• Jonathan Winters

Astobiza Dry Gin Review


Perhaps the best Spanish gin available in the US.


Review Astobiza dry gin

Made in: Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain by Basque Moonshiners S.L.

Base: Grain

Method: Coffey still

40% alcohol/80 proof


Botanicals 11 (12): juniper, sloeberry(hawthorne), mint, ginger, orris root, blackberries, lemon zest, basil, strawberries, grapefruit zest, Grapes (hondarribi zuri), essence of harvest


Style: London Dry


Wow… two Spanish gins in a row, I must be on a roll, or I’m thinking about going back to Spain, or.. As in fact was the case, I just happened to pull another of the many Spanish gins in my liquor cabinet out randomly. And well, Astobiza is not a gin that should be random or an afterthought. And it’s available in the US, at least in some states.


It comes from the Basque region of Spain, that is the northwest coast along the Bay of Biscay, which happens to be one of the great food and drink regions of the world. The Astobiza winery has plenty of awards. They took that knowledge to their gin, and incorporated local ingredients including wild juniper berries, local botanicals, fruit, and the same grapes they use in their wines.


Now speaking of their botanicals, you’ll notice an interesting 12th botanical listed with the 11 that you see on a lot of the botanical lists for the gin - Harvest Essence. So what exactly is that? They describe it as the essence of the harvest - harvested from the fermenting deposits of the harvest. I can’t quite figure out just what that is, but I suspect it’s the aroma of young wine before being casked for aging.


And from that beginning, and those botanicals, their gin, as well as their vermouth have taken awards at the World Spirit Awards. And this is not a lightweight gin, but a serious one, aimed at the highest tier of the gin market. By that I mean it’s a pricey gin - in the $50-60 range. So let's taste what is in the bottle and see if it’s worth that kind of money.


Tasting notes


You’d think that a gin with this much fruit in the botanical mix would be sweet or extremely potent flavorwise but you certainly don’t get any of that when sipping this gin. Neat or on the rocks this is a lovely London dry gin which is a wonderful sipping gin. It is clean, crisp and surprisingly light, with complex flavors, and a delicacy that is unexpected in most London Dry gins.


The nose of the gin has a nice bit of berry, notably red berry on the nose with a good citrus and perfumed background (probably due to the amount of citrus flower used in the botanical mix).


The dryness of this gin is the first thing that really jumps out when you taste it followed by strong herbaceous notes notably the mint, basil and ginger. Those flavors meld beautifully with juniper, a good dollop of citrus, and notes of lush berry. After that the base made from wine grapes really shine though.


The gin is dry and sharp on the opening, and rolls into a full thick pleasant viscous texture as it sits on the tongue. It’s a very nice finish.


Mixability:


As this has a more or less traditional core with some variation in the traditional flavor profile I figured it would be a decent mixture. The only real question was if the variations would add to cocktails, or if they’d be off.


In a gin and tonic, Astobiza had both pluses and minuses. On the minus side, with most tonics I felt it required a bit of a larger pour for the taste of the gin to really shine through as the flavors were a bit muted otherwise. But with a slightly larger pour it made for solid G & T although it definitely goes for refined and restrained, rather than a flavor bomb in terms of taste. Garnished with a slice of orange and a sprig of rosemary it definitely sings. It also worked extraordinarily well with Schweppes 1783 tonic. The flavor profile here shows a bit of berry in it.


As a martini gin I like the depth of the gin, and the flavors. I made this one with Dolin at a 6:1 ratio, and a twist of lemon, as it is not ideal with an olive. It’s not quite an expected taste, while there is plenty of juniper, citrus, and then you get some shades of mint, basil, and even a very slight hint of berry, way in the back. It’s not traditional but it somehow works well. I can’t say it’s as elegant or as refined as gins like Nouaison, but it makes for a good martini.


As always I debated the cocktails I thought would be best with this gin. The Southside was an easy choice as it just seemed to naturally fit the flavor profile here. While that was a great drink I felt the gin was a bit wasted in a Gimlet, or Corpse Reviver. It stood up beautifully in an Alaska however.


Overall


This is an expensive gin. And like a good scotch it’s best neat or with an ice cube or two. That said I wouldn’t overly mix a good scotch in most cocktails (there are exceptions) and I find that to be the same with Astobiza. It’s very good in a gin and tonic with a better quality tonic, great in a gin tonica, and very good in a martini, but I found it a bit too restrained in more flavored cocktails to be exceptional, but it still is very good.


Astobiza is elegant and refined. It’s a wonderful gin for those who love to sip gin, or are looking for something a bit more elevated.


Flavor profile:

Spice 2/5

Herbal: 4/5

Juniper 2/5

Floral 2/5

Citrus 3/5

Heat 2/5


Rating (Sipping): 97 - an elite sipping gin.

Rating (Mixing) 86 - Well above average in gin and tonics and martinis, better than average in most other cocktails.

Overall rating: 92 - An elite gin that makes a good case for being the best gin to come out of Spain.


 

What you need to know about reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.




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