A Piedmont gin to add to your short list of keepers.
Review: Berto Gin - distilled dry gin
Made in: Torino, Piedmont, Italy, by Distilleria Quaglia
Method: Pot Still.
43% alcohol/86 proof
Botanicals (5): Juniper, rosemary, bay laurel, fresh Iris petals (orris), lemons. I suspect there might be a few more they have not shared with us - I‘ve found mention of wormwood.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants into the US it is their first foray into spirits, but one forced by the quality of the product, and the producer. I can’t say I have ever tasted any of the other Berto* products, but if the gin is any indication, I think I’d like to do it. And that’s because this gin is an impressive one.
While the fact sheet for this gin says that there are 0mg of sugar in each liter of the gin, it’s not labeled as a London Dry, but as a distilled gin, which of course means there is bit of sugar in the mix as a London dry would have to have less than 0.1mg of sugar per liter. Which of course leads me to another fun little fact about this gin - it only comes in liter bottles at this point. Another point in their favor is a very good price (less than $30 when I’ve found it).
That said, this is the antithesis of flashy marketing. In a rather competitive market, the bottle looks cheap and drab. It’s plain, lacking in fancy eye catching artwork or slick logos. It’s a gin bottle that can be easily overlooked, looking more like one of those low shelf, low quality gins, than a higher end craft product.
Don’t be fooled.
*Berto is largely a winemaker specializing in vermouths, fernets, apartivos, and bitters - only a handful of which are available in the US.
My first sip of Berto was over ice and I have to say it was a bit of a wow type of first sip. There is some heat, but its not an unpleasant heat, which highlights rather than hides the classic flavor profile with both some sweet and bitter in the same sip. There is a certain elegance here which strikes you hard.
A deep inhale treats you to a deep piney spruce like scent, with a strong backbone of citrus, followed by hints of flowers, bay bay, lemon and just a hint of licorice.
The flavor profile is classic london dry, Juniper, and citrus dominate, but behind it there are other notes - rosemary, and bay laurel are certainly there, The finish ends with a bitter acrid flavor I associate with wormwood or anise comes across to counterpoint with a touch of sweet almost vanilla like flavor in the finish.
The mouthfeel is thick and oily with a sharp clean finish.
Despite it’s largely classic flavor the gin shows so much delicate nuance that I was unsure how it would handle mixed drinks.
My first stop as usual was the martini. After experimenting with it two different ways I found that this was best in a very, dry martini (one waved in the general direction of italy), as anything more than a kiss of Dolin vermouth, just annihilated some of the best essences of flavor in the gin’s profile. But as a very dry martini is was delightful, with the bittersweet finish adding a nice touch to the drink. Oh, and make sure to garnish this one with lemon peel rather than olives, as the olive brine somehow clashed just a bit with the flavors.
A gin and tonic was the weakest drink I had with Berto. A classic indian style (Fever Tree) tonic was a bit like a boot crushing a flower. The bittersweet backbone of the Berto was just lost in that same bittersweet profile one found in the tonic. I strongly suspect with a lighter flavored tonic, like the London Essence, grapefruit and rosemary, this gin would do much better.
In more classic mixed drinks I’d give this about an 8.5 out of 10. While every single drink was at least workmanlike, it was easy to lose the best part (again that sweet, yet bitter essence) in drinks that either emphasize sweet and bitter at the same time. The exception to that was the Negroni, in which the Berto and vermouth seemed to mix in a lovely way. I also thought it was quite good in the Aviation, and in a gin Old Fashoned.
This is an elite sipping gin with a great flavor and quality you can certainly taste - and will be a regular in my cabinet. That said it’s one of those that will appeal to those seeking that classic London Dry flavor profile, but will leave everyone else in the cold.
It gets high marks, although not elite ones in the mixed drink category, but will do the job either nicely or a bit better in most classic gin cocktails.
Rating (Sipping): 94 - sippers will call this one top shelf or close to it.
Rating (Mixing) 87 - Very solid with occasional forays into excellent.
Overall rating: 91 - This is a high ranking gin for those loving the classic juniper/citrus dominated flavor profile.
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.