The London Dry Gin category is always closely contested, as it’s one of the most classic spirit styles on the planet. It’s the original way gin was made a couple of hundred years ago, and retains its popularity today. It doesn’t have to be made in London, but juniper must be its key character, and only a touch of sugar may be permitted – this is not the place for weird and wacky flavours.
London Dry gins are the ideal basis for a cocktail, with that punchy juniper hit the perfect foil for mixers and other ingredients, such as the iconic Vesper Martini ordered by James Bond.
This year’s London Dry Gin Trophy winner is Monterey Gin, based a few hundred miles from the English capital, hailing from the banks of the Helford river in Cornwall. The area is known for its Monterey pine trees that are native to the California coast – Monterey in particular – which explains the distillery name.
Although the Monterey story begins in 2016, it took the team more than two years to achieve a spirit they were happy with – an organic London Dry gin made with the ‘single shot’ method that proponents believe creates a gin with a more intense flavour.
The IWSC judges agreed, awarding Monterey Gin 96/100pts and an IWSC Trophy, praising its ‘zippy lemon, sweetly scented herbs and rounded, warm dry palate’.
Simon Finemore, Monterey Gin’s co-founder and distiller, tells us more about this exciting new gin kid on the block.
The idea of creating a classic but distinctive London Dry started when three old friends were on a snowboarding holiday in the Austrian Alps. I suggested that the gin bubble had already burst and that the marketplace was saturated but we decided to pursue our goal anyway. We wanted to create a gin that would work well as part of many classic cocktails and envisaged Monterey Gin being served in the best cocktail bars in the world. It has taken a few years of hard work to get to the final product but we are proud of the journey we have taken.
I’m self-taught, which meant an awful lot of time, frustration and mistakes, but failing fast is the quickest way to learn. It was hard to get anyone in the industry to help with any questions I had regarding the distillation process and the equipment involved but trial and error prevailed.
My approach is defined by refining a distinct taste that reflects what I like to drink. I can only make gin that I would love to drink. It’s been a long process achieving a taste and mouthfeel I’m happy with. The most important part of my philosophy is to be as hands-on as possible and be involved in every single part of the process from botanical sampling to glass, tasting as you go.
Classic gins like No.3 or Plymouth are inspiring – we only hoped we could make a London Dry that would be fit to be compared to them.
Monterey takes your palate on a delicious resinous journey through its 11 botanicals, giving you a rounded mouthfeel that makes Monterey pleasing to sip neat as well as complement the best cocktails.
Monterey Gin gives a distinct but classic take on London Dry gin where the quality of the spirit and its botanicals shine through and would be a great complement to any cocktail or bar.