Sabatini Gin: Spirit of Tuscany

When ideas take root

Oonagh Stransky
June 9, 2016 - 14:21

With eight of the nine botanicals used for the production of Sabatini Gin coming straight from the gardens of the Sabatini family estate in Teccognano, near Cortona, and one coming from the nearby Casentino forests, this gin captures all the essences and aromas of Tuscany. 

 

Juniper, rosemary, lavender, thyme, iris root, coriander, wild fennel, olive leaves and lemon verbena. Just saying their names suggests beauty.

 

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To my mind, however, the real nine ingredients that flavor the experience of Sabatini Gin are innovation, drive, charm, history, dynamism, simplicity and gumption. A hint of innocence.  And a cute cocker spaniel puppy named Emilio.

 

At a time when many Italians go abroad to seek their fortune, it is inspiring to meet a group of people who realize the value of what they have and how to make it work for them.

 

I met with brothers Enrico and Niccolò Sabatini this past weekend to discuss (and taste) their product. We arrived at their home just after a heavy downpour. The garden was lush, thick, almost tropical. As if on command, a rainbow appeared, ending right in the middle of their estate.

 

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With gracious ease, they told me how, one evening just two years ago, while the two brothers, their father Ugo and their cousin Filippo were enjoying a pre-dinner drink, they came up with the idea for creating Sabatini Gin. Only interested in crafting the very best, they immediately contacted master ginsmith Charles Maxwell from Thames Distillers in London, inviting him to visit their home and gardens for a weekend. Impressed with their motivation and the quality of the botanicals, the project was born.

 

The penchant and skill for creating alcoholic beverages actually dates back several generations. Ugo’s maternal grandfather, Guglielmo Giacosa, a trained oenologist from Piedmont, was sent to Bolivia by Cinzano to produce vermouth; he was one of the few people to know its secret recipe.

 

With Sabatini Gin, each member of the current team brings their field of expertise to the table: Enrico works in marketing in Singapore, Niccolò is a lawyer in Milan, Filippo worked for Citibank for thirty years in London, and Ugo oversees the estate and elegant rental properties in Teccognano. Production and bottling take place in London, under the careful eye of Maxwell. The collaboration makes for a clean, balanced London dry gin that is perfect as either a gin and tonic or a martini.

 

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One of the biggest challenges the team has faced so far was deciding the exact ratio of botanicals to use in the blend. Since gin is essentially juniper and herb-infused ethanol that has gone through the process of distillation, production times are relatively short, compared to wine. But the exact recipe for which botanicals (and how much of each) to use took careful reflection. Several samples were made, tasted, adjusted, re-created, re-tasted and so on until they came to the right proportions.

 

Packaging is another challenge they have faced with resolve. The shape of the bottle is a distinctive nod to Bombay Gin, but it is clear and transparent. Their name is not on a label but applied directly to the glass itself. There are small etchings of each of botanicals. A hologram of a cypress tree and a slightly greenish hue in the glass lends depth. Enrico Sabatini is proud of the final effect; he worked closely with a team in France to get it just right and is particularly proud of the back label, which explains their approach to gin-making in no uncertain terms.

 

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The first bottles of Sabatini Gin were released on the market at the end of 2015 and are already for sale throughout Italy, in London and in Germany. Numerous bartenders at important hotels are eager to promote the gin. In April, the team hosted a product launch at Florence’s Mercato Centrale with two master classes taught by Alessandro Palazzo from Dukes Hotel in London and Luca Picchi from Caffe Rivoire in Florence and a friendly competition for bartenders. Positive reviews have been flowing in since then.

 

For all their capabilities, the team still has a certain charm and innocence. Case in point: I asked Enrico about their slogan. Having created them in the past for other companies, I’m always curious to see how people choose to articulate their brand. But for all his professionalism, Enrico couldn’t quite recall the exact wording and had to call his wife to ask her. Once verified, he repeated it to me with pride: A London dry gin with a Tuscan spirit.

 

My meeting at Teccognano with the Sabatini family ended in the best way possible: with a spectacular gin and tonic made in their own personal fashion; in a balloon glass, with lots of good ice, a ratio of 1:1 Sabatini gin, Recoaro acqua brillante, and a sage leaf to finish. It truly felt like the end of the rainbow.

 

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TASTING NOTES

 

AROMA/NOSE
Lovely fresh herby and lemony notes with hints of the Tuscan countryside.


FLAVOUR/PALATE
Full but not heavy with the juniper beautifully balanced by the wild fennel, lemon verbena and thyme.


FINISH
Long and smooth with all the botanicals combining to give a sophisticated lingering finish.


ALC./VOL. 41.3°

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