“Between the palace of the popes of Avignon and the Phillippe le Bel de Villeneuve Lez Avignon Tower which in the 14th century were joined by the famous bridge of Avignon with its 21 arches, is the island of Barthelasse, the biggest river island in Europe, a land of sand and lemons, swept by the Mistral, perfect for the cultivation of exceptional fruits, bathing in the sunshine of Provence.”
In the plush environs of Fitz’s Bar, London, Beatrice and Emmanuel of the Manguin Distillery regale us with stories from Provence while holding close the guarded secrets of Manguin. The French distillery is most popular for its Poire Williams Eau de Vie, with a Williams Pear trapped inside the bottle for sale, but we had the wonderful opportunity to taste more of what they had to offer.
Many gin purists these days have begun to rebel against the wealth of gins not led by juniper on the palate, and I’d agree if it were not for this beauty.
The Oli’Gin changed my mind – a superb gin if you like your olives.
Made in an alembic pot still names Cesar, the botanicals of obviously juniper, then familiar orris, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica, and flavoured with the maceration of three Provencal olives births a unique gin for the clean dirty olive Martini.
Love olive but not brine? Solved.
This nose is not kidding around. Olive tapenade pours out of the bottle when uncorked, and lingers. Mandarin follows soon after, and the aroma of truffle makes a powerful entrance, masking the shy bouquet of jasmine and white flowers. The journey ends with a train of olive and hints of coriander.
Max of Matango and the Water House Project whispers “I need to use this in a Harissa bun” and now I’m hungry.
The palate isn’t kidding around. The sweet black olive and juniper enter together – this is not a ‘flavoured’ gin as one might be led to believe at first. And here is the surprise of spices! A little bit of bite, but smooth enough to be in the driest of Martinis.
The secret to the Oli’Gin! So tantalisingly close, but the three olives that make this distillate are kept secret. The maceration is prepared in a Charentais alembic, this heart of the still is glorious to replace the brine for a Dirty Martini, and I would love to use it in a Bloody Mary.
The sweet black olives are back, let it sit and return and you will find the strangest of scents: freshly baked donuts!
Eau de Vie Abricot Quintessence:
How gorgeous is this? I have a… complex… personal relationship with Eau de Vie but I do love this brandy.
A perfumed bite, but the first sip’s powerful tarte tatin and apricot soon gives way to Provence’s chalky terroir, the aroma of sea spray – the lavender and heather that dominates the countryside sways into view, and soon ends on the sweetest of almond cakes, sugar syrup dripping from the sponge.
This EdV is Provence in a bottle – from its fruit to its flowers to its soil and sea. Gorgeous.
Finally, the last two liqueurs!
Moving into sweet territory, these fruit and floral liqueurs are a wonderful end to the afternoon.
Manguin Clementine liqueur:
Sweet, syrupy, beautiful. The bright spray of clementine explodes into almonds, followed by a parade of lemon sherbet. This is what you want from a liqueur: simplicity with depth.
Last but not least, the Manguin Citron Bergamote liqueur:
What I love about this, it leans into the sweetness of the liqueur rather than shying away to preserve the floral perfuminess of bergamot. By doing so it keeps with a liqueur’s foremost purpose without sacrificing the bergamot’s flavour.
Bergamot swirls into scene, soon cardamom crushes in a mortar. The pith of blood orange sinks into an earthy minerality to end on a soft bed of violets.
The opportunity to taste the Provencal flavours of Manguin’s products was an honour, and have definitely placed them firmly in my radar, as well they should yours. With a wonderful Eau de Vie, especially for EdV novices, spectacular floral and fruit liqueurs to drink neat or use in cocktails, and an olive gin and distillate for both cocktails and cooking, Manguin has stunned by bringing Provence to London.
Manguin en Provence distillery
Fitz’s Bar @
Russell Square, Bloomsbury,
London WC1B 5BE