Cross Keys Gin is produced in Latvia, Riga by Latvijas Balzams. It’s the same company who produces the infamous Riga Black Balsam, a bitter herbal digestive for which every Latvian is proud of. Cross Keys got its name from the ancient symbol of Riga, part of it’s heraldry. Cross Keys Gin main ingredients are rosemary, chamomile, juniper and linden blossoms, other herbs are mint, black pepper and cloves. Cross Keys Gin is nowadays sold in 10 countries. It’s bottled on beautiful tall clay bottle and 43% strength. Price for a 70cl bottle was 19.99€ at Maxima.
The aroma has juniper berries in the main part, other herbs and spices are felt a bit in the background. The taste has a honey and floral sweetness at the beginning. However, the herbs quickly take a firm hold, there is nice spiciness of at least rosemary and black pepper. The aftertaste is rather bitter and thus remotely resembles Black Balsam. Cross Keys is a strong but still gentle floral gin. The herbs used create a rather original style and at first it feels like the package does not work very well as a whole. It’s complex and challenging compared to traditional gins, but at the same time rewarding as you get used on the rather original spice bouquet.
Adding some water the floral and sweet notes gets more room and spiciness is better balanced. The manufacturer recommends enjoying it on the rocks. Well I am not usually drinking any spirits on the rocks, at least in winter time. But I find it very enjoyable with a splash of water or sparkling water. Of course it works nice on cocktails and I made many excellent Dry Martini with it. Cross Keys is original and specific gin taking in the account of it’s rare clay bottle.