I have tried some brilliant gins recently and all the while, at the back of my mind, I have had this nagging thought that I should be trying some of the lesser known and more budget gins.
In a stroke of serendipitous timing, an opportunity presented itself recently when a fellow gin enthusiast asked if I would like a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel. “San Miguel do a gin?!”, I asked incredulously; apparently so – gin from the Philippines. I was a little trepid, but graciously accepted the kind offer.
Looking at the San Miguel website is an interesting experience. There is almost no information about this gin other than it being a “Dutch-type gin“, it’s “80-proof“, that it is “produced from selected spirits and botanical extracts” and the “predominant flavor comes from juniper berries“.
The site also makes the rather bold claim that Ginebra San Miguel is “acknowledged as the world’s number one gin” and “currently the largest-selling gin and the third largest distilled spirit in the world“.
Could this be a hidden gem of the Philippines?
The box arrived in the post and I took it home, along with a bottle of Oxley I ordered previously. The bottle was textured – little beaded lumps – and the colourful label, which insisted that is was for domestic sale only, was stuck-on wonky; good start.
Opening the bottle and giving it a good sniff sent my nose reeling; the aroma was of vodka with faint wafts of surgical spirit and methylated spirits. Acetone was also a contributing scent. Worryingly, there wasn’t the slightest hint of juniper.
Sampling neat translated all of the aromas of the aforementioned solvents into taste form. There was an underlying sweetness and a hint of juniper, but there was also a chemical twang that was hard to pin down – it reminded me of my days in the organic chemistry labs though. There is something hiding in all of this which might be considered citrus, lemon probably, but I wouldn’t like to say for sure.
Adding water didn’t help.
Adding tonic water drove off lots of solvent smells but it did help me pin-down that elusive taste, as it came off with the effervescence of the tonic – it was a ketone used in a type of glue used for sticking fletchings to arrows. Fancy that, another solvent. A little research reveals this to be methyl ethyl ketone (AKA: Butanone).
The G&T, with and without lime, and at varying concentrations was simply solvent-heavy tonic water. It is in no way pleasant and leaves me with the presentiment of a tragic hangover and a rather acrid chemical aftertaste.
I dread to think what a martini made with Ginebra San Miguel would taste like.
Maybe the kind soul that sent me this is actually trying to kill me by calling a lethal chemical concoction gin and posting it to me. I sincerely doubt it, but just to be sure, I have drafted a letter to be held by my solicitor and released in the case of my untimely demise with full details of who and how.
In some ways, I am grateful; this has given me a whole new perspective on gin. I may be slightly derisive of Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire but Ginebra San Miguel has put it all into context. This gin is so bad, it will haunt my dreams.
I wonder if it cleans brass?