Chicken Provençal, herbs de Provence—as a general rule, things that come out of Provence tend to be delicious. You may now add gin to that list, thanks to a new release from the century-old Distilleries et Domaines de Provence, which may be best known for producing Henri Bardouin Pastis and Grand Absente absinthe.
Gin XII is indeed distilled in Provence, and the majority of the 12 botanicals used to flavor it are harvested from that bucolic region. Aside from juniper, the spirit is made with coriander, sweet almond, thyme, angelica, grains of paradise, iris, cardamom, basil, rosemary, eucalyptus and mint.
It has a very soft nose with detectable but restrained juniper, which mingles with lightly sweet mint, green notes of basil and rosemary, and a spicy touch of cardamom. On the palate, it drinks cool in temperature with a light body and an oily texture. Those first flavor notes are of cool, soothing spearmint, which soon turn green with the layered notes of rosemary, thyme and sweet basil. This green bouquet is joined at the center by floral notes that give it a powdery, potpourri-like quality that’s uninterrupted by the expected juniper spice burst. Instead, the finish comes in sweet and cool with eucalyptus before signing off with a gentle touch of cardamom for a subdued but detectably spiced finish.
Gin XII is all around one of the softest gins I’ve encountered. If you crave that juniper spice bolt, you’ll want to look elsewhere. What it does offer is a lightly sweet ride perfumed by green herbs and fragrant florals, which makes it something like the potable equivalent of a fancy French soap bar (which, I should add, is not intended as a knock).
In a Gin and Tonic those floral and herbaceous qualities persist, giving the drink a pleasant garden-in-a-glass quality. However, those who expect a stronger juniper kick from their G&T may find it wanting. But it doesn’t seem fair to ding Gin XII for this, as its mild softness seems by design and it certainly isn’t lacking in flavor. It’s just a much different ride, one I’m tempted to compare to driving through the fields of Provence in a Citroën with the top-down at a leisurely speed.
— 42% ABV