A trip to a Menorca gin distillery in Mahon reveals a surprising story behind the popular drink. Here’s what you need to know.
Why You Should Visit This Menorca Gin Distillery
The Xoriguer gin distillery overlooks the edge of the harbour that brought the drink to its shores. It showcases bronze pipes that reach up and around and down in the distillery process and offers juniper berries you can hold in your hand (it’s those berries that give the drink both its name and flavour.)
Xoriguer gin uses a grape based spirit infused with juniper berries and a secret, aromatic blend of herbs and “floral botanicals.”
And at the end, after tasting the infamous Mahon Xoriguer gin, you can find new flavours – ranging from chocolate to peppermint to turpentine.
And if you close your eyes (under the influence of said gin) I’ll swear you can taste the flavour of history.
What history is that? Well, let me explain.
Fun facts about the Xoriguer Menorca Gin Distillery
Xoriguer takes its name from a windmill built in 1784 (you can still see the picture on the label.) Senor Miguel Pons Justo started the brand in the 1900s, naming it after the mill that used to grind wheat for his family.
Why Gin is Important in Menorca
Menorca threw several surprises my way when I visited. Wild flowers, with fields of poppies, violets and periwinkles all dancing like hippies in the sun. Bronze age settlements and olive oil-soaked cheese, made from milk gathered fresh that morning.
With Spain, I’d expected tortilla and wine, sunshine and fiestas. And for that, the island did not disappoint.
But most of all, Menorca surprised me with gin.
It wasn’t just that I’d expected more cerveza, rioja and fino sherry, for example.
Nor was it discovering the word “ginlet,” a thimbleful of the neat gin that kickstarts the day for Menorcan men the old fashioned way.
No, it was a combination of the island’s pride and the trip down the rabbit hole of history that truly took me by surprise.
For one, who knew that gin was invented by the Dutch? (And since I had no idea who had invented it, why should any answer surprise me?)
The History of Gin in Britain
Gin spread to Britain through William and Mary of Orange and apparently British soldiers sipped it on the eve of battle at Antwerp, leading to the phrase “dutch courage.”
In tropical regions, colonial Brits found that the “tonic” for malaria (bitter quinine with carbonated water) tasted far better with a hefty splash of gin.
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, gin became the drink of the poor, due to strange tax laws leading to “gin joints” and “mother’s ruin” as the phrases we know today. Heck, there were even riots when the government attempted to reign in the gin.
But what does all of this have to do with visiting a gin distillery in Menorca?
As the proud owner of the largest natural harbour in Europe, Menorca made a great base. And the British Naval Fleet moved in…bringing with them the habit of gin.
The History of Gin in Menorca
Lord Nelson’s long since gone but, as is often the case with these curious tales of forced cultural exchange, the culture remains.
Menorca, unlike much of the rest of Spain, prides itself on gin.
But, of course, it’s gin with a Menorcan twist.
Pomada: the Menorcan way to drink gin
Try a pomada, an island drink made from Menorcan gin and cloudy lemonade.
How to visit the Xoriguer Gin Distillery
It’s an easy walk from Mahon’s port to the gin distillery, where you can taste and buy Menorcan gin in more flavours than you can imagine. It’s a modest affair, not the razzamatazz of, say, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.You’ll need only one to two hours. And a fully lined stomach…
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