Ginebra San Miguel

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?

Ginebra San Miguel
Ginebra San Miguel

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?



21 thoughts on “Ginebra San Miguel”

    1. I have three-quarters of a bottle of it left – I can’t see myself drinking it – maybe pressing visitors to try some in a cruel exercise in peer-pressure. You are more than welcome to it; use the contact form to drop me some details and I will post it on.

      Although, I am curious – what would you want it for?

  1. Ginebra San Miguel is the best! I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Although I have to admit, it is an acquired taste. And I have been acquiring it for 4 years.

    1. “Higher” is such a relative term – I remain afraid.

      To be honest, I have drank worse. A bottle of Slivovich an friend brought back from Bosnia was particularly horrendous – it tasted nasty and left me with an utterly crippling hangover.
      Ginebra San Miguel just makes me feel nervous when drinking it; its the odours of the solvents – at least with the Slivovich, while it tasted rancid, there was little identifyable about it. The San Mig smells like something that is renowned for turning you blind – not to mention the other things that come with warnings about using in a well-ventilated space. It smells like laboratories and tissue damage.

    1. Taste is a very subjective thing and if the people of the Philippines love it, then I am happy for them. I am also under the understanding that there are various products in the line and they do produce a premium gin – which I haven’t tried.

      It isn’t to my tastes though.

    1. Pear-drops – that would be the ketones. They are probably responsible for the headache too.

      Have fun with the rest of the bottle.

  2. “The San Mig smells like something that is renowned for turning you blind”

    In the Philippines they call it Gin Bulag (bulag means blind).

    It’s the best selling Gin in the Philippines because its the cheapest! Drink half bottle and your done. Try it with a Sprite or 7-up or Pineapple juice or orange juice, actually any juice.

  3. Ginebra San Miguel Premium Gin with Juniper is probably the one to try. The “original” Ginebra San Miguel is basically moonshine or better utilized as household disinfectant.

  4. I’m a Filipino. We call the original Ginebra San Miguel gin as Markang Bungo (Mark of the Skull), because it is too strong it could be poison. But it is the cheapest so it is widely known anywhere here. I can’t drink it without mixing it with juice (Gin Pomelo is the best so far). I would recommend Ginebra San Miguel Premium. It’s way better than the original.

  5. Gin bulag is made from denatured alcohol or brake fluid. College chemistry students (especially frat boys) are the known to have created this concoction. This “gin” is also known to destroy internal organs and functions. Regular consumption often result to blindness. Hence the name “Gin bulag”. Ginebra San Miguel is not this kind of gin.

  6. Pingback: A brit’s take on Ginebra San Miguel

  7. We are consuming ginebra san miguel gin foe decades now,maybe we should brought up to authorities the possible effect of this brand.Let us save the lives of the filipino people.

  8. I am a gin taste explorer.I bought a bottle of this stuff thinking it might be a nice try. took ONE neat little sip and my tastbuds told me this was utter crapola. It’s in the liquor cabinet for the Filipino friends who RAVE that everything from the Philipines is a heavenly blessing from above. Yuck!:p

  9. Note: This was the Genebra San Miguel “premium” gin and I am a very very open minded kind of guy when it comes to food and drink.

  10. This is for drinkers who loves the buzz to the point of forgetfulness. If drunked properly at least one bottle you will sleep like a dead person with the worst headache. Filipinos are hard drinkers and regular drinks does not gives the buzz no more. This drink never fails even if your a veteran drinker.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *