Cocktails with… Vilnius Gin from Lithuania

As I’m sure many of you will know, gin classification is a bit of pet subject for me. Following some recent revelations, I wanted to provide a little update but lets start with the basics.

Production Technique

There are three types of gin according to the EU, each defined by different production techniques: Gin, Distilled Gin and London (Dry) Gin. These are set out in EU Regulation: No 110/2008, but below is simplified guide that I wrote a while back.

So from here it should be clear that London (Dry) Gin does not have to be distilled in London and can actually be made anywhere in the world as long as it follows the specified production criteria.*

Geographical Origin**

Some gins also have Geographical Iindicative status. This has nothing to do with how they are made or how they are classified in the above three categories, but is rather an extra label given to them, usually as a perseverance of history, tradition or brand.

For a while, I thought there were only two products with a taste typical of gin (rather than genever or juniper spirit) that had such a protection:***

1) Plymouth – to class as a “Plymouth Gin”, the spirit must be distilled within the old city walls of Plymouth, which amounts to a small area that includes the Barbican and stretches up to Drake Circus. Only one gin qualifies for this at the moment, the one owned by Chivas Brothers, which is made at Blackfriars Distillery. In terms of production technique, it is classed as London Dry Gin, as no extra flavours or colours are added after distillation.

2) Gin de Mahón – this must be ,made in the port of Mahon on the Spanish island of Menorca. The one known brand that currently quaifies is known as Xorigeur and traces it’s history back to the 18th century. Further details can be found here.

But looking at regulations (110/2008)  I found there was a third product that we would recognise as gin, but that was geographically protected:

3) Vilnius Gin – this must be made in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Today, there is only one Vilnius Gin, which has been produced for the last 30 years at the Vilnius Degtiné distillery.

This gin is bottled at 45% ABV and includes botanicals such as Juniper, Dill Seeds, Coriander and Orange. Once distillation is complete, no extra flavours or colours are added and so (as defined above) its production method also qualifies it as London Dry Gin.

I usually don’t comment too much on the packaging of a gin, but I really like this one, with the handlebar moustache and the Edwardian lady and gentleman on the front. A little motto at the base of the label states that Vilnius Gin is:

“The Gin of All the Best Times”

Nose: Lemon, orange and pine.
Taste: This was quite dry, with citrus and some earthy herbal notes, too. It was quite smooth, despite the strength; subtle; and rather classic in terms of style.

Gin & Tonic
A very smooth and fresh gin and tonic, not too complex but a enjoyable way to wind-down at the start of the evening, refreshing on a hot day. Tiny hint of anis at the end.

Very, clean and pretty dry with a silky texture and a tiny hint of cream and chocolate which add to the satin sensation. Medium to long finish with hint of juniper and citrus, very easy to drink and up there with the best.

Smooth and flavourful, with a touch of sweetness and a very crisp, zesty, bitter finish. Clean, well-balanced and altogether rather lovely. This cocktail had a textbook Negroni bitterness with a long, long finish.

Sweet Martini
Quite clean; the herbal sweetness of the vermouth went well with the citrus, pine and earthiness of the gin, making this another clean cocktail with good balance.

L:R Vilnius Stranger & Vilnius Ginapple

The gin bottle also includes two recipes for cocktails, but these are given in Lithuanian; I have translated them for you below.

Vilnius Stranger
½ Vilnius Gin
½ Vyšnių Sulčių (Cherry Juice)
Citrinos ar žaliosios citronos skiltelė (Garnish with Lime)

You don’t see cherry and gin flavours together very often, but this really did work well. The non-sugary cherry juice, combined with the zestiness of the lime, ensures that the drink has a pleasant crispness. It is the gin, however, that provides the accompanying clean finish. Simple, but delicious.

Vilnius Ginapple
½ Vilnius Gin
½ Obuolių Sulčių (Apple Juice)
Obuolio skiltelé (Garnish with Apple Slices)

Quite a clean and fresh flavour; although I’m sure many will find this refreshing and easy to drink, I, personally, would prefer a cocktail with a little more character.

Special thanks to Irena for all her help with the article.

* There has been a move towards identifying gins that are actually distilled in the UK’s Capital City (such as Beefeater, Sipsmith, Sacred or anything made at Thames Distillers); some producers refer to their gin as “Being Distilled In London”, whilst others use the term “London Cut”, but this does not currently have any legal definition.
** In addition to these legal definitions, some describing styles also exist. Although they have a meaning that is generally understood by a relatively wide audience, this understanding is by no means unanimous and controversy surrounds some of them.
Examples include: “Old Tom Gin”, “Classic/Old School Gin” and “American Gin/New Western/New World/Modern/Contemporary/New Age/21st Century Gin”.
*** Dutch Genever/Jenever/Geniévre, Slovakian Slovenská borovička, German Korngenever, Steinhäger and French Genièvre Flandres Artois are also geographically protected.