In 2010, John Savage-Onstwedder became one of the first UK recipients of a 350-litre still license, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the Dà Mhìle organic farmhouse distillery was opened in Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Having endured months, if not years, of building works and bureaucracy, success came to the distillery quickly as their first product, the organic Orange 33 liqueur, won a True Taste Award for its very first test batch!
Dà Mhìle’s next product, and first gin, was their Botanical Farmhouse Gin featuring eighteen botanicals ranging from the usual juniper, angelica and coriander to the less common chamomile, elderflower, red and white clover and gorse which are grown on-site on the farm. Like all their products, the Botanical Farmhouse Gin is one of relatively few in this country that are certified organic by the Soil Association, meaning it is produced using fewer pesticides, no artificial additives or preservatives and no GM ingredients.
On the nose Dà Mhìle’s Botanical Gin is big and complex and rather hard to dissect. Initially it appears damp and herbal with a little salinity. There is definitely juniper in the background, coriander, a little mint and something sweet, almost nectar-like, but it’s not an easy one to pin down.
Neat, the gin is very dry and savoury with fennel in the middle and refreshing notes of mint on the finish. It is also remarkably smooth and refined and immensely sip-able despite its 42% ABV. A splash of water brings out some of the delicate, lighter and sweeter notes, and a softer, smoother mouthfeel, but it remains a complicated gin; trying to identify a single flavour profile is rather like seeking out one individual instrument in an orchestra.
In the interests of research, I tried Botanical Gin with a selection of Fever-Tree‘s mixers. The lime shone with the gin but, as ever, I found the Elderflower Tonic Water too sweet for my tastes. With Indian Tonic and lemon though this was as easy to drink as anything: Dry and savoury – but with peppermint cutting through to give it a clean, refreshing edge – this is as good a gin and tonic as you could hope for. However, the stand-out serve for me might have to be Mediterranean Tonic and lime, which offered just the right amount of sweetness and plenty of balance!
Dà Mhìle’s Sloe Gin, which launched in December 2016, is made using a gin base including nutmeg, cinnamon & cloves, infused with hedgerow fruits, sloes and berries from their own organic farm and also foraged from the neighbouring hills of Ceredigion. Aesthetically, the liquid is paler than many sloe gins – almost pink in colour – as, being an organic product, it doesn’t contain any additional colourants.
On the nose Dà Mhìle’s Sloe Gin is gently spiced with plenty of cinnamon and cloves to the fore and jammy, red fruit in the background. The gin is even more spicy on the palate than on the nose, with an initial burst of cloves opening up to cinnamon notes. Alongside the red berries and fruit, there is also a peppery, almost curried, heat. This is a considerably more complex sloe gin than many but it is also very well balanced.
And, in case you were wondering, at 25% ABV, is it classified as a sloe gin rather than a liqueur. And, regardless of the technicalities of such matters, that certainly feels right. It is not as sweet as some fruit gins and liqueurs and it is also quite thin, rather than viscous or syrupy. It’s light too and, while it might not be the sloe gin for everyone (indeed my husband found it washed over his palate a little too quickly), I personally love a dry, spicy, sipping gin so this is right up my street. I could happily drink the whole bottle neat but I have no doubt it would be well worth trying with a bitter lemon mixer or in any number of cocktails.
And with that in mind, I couldn’t resist trying Dà Mhìle’s Blackthorn Welsh featuring both their Sloe Gin and Botanical Gin in addition to red vermouth and orange bitters. A cocktail Difford’s refer to as “a vintage classic whose origins are unknown”, I’d describe the Blackthorn as the fruity love-child of a martini and a negroni! It is, in turn, sweet yet dry, fruity and also a little spicy. I will admit the list of ingredients didn’t immediately excite me but the cocktail did! It was surprisingly good and one I will certainly be revisiting (and not only because I bought a bottle of red vermouth especially).
Dà Mhìle’s organic gins, which also include a Seaweed Gin and an Oak-Aged Gin, are truly craft products produced to the highest standards on a small family farm. But they are also different, distinctive and incredibly creative. If you haven’t tried them yet you really should seek them out. They may not be the easiest to find but they are worth the effort!
Read my review of Dà Mhìle Orange 33 and Seaweed Gin here.
The entire range is available to purchase direct from Dà Mhìle. Dà Mhìle Botanical Farmhouse Gin and Sloe Gin are both £30.00 for 70cl (5cl & 35cl bottles also available).
With thanks to Dà Mhìle Distillery for sending me samples of Botanical Gin and Sloe Gin.