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Gin Reviews

An Dúlamán Santa Ana Armada Strength Gin, Rioja Wine Cask Aged, 57% ABV


TLDR: This gin was inspired by a shipwreck. Thankfully though, this expression itself is anything but one! 

A little bit of history to go with today's gin... In 1588, King Philip II of Spain commanded the launch of roughly 150 naval warships and 18,000 men on a planned invasion of England. At that time, this marked the largest naval fleet in Europe, and called ‘la felicissima armada’, or ‘the most fortunate fleet'. Ironically, however, the endeavour turned out to be an ill-fated one, with the English successfully fending off the Spainards' advances using heavy guns. 

The Spanish Armada.

During this failed invasion, known as the Spanish Armada, one particular ship in the fleet called the La Duquesa Santa Ana was shipwrecked off Loughros Mór near Ardara in Donegal. This prompted over 900 men abroad to journey 30km to Killybegs where they sought safety with another Armada ship, La Girona. Unfortunately, La Girona was later shipwrecked too at Lacada Point, leaving only nine survivors ... and a boatload of fine treasures and jewels unearthed only 400 years later.

The ill-fated story of La Duquesa Santa Ana, and its momentary survivors' brief stopover at Donegal has left its mark on Irish locals. Still today, a commemorative walk in which locals trace the steps of the Santa Ana survivors is organised every year in Donegal. 

The An Dúlamán Santa Ana (left), which is a wine cask aged version of the distillery's original An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin (right).

It's also inspired the creation of a very special gin expression, the An Dúlamán Santa Ana, by the Donegal-based Ardara Distillery. This An Dúlamán Santa Ana, called the "Armada-Strength" gin and named after the shipwrecked ship La Duquesa Santa Ana, is Ireland's first Navy-strength gin bottled at 57% ABV. This gin uses the original An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin (made from six uniquely maritime botanicals, which includes carrageen moss, sugar kelp, dulse, channel wrack, and pepper dulse) but ages it in Rioja wine barrels for added madeira sweetness. 

Will it capture the essence of the wild and rugged Donegal coast, home to many a past shipwrecks? Let's find out! 

An Dúlamán Santa Ana Armada Strength Gin - Tasting Notes

Colour: Light orange tint.

Aroma: Robust notes of mulberry, blackcurrant and stewed oranges lends to a robust sweetness on the aroma. There's a scent of red grape skins that carries a wine-like undertone, as well as bright notes of juniper and sea salt. 

Taste: Really smooth and lush with no alcohol bite at all, despite its navy-strength! There's a surprisingly tasty balance of savoury and sweet flavours here. This gin is punctuated by distinctive coastal, maritime essences of kelp and seaweed and a subtle sprinkle of sea salt. Added notes of oak shavings, cracked pepper and a plummy-sweetness of grape juice, oranges liquorice adds body and balance. 

Finish: Medium, with contrasting but not discordant notes of ocean spray, red grape skins and stewed orange.

Overall Thoughts

A deliciously smooth and complex that somehow managed to make me feel like I'm simultaneously walking through a winery and along the coastal shores at the same time! The maritime qualities of the gin is quite unique, with a well integrated salinity and savouriness that tastes cohesive and lush. Yet, the Rioja wine cask aging is what makes this especially tasty, lending added depth to the gin with robust notes of red grapes, stewed orange and oak shavings.

Despite its fairly unfortunate namesake, having been inspired by a shipwreck, the  An Dúlamán Santa Ana is anything but one! It's a deliciously smooth gin that works well as a nice slow sipper on its own, but would also make an exceptional base spirit for using in a dirty martini, where you would want some of that salinity to be enhanced. 


With juniper and joy!