Gin de Menorca
Gin de Menorca or Gin de Mahón is a Spanish variety of gin or Jenever, a juniper flavoured alcohol, which is made on the island of Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands which can be found to the East of the Spanish peninsular. This particular drink has its own regional stamp.
Gin de Mahón is a clear liquid that is very fine. The drink should smell strongly of alcohol but the aroma of the strong juniper berries should be the strongest. Other undertones will include the aromas of grains and seeds. The taste of this Spanish gin is dry and strong, something which should be expected as a result of its high alcohol content - usually between 38 and 43%. However the taste should not be over-powering, but rather balanced and refined, with a clear taste of juniper berries.
History of Gin de Menorca
The origin of this Spanish gin can be dated back to the 18th century. During this time, the island of Menorca was being occupied by the British by virtue of the Treaty of Utrecht. As a result, a lot of soldiers and sailors from Great Britain would stop over on the island. This lead to a strong influence from Britain in Menorca, which among other things, increased the demand for British products to be shipped to island both among the British, who despite undergoing a Spanish immersion, still craved things from home, as well as among the Menorcans. Among those products was Gin.
Gin was not a British or a Spanish invention, but actually came from Belgium and the Netherlands. However it was the British who were most in love with the drink. In the end, they decided to convert themselves from being one of the biggest consumers to one of the biggest manufacturers of the beverage. Hence, the Brits had enough to ship over to Menorca for their troops away from home. However, to make sure that they met the demand of the foreigners, and to fill the gaps between shipments, the Menorcans decided to begin making their own gin, hence the beginnings of gin de Menorca.
When the British finally abandoned the island in 1802, the people of Menorca continued to drink gin and continued making their own version instead. The Menorcan gin was made by artisan distillers in the city of Mahón, where it was made with an aguardiente produced from fermenting cereals, which was then distilled and aromatized with juniper berries, amongst other things. As time passed, the gin was made using other strong alcohols which had been made using other agricultural products instead of cereals. This alcohol tended to be made from grapes which grew well in the climate found on the island. This element of the Menorcan recipe is what makes this drink unique to this area, and why it has been allowed its own DO, despite being similar to the Jenever of Belgium and the Netherlands.
By the 20th century, a number of brands began to emerge such as Xoriguer which was bottled and commercialised, increasing in popularity across all of the Balearic Islands. In 1997, the island's gin was given a Regional Designation of Origin 'Gin de Menorca', however this was later changed in 2010 to be 'Gin de Mahón'. If you ever visit Ibiza, or anywhere else in the Balearic Islands, make sure you try some of the island's gin - you won't be disappointed.
Production of Gin de Menorca
Gin de Mahón is produced through the distillation of ethyl alcohol which is made from agricultural products, with juniper berries in copper stills. These stills are then heated by wood fires. Once made, the gin is then stored in white oak barrels which are made from the wood of American oak trees, which means that the gin absorbs some of the wood flavour too.
The Spanish gin from Menorca is therefore made from only two ingredients:
- Juniper berries - with an oil content of 7-9 parts per thousand
- Ethyl alcohol - made from agricultural products
The best juniper berries for the production of gin from Menorca are those which are grown at an altitude of between 800 and 1000 metres above sea level as these normally have a stronger flavour and aroma which is then passed on to the drink. No additional additives, aromas or extracts may be used in the production of Gin de Mahón.