Have you ever found yourself sitting around a dinner table, and you ask your friends if they would like a gin and tonic and one or two of the people say “I don’t really like gin”.
After you make a note not to invite them again, you then ask them what gins they have tried and they list the most common gins like Gordons or Bombay.
Neither of these are bad gins, but for me it reminds me of avocado. I grew up on an avocado farm and my friends at school would say they hated avocado because they had tried to eat it straight off out of the skin with no seasoning. Typically you increment avocado slowly into things; on bread with salt and pepper, or in smoothies with honey, until gradually you find the taste itself to be delicious!!
Well, Sharish gin is like the toast, the salt and pepper, or the honey. It’s the gin that eases those ‘non gin lovers’ into loving gin because it is just so refreshing that you can’t tell you are drinking alcohol. Like a good Alentejo red wine it can be dangerous as the taste is so good you can be three gins down before you realise you are tipsy. But as far as Portuguese gins go (and world gins for that matter) this one is unique and very good.
Started in October of 2013, Sharish Gin is produced in the Alentejo by António Cuco and gets its name from the nearby village of MONSARAZ.
Used during the Muslim occupation, the Arabic term “sharish”, means xara or jara, the term for estella alentejana (Cistus ladanifer), which is a scrub found in the region, known for its wonderful scent that is often used in perfumes. (pictured right)
Sharish gin gets its unique taste and smell from a range of uniquely Portuguese ingredients, from Apple Bravo de Esmolfe DOP to oranges and lemons from Alentejo, passing through fresh Lúcia-Lima, together with the traditional juniper and coriander seed, complemented with cinnamon, clove, and a soft touch of vanilla.
All these ingredients are distilled separately in a traditional Portuguese alembic,(pictured left) and then submitted to a final blend.
I approached the founder of Sharish, António Cuco, for a chat recently, and he said the project started quite by surprise, and took a lot of work to get off the ground.
“I was challenged by a group of friends to create a gin at a dinner at my family restaurant. They wanted to try a new gin and we didn’t have any, so they suggested that I should create one,” says 35 year old Antonio.
“It was not easy in the beginning. I needed to make lots of research into gin and gin making because I had no background in the area and gin making is not a Portuguese tradition.
I started with an initial investment of around 100.000 Euros.”
With a degree in Tourism from the University of Évora, Antonio was formerly a professional teacher, and without assignment for the academic year, he took advantage of IEFP’s support to create his own job, and became a distiller of Sharish Gin.
Antonio says that his goal during the research phase was to create a gin and brand where everything was chosen for a reason, and everything added to the overall concept and idea.
“Even the shape of the bottle fits perfectly to the silhouette of Monsaraz, chosen for the logo. Nothing was left to chance in this production, everything has a reason for being, and the main one is a passion for gin, linked to the conviviality among friends. As they say in the Alentejo, “que vos faça bom proveito!“.
Currently the best-selling Portuguese brand in the world, and in the top 5 in sales in Premium Gin in the Portuguese market, Sharish exports 65% of their annual production overseas, to nations such as; UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Macau, Hong-Kong, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Vert, Sweden, Norway, São Tome e Principe, and Australia ;).
With a number if different varieties of Sharish Gin, Anotonio says that Sharish Gin Laurinius is his favorite.
“It’s a special edition with 12 months aging in Oak barrels previously used in Aguardente da Lourinhã aging.”
My personal favorite, and the gin to turn those non gin drinking friends into believers, is the Sharish blue gin…which magically changes colour as you add tonic water.
“To create the blue gin I knew that the Clitorea Ternatea reacted to citric acid because a French friend introduced me to the plant, I simply used this principle as a base for the gin.”
Antonio hopes that Sharish will continue to grow and increase their exports of this unique and tasty gin all over the world…
“And from this May forward we will be having our visitors center fully operational.” adds Antonio.