules relating to its manufacture and make up are followed.
The Slovenians actually have a gin-like spirit that is particular to the country; 'brinjevec' is produced mainly in the Karst region of the country (that part of western Slovenia towards the Adriatic where the geology is typified by huge areas of limestone), and it's a fiery spirit flavoured with juniper berries, both fermented and dried and ground. Berryshka, the company that makes the London gin I am reviewing also makes a commercial brinjevec as well as a triple distilled juniper brandy so if you like the flavour of juniper Berryshka's products are ones to look out for.
What makes Berryshka gin special?
Berryhska must be doing something right because their various spirits have won numerous awards at some of the industry's most prestigious events; the London gin won a silver medal at the World Spirit Awards in 2013, and that year all seven of the products the company entered for judging won either a gold or silver medal.
To appreciate the significance of this achievement it's necessary to know that starting an enterprise of this kind in Slovenia is not easy. Business set up in the country is beset with miles of red tape and when it comes to an operation such as this which entails the use of a great quantity of water, it can take years to gain the necessary approvals and documentation. Recently a young Slovene who wanted to open a microbrewery in north eastern Slovenia found the process so frustrating and lengthy that he upped and went across the border to Austria where not only was the process much easier, but the local authorities saw the potential for increased tourism attached to the brewery and welcomed him with opened arms. To be certain that you want to put yourself and your business partners through this you need to be sure that you have a quality product to make it worthwhile in the end.
As befitting a brand that uses juniper berries, one of the treasures of the forest, Berryshka is based on the edge of KoÄevski Rog, an ancient and beautiful forested area where the water has flowed down through the Alps and underground though limestone and ultimately to the natural spring that Berryshka takes its water from. The juniper berries and other botanicals used to flavour Berryshka London gin also come from this landscape.
The Taste Test
I'm a gin snob and though I do occasionally snap up a bottle of Gordon's if it's on offer, I really prefer the more classy Hendrick's which includes cucumber and rose petals among the botanicals that flavour it. I hoped that Berryshka would not prove to be a novelty, distinctive only for its origins rather than its flavour.
I don't know what botanicals Berryshka uses in this London gin but the company describes it as 'lightly spiced'. Although the aroma is instantly recognisable as gin I find that this particular brand has, at first and just fleetingly, a slightly burned caramel or toffee aroma which is very unusual in a gin. This subsides and though there are elements of warmth, the botanical elements start to develop giving the spirit a fresh, clean aroma.
I almost always drink gin with tonic and choose a quality tonic like Fever Tree but I have sipped this gin neat to test the flavour. It does actually have a light spiciness, tasting unlike any other gin I've tried. It is still crisp and clean with a cool cucumber taste in the background but there's a green coriander taste there as well as warmer spices that aren't so strong I could pick out any individual flavours, just a general warmness and depth.
One thing I do find odd is that I prefer to drink this particular gin with tonic and lemon whereas I would only drink any other brand of gin with a wedge or slice of lime. The lime seems too dominant for this gin.
I can't say I prefer it to Hendrick's which I love for the light floral flavour it has but I do like it very much and will probably buy another bottle for myself. As much as I like this I wouldn't make it my regular gin: it's too expensive for a start but its distinctive and different taste makes it something I'd prefer to drink now and then for a change.
Where to buy
As yet Berryhska gin is not widely available in the UK; however it can be bought online from www.finewinesellers.co.uk priced at £19.99 for a 500ml bottle (plus a standard delivery charge of £4.99/order, no minimum number to be ordered).
It can also be bought from www.czerzik.co.uk a wine, cheese and spirits retailer based in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, priced at £25.99 (but with a hefty £9.99 delivery charge). According to their website you can collect from them if you are in the area.
Finally you can try www.lovenia.co.uk a company that sells and supplies various Slovenian products in the UK. Prices aren't given but can be quoted by contacting them by telephone or email.
Note - alcohol 40% vol.