South Gin, as opposed to its sister – 42 Below Vodka – has been slowly bubbling under the radar since the initial surge of interest in the distillery’s portfolio during 2005/6. Tall, slender and uniquely made in New Zealand, South Gin is still around and worth a try if you see it.
South Gin was one of the very first gins to be made in New Zealand. Created by 42 Below (whose name was derived from NZ’s GPS co-ordinates as the 42nd parallel runs through the middle of New Zealand), the very first bottle was opened by its creator Geoff Ross in 2003. The neutral grain spirit used is distilled twice, and then has spring water added to it before it is re-distilled for a third time to get some “regional character” from the water.
The nine botanicals used to create South Gin are juniper, lemon, orange, coriander seed, angelica leaves, orris root, gentian root, manuka berries, and kawakawa leaves (these final two are both local to New Zealand). The manuka berries and kawakawa leaves are used in some traditional Maori medicine and add a certain depth to South Gin, all be it one that’s difficult to pin point without further research into the botanical on it’s own. Currently our best description amounts to leafy.
Bottled at 48.2% ABV, South Gin has plenty of herbs and spices on the palate with juniper creeping out every so often. Citrus is present but only a back note to add balance to this dryish gin rather than being a prominent feature. With a slightly spicy finish (expected given the coriander, angelica leaves and its overall ABV), the gin has character and benefiting from the peculiar choice of botanicals, is different to many out there. It won’t blow you away but it is worth a try, perhaps in a more herbal cocktail.
On taste alone, it’s possible to see why, given the phenomenal global achievement of 42 Below Vodka, the success hasn’t been replicated with their gin. The bottle stands out and so does the cheeky and approachable tone of voice on the marketing materials, but with a website that hasn’t been updated since 2007 and a liquid that doesn’t carry as well as other premium offerings, it doesn’t seem that the team there want to take it to the next level of visibility. We are not suggesting it’s going to disappear, and wouldn’t be surprised to hear of overall global growth or a buoyant home market either – the liquid is acceptable and the brand team savvy; however there seems to be little ambition to raising the profile in the UK, and even less for that rise to be bartender lead.