GIN is without a doubt the spirit du jour. Already having what I consider to be a fairly impressive collection, I’m always excited to discover something new. So when the announcement arrived that there is a new player in the Cape Town market – the only gin in the world distilled with Atlantic Ocean sea water – my interest was immediately piqued and I set up a meeting with its creators, Jess Henrich and Niel du Toit.
“We came up with the concept of A Mari, which is Latin for ‘from the sea’,” says Niel. “The gin reflects its surroundings in Cape Town. We distill it with Atlantic Ocean water and use the fynbos that grows on the Atlantic coast, so it’s a combination of the land and the sea. It’s the essence of Cape Town in a bottle.”
“We get the water from a very specific place, a little bay close to Scarborough where the water is very clean,” says Jess. “And we’ve also got a boat for water from the deep ocean,” adds Niel.
The obvious first thought is that the gin will be salty, but it’s not. “It’s a common misconception, but the heat of the distilling process desalinates the water,” explains Jess.
“The water gets added to the pot still with all the botanicals, apart from the fynbos typical to the coastline. So the normal London Dry – juniper, coriander, fresh citrus,” says Niel. The result is a lovely clean, fresh flavour – I know this because I took a swig straight from the bottle.
Not very ladylike, I know, but whenever tasting a new spirit for the first time I like to do it without anything added. This helps to figure out how best to enjoy it with mixers, if any, although the soft mouth feel instantly makes it suitable for a martini – with the barest minimum of vermouth, in the style of Winston Churchill, who famously said the only way to make a martini was with ice-cold gin, and a bow in the direction of France.
I asked Niel and Jess for their suggestions, since they know best: “It’s very smooth so it can be drunk neat, although that’s a new concept for people to get their heads around” says Niel. “Our perfect serve with tonic is with a slice of pink grapefruit – which complements the citrus element – and a sprig of thyme.”
This premium gin is made in small batches and Niel and Jess do everything from harvesting the botanicals, to distilling, to hand numbering each bottle that goes onto the market. They are currently working on a second gin. A Mari Ocean Gin is available at leading stockists, bars and 5-star hotels in and around Cape Town with distributors coming on line to service the rest of the country in the coming months.