If you’re going to put your own name on something, then you want to be pretty sure that it is good. Sir Clive Sinclair invented some great things but is known for an electric car that bore his name and famously failed. Martin Miller, like Sinclair was already a successful entrepreneur before the gin came along. He was an antiques cataloguer and collector, a hotelier, an author, photographer and educator. It was his quest for the perfect Martini that lead him to try his hand at creating a better gin, and he went to no little effort or distance to do so.
The label is reminiscent of a nautical theme, the bottle shape rather like a skyscraper – heavy base that narrows to the neck, which is, like the main barrel of the bottle, taller than most. I can’t say that I warm to the design at all, but it is instantly recognisable in this regard and I was well aware of its existence long before I ever poured it into a glass. First reactions – I don’t think a great deal of it on the nose or neat. I was feeling at this point rather like my money was wasted and I wished I’d invested in something else. However, this is where the negatives end and things take, with tonic, an upturn.
The U.S.P. of the brand is the Icelandic link. Iceland is heavily featured in map form and with the national flag both emblazoned upon the bottle – perhaps so we are not temped to confuse the country with the low-value supermarket chain. The water in Iceland is the purest on the face of the planet apparently, and only this water is used in the making of Martin Miller’s Gin – “Distilled in England & blended with Icelandic water for artic clarity” says the legend, just above the 40% notification.
The text on the reverse is so small that I strain to read it even in good light, but the one phrase I can make out among the elfin words is ‘trademark softness’ and as I continue to imbibe my gin & tonic I have to say I can not dispute that. I am beginning, despite everything up to this point, to rather enjoy my drink. I try and decipher some botanicals from the text, but either they have written them in even smaller text that is impossible to read, or they are omitted.
I visit the web site for more information. Like the packaging, there is plenty to look at, plenty to read – lots of information on cocktails, the company story, about cocktail events, staff outings, and a four and a half minute video. You’re not short on information here, but it is not an easy site to navigate – the gin may well be smooth, but the web site is far from. Eventually I find what I am looking for, or don’t exactly, it is all a bit vague. The botanicals are steeped, rather than using a carterhead, there are citrus peels involved and ‘other botanicals’. I’m really none the wiser. I consult my various publications, apps and gin bibles. Everybody is quite deferential to Martin Miller and his gin, and eventually I find mention of cucumber as one of ten botanicals and that makes perfect sense now I take another taste.
Cucumber, of course, means Hendricks, the two go hand in hand to the point where many barmen will throw a slice or two of cucumber into any old gin and ruin it because Hendricks is generally the highlight of a pub’s gin selection, and they’ve been instructed to add cucumber to that. I usually refrain from joining them, but with Martin Miller’s it seems to make sense, so I try adding some to my gin & tonic and it suddenly zings into life. None of the smoothness is lost, but the thing that has been hiding inside of this gin is now drawn forth. Cucumber and pine notes now permeate and this has become a great drink.
There is an incredible amount of effort and thought that has gone into making Martin Miller’s gin. The great man himself died a month after his 67th birthday at the end of 2013, an interesting character who has left behind a gin that bears his name, and is of equally interesting and unique character. The Gin Foundry entry for Martin Miller’s begs the question as to why isn’t Martin Miller’s bigger?
I ponder this, looking again at the bottle as I enjoy the remains of my glass. It is at this point I find, right at the base at the rear of the bottle, a list of six botanicals used, although still no mention of cucumber. I wonder if perhaps the world of Marin Miller’s gin is not just a little too confusing – the towering bottle and tiny words that say so much but at the same time so very little. The Icelandic trip that sounds wonderful and admirable, but over which I become concerned about the purity value in the fuel used to make the trip. Other wonderful gins are made without the need to travel 3000 miles to fetch water. The result is that I am confused, and perhaps I’m not the only one. For all the suggestions of cocktails and other wealth of information, perhaps a simple direction to put it in a glass with good tonic, ice and a couple of slices of cucumber would do it more favours. Maybe not, maybe I’m just not the target market.
Martin Miller’s Gin – £27.50 for 70cl
Gin & Tonic Rating – 3/5
Buy Martin Miller’s Gin at The Gin Box Shop (at time of writing, under £26!)