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9 Moons

Written by Olivier Ward

Following on 17 years after Martin Miller’s Gin was first launched, the trio behind the one of the first premium gins in this modern juniper-loving renaissance announced a barrel-aged variant to add to their range: 9 Moons.

With both the original Martin Miller’s Gin and the higher proof Westbourne Strength proving popular, the trio had not felt the need to add to their range, rather letting the gin craze expand around them in the knowledge that their gin’s inherent quality would see old consumers return and a new audience discover them in time. That quality, incidentally, has earned them medals and the highest accolades in almost every competition making them one of the (if not “the”) most awarded gins of the last decade. We won’t cover the full story behind the brand here, but those looking for our full insight on Martin Miller’s Gin can see the review HERE.

The idea for 9 Moons appeared almost by chance. Co-founder Andreas Versteegh was enjoying some drinks created by an adventurous group of bartenders in New York in 2014. They had put Martin Miller’s Gin into mini barrels, ultimately producing stunning results. Although a little sceptical at first, his taste buds were intrigued and he was inspired. With his birthday imminent and as a treat for himself, he bought a selection of oak barrels which he had filled and stored in Iceland. Barrels filled with gin… now that’s the kind of birthday present we’ve been talking about for years!

The process of creating 9 Moons involved much tinkering, with several barrel types tried in a quest for the perfect balance in flavour and finish. The key was to respect the original gin and not, through over enthusiasm and over ageing, create what amounts to, in some ways, a terrible whisky. In the ageing of Martin Miller’s Gin, more subtle enhancements were sought from the barrels that would add depth and emphasise the existing flavours of the gin.

What has been unveiled is an initial, limited edition release. 9 Moons Cask-Aged Gin has come from a single ex-Bourbon cask. It was filled with high strength Martin Miller’s Gin (at a whopping 98% ABV) then aged for 9 months, or 9 moons if you will, in Borgarnes, Iceland.

Barrels were lovingly monitored, tasted and discussed at great length. After precisely 9 months, one of the American oak barrels showed a perfect balance, maintaining the gin’s flavour, but with a little additional magic endowed by its time leisurely spent resting in its oaky bed.

Unusually, for a gin ageing in casks - and especially at such a high strength - the effect was remarkably slow. By good fortune Iceland’s ice cold and surprisingly dry climate proved to be the optimal atmosphere and presented many advantages. With slower conditions, the team had the capability to precisely measure the progress of the complex and intriguing spirit which was developing.

As mentioned earlier, this inaugural 9 Moons is a limited edition single cask, but with a few different types of barrels laid to rest there are mixed possibilities for the future. Based on the reception and feedback, they could either decide to blend multiple ex-bourbon casks and add Bourbon barrelled 9 Moons as a permanent extension to their range, or they could release different cask finishes as one off bottlings.

Around 1,600 bottles of 9 Moons are part of this initial launch, each individually numbered and blended to 40% at the source of their unique Icelandic spring water

9 Moons Gin to taste:

We’ve always thought that the soft citrus and accessible nature of the spirit is the defining character of Martin Miller’s Gin. In 9 Moons, the nose has a significant aroma of sweet and warming oak. With its prominent vanilins pouring off the glass, this is an aged gin for sure and there’s only a hint of citrus and perhaps, if one were to inhale deeply, a touch of cassia. To taste, the cask’s effect is a lot less noticeable however - lime oil, lemon peel and the familiar soft juniper core of the original Martin Miller’s emerge intact. The flavour quickly gives way to cassia and liquorice root on the finish. The cask presents itself once more towards the end too, sustaining the finish much longer and with a distinct warming touch.

Overall the gin feels balanced and in terms of a hybrid aged product, very sympathetic to the underlying gin and to what Martin Miller’s Gin fans will be familiar with. Accessible, smooth and cunningly nuanced. Serve suggestions are to pour cold either neat or over ice, but we feel this may well be the first barrel aged release that really thrives with tonic. All the lovely citrus notes are undeniable, but with the added sweet vanillins of the cask, this could shine with a more subtle mixer like Bottle Green Tonic.

Commenting on the release of 9 Moons, co-founder of Martin Miller’s Gin Andreas Versteegh said: “Given how much we have derided the idea of ruining great gin by ageing I was stunned at what an intriguing, complex and exciting product came out of the new oak barrel after 9 months. Starting out as a fun offbeat activity, I am now very curious to see how people react to this first example of aged Martin Miller’s Gin.

As for the future? Is a permanent line extension likely? Andreas kept a few options open - “We’ll continue experimenting with ageing on a small scale, even if it is just for our own amusement, and if another one comes out as well as this one we may introduce it to the public. There is another barrel David [Bromige], my co-founder, prefers that’s been laid down a little over a year, but he feels it needs a little more time to rest – but then he’s always been a late riser!”

The barrel being referred to is a 230 litre European Oak barrel that previously held Madeira wine. On a trip to the their Icelandic bottling plant and source of their spring water, we tasted a healthy slug (thankfully watered down to no longer be over 90% ABV!), which was indeed very intriguing. Rich fruity berries, much more prominent oak influence and a distinct reddish hue - it was a very different beast to 9 Moons, however one with a lot of potential… More on this another time.

Time, incidentally, will be the defining factor to dictate whether 9 Moons gets the wider release it deserves. We can’t see any reason why it can’t be the first barrel aged gin to really break into the mainstream, as it is accessible with a depth of finish that would appeal to a huge audience.

Some careful price pointing will be needed to make this happen; the inaugural edition  is priced high due to the limited nature of a single cask release and in doing so, for some may distract from the real story. Yes it’s expensive now, but the trio’s consensus seemed to suggest that should it happen, a permanent aged offering from Martin Miller’s would be around £40 for a larger bottle like a 500 / 700ml. It’s all too easy to not see the wider picture and focus on today’s price. In fairness, even now, it is no more expensive than Borrough’s Reserve.

If you come across 9 Moons, try it. If you don’t manage to be one of the lucky few to get hold of a bottle, just give it time, keep a beady eye on the developments and hopefully, in the next lunar cycle there’ll be an opportunity for more to enjoy it…