Cross Keys Gin is the most famous gin in Latvia and the only Latvian gin for sale outside its home country. It is produced by Latvijas Balzams, one of the largest alcohol producers in the Baltic states. The distillery is owned by Amber Distribution, headquartered in Luxembourg. Cross Keys Gin was released in 2018 and the blackcurrant and sea-buckthorn flavored versions followed a couple of years later. In addition to sea buckthorn, four herbs have been used: rosemary, chamomile, juniper berry and lime blossom. Cross Keys Gin is bottled from clay bottles familiar with the well known Latvian bitter Riga Black Balsam. A 70 cl bottle costs about € 20 in Estonia, but you can find it much cheaper in the offer.
The aroma has a distinct sour-sweet berry aroma. There is a bit of an herbal nuance in the background, but the traditional juniper berry is not felt. The taste is sweet at the beginning, but soon becomes more acidic and is already quite dry in the aftertaste. The berry flavor of sea buckthorn is quite dominant and the product has only a few traditional gin aromas. Rosemary and some floral nuance are noticeable. Juniper berry is still not recognized, so there are limits to whether the product can be called gin at all. It’s more like a herbal and berry flavored spirit. Diluted with water, the taste remains the same and no new nuances are pushed out. As a gin, the product is somewhat faint and if you expect to find traditional gin herbs, you will be disappointed. But as a regular flavored vodka, it is pretty nice and when chilled it works really well at the dinner table. The taste is smooth, quite light and the alcohol burn stays low. It is best sipped neat or as an aperitif with soda water or sparkling wine. As a sea- buckthorn flavored spirit, the product is better than average. The sea buckthorn is clearly identifiable, but there are also better sea-buckthorn products in Latvia. However, taking in notice the paid discounted price (13.50 €) and a very nice bottle, it is still a recommendable product.