BORN OF LOVE, OBSESSION & MADNESS
Martin Miller and his two friends, David Bromige and Andreas Versteegh, kicked off the whole gin ‘new wave’ back in 1999 with the launch of Martin Miller’s eponymous gin.
Picture a quiet bar in Notting Hill Gate some time in the late summer of 1998. Three friends are sitting around three very sad looking gin and tonics.
One of them, a certain Martin Miller, sits, stirring his melting ice, quietly murmuring to himself. Pushing away his drink, he looks up and asks,
”You know what I’m going to do?“
“No.” reply his two friends.
“I’m going to make my own gin.”
“What on earth have you been drinking?” they ask, (they’ve heard this sort of thing from him before.)
In reply Martin fires a question back at them.
“Just suppose time and money were no object, what would it take for us to make the perfect gin?”
His friends simply shrugged.
“Well, do you want to know what I think?“
They knew they would have no choice in the matter.
“Well gin certainly shouldn’t taste like this.” he said wrinkling his nose,
“Isn’t gin supposed to taste good? No, not just good, great; even when drunk neat.“
He was now toying with a limp lemon slice, spearing it absentmindedly with the end of a cocktail stick.
“After all gin isn’t some boring neutral spirit; gin is the most seductive of drinks.”
“Good gin should invite you to love it.”
He was warming to his subject.
“Think of it this way,” he continued, “gin is like history in a glass. Gin has created social revolutions; made laws and broken laws. What’s more it simply wouldn’t exist if Marco Polo and those other early travellers hadn’t followed the Silk Road.”
He paused for a second.
“Or, for that matter, suppose Columbus hadn’t set out in search of the Indies and got himself hopelessly lost in the Americas, also no gin.”
“No.” he stated firmly,
“It’s not just history in a glass, it’s romance and adventure too.”
Peering into his own glass, he enquired of his friends,
“Come on tell me, where’s the romance in vodka?”
Before they could open their mouths he had his own answer.
“Vodka’s a medicine not a drink; a triumph of science over the heart.”
He looked up at his friends and enquired,
“Come on, where’s the love in that?”
His friends simply turned their eyes to the heavens.
Gin from the heart…
“But what’s new that we can bring to the table?” asked one of his friends. “Shouldn’t we have some sort of gimmick or secret ingredient?” said the other.
Martin practically exploded.
“Don’t you understand what I’m talking about?”, he roared. (Never one to suffer fools gladly)
“My aim isn’t to create some eccentric ‘flash in the pan’ gin, scented like some old ladies boudoir! I want to create a modern classic, a gin for everyone who can appreciate fine gin.”
He continued more patiently, “As I’ve said before gin, by its nature, has to be seductive and I want my gin to be the most seductive of all.”
He snatched a napkin and started to scribble a list, “We will source juniper from Tuscany and India, cassia bark from china, scour France for the best angelica, and get our Florentine iris from, well, Florence.”
Looking up he continued, “I‘m telling you, my gin is going to have the scent of oriental flowers at dusk and the fragrance of orange groves on a warm night in Seville.”
He looked dreamily at no one in particular, murmuring, “And I want it to whisper to me of clean stands of fir trees in the winter wind.”
His friends looked at each other bemused as he re-read his napkin, ticking each detail off his list in an exaggerated manner.
“And the distillation? How about that?” asked one.
He came back immediately, “Isn’t it obvious?”
“We’ll find England’s best distiller,“
“and demand he uses only the most traditional methods. No new fangled berry trays or Carterheads for us.”
He turned up his nose in disgust at the thought.
“I will insist on a distiller’s cut, straight from the heart of the spirit, sharp as a Savile row suit, yet as smooth and refined as that classic Bentley I used to own.”
He was now chuckling to himself.
“That’s it. I want to create a modern classic, but with a twist on tradition. It’ll be a fresh, soft gin unlike any other.”
He thought for a second, then, with a final flourish, he concluded.
“Obsessive attention detail. That will be our secret ingredient.”
“Does distance really lend enchantment?”
“Of course, some may say the secret’s in the water.”
Said martin, breaking the silence at last.
“What do you mean? What secret?” His friends enquired.
“All other gins use demineralised water”
His friends looked nonplussed.
“Well yes, and so what?” they said.
“Do you know what Icelanders call demineralised water? Dead water. That’s what.”
“Dead?” they looked blank. “How dead?”
“Well, Icelanders believe that by processing or de-mineralising water it loses something… its life force.”
“Life force?” they looked at him dubiously.
“Yes.” He said.
Then, as if talking to a child, “Icelanders, to this day, believe elves and spirits live in all things, they call them ‘the hidden people’ and they believe they impart life to the natural world. They are treated with great respect. They live in rocks, caves, and in water of course.”
Both friends looked incredulous.
“All right,” he said, “it‘s not the only reason why we must use this water. Not only do fairies live in it but is it the purest water on earth, it’s also the softest.”
He looked at them, expecting the penny to drop..
“Think of it this way then. Imagine water that fell as rain when the earth was a younger and less polluted planet, now think of that same rain taking millennia to filter through hundreds of feet of granite and lava to create water of unrivalled purity and softness. What’s more”, he added, “It’s simply perfect for blending gin.”
Smiling to himself he continued, “So if you ever need proof that distance lends enchantment, one taste of Martin Miller’s Gin should do the trick.”
Now he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Martin miller’s – the most enchanting of gins.”
“So you’re going to send the gin 1500 miles just to add water?” asked his friends in disbelief.
“Yes,” he retorted without hesitation.