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What if Gins Competed in a European Championship?

You know what's better than football? Gin. So what if instead of a European Football Championship with had a euro 2016 of gin. Who would be the winners?

We've taken the knock-out stage qualifying teams, found a gin from each nation and squared them off in a tournament that's just as interesting, and much more delicious, than any football match.

Game 1: Switzerland vs Poland

Xellent Gin vs Lubuski The Teams:

Neither nation is known for their love of gin. Poland is much more famous for vodka but Switzerland's Xellent Gin is well named. A very herbal and fragrant gin, Exellent is made with Edelweiss the white mountain flower that is often used as a symbol of the rugged purity of the Alpine region. Poland's Lubuski Gin is intentionally very similar to Tanqueray and more designed for cocktails.

The Result:

Poland's straight forward approach is no match for some of the flair and invention on the Swiss side.

Winner, Switzerland

Game 2: Croatia vs Portugal

Sax Gins vs Tinto Gin The Teams:

Portugal is one of the rising stars of the gin world with a range of delicious Portuguese gins coming out that really push the limits of what a gin can be. Tinto Red Premium Gin is a great example of the Portuguese approach to gin. Whilst the red colour might be more reminiscent of Portugal's most famous drink, this is an incredibly complex and surprisingly savoury gin. Loads of disparate elements like; dill, pear, lavender, sherbert, rosemary and limes, work together to create a harmonious finish.

Croatia's Sax Gin is, sadly, just not as interesting. It's a classic London Dry with a slightly milder juniper flavour than most gin drinkers will be used to.

The Result:

Eleven players come together into one fluid whole that absolutely dominates the Croatian side. Unfortunately its a bit of a drubbing but it really shows what an impressive player the Portugal gin can be.

Winner, Portugal

Game 3: France vs Ireland

G'vine Floraison vs Exiles

The Teams:

Trust the French to make gin out of distilled wine. G’Vine is an unusually fruity gin with a floral flair. The distilled wine base is noticeable but the juniper cuts through. Exiles is, so far, Ireland’s only craft gin and, fittingly, the only gin in the world made with shamrock. Exiles is gentle without lacking energy. It has a particularly floral bouquet, with a dry, earthy taste from the shamrock and juniper.

The Result:

There's a lot of back and forth in this match with both gins built from a solid base and demonstrating some interesting flair with flavours. In the end though, G'Vine just has that little bit more invention to see it through.

Winner, France

Game 4: Hungary vs Belgium

Marine Gin vs Braeckman Oude Jenever

The Teams:

Belgium, along with the Netherlands, invented jenever. Jenever is a sort of older cousin to gin, with a maltier flavour, and Braeckman make it better than most. Braeckman Harrier is a classic example of an old jenever, with a strong malty aroma, a smooth mouthfeel and a slight taste of wood. Hungary's Marine Gin is a fairly bog standard gin that's not actually made in Hungary but is the most popular gin brand over there.

The Result:

Belgium seems to be playing an entirely different game to the Hungarians, but they're skilled enough that they still win.

Winner, Belgium

Game 5: Spain vs Italy

Gin Mare vs La Vita E Bella

The Teams:

Spain has no shortage of great gins. After the UK, it's competing with America for the most and the best craft gins in the world. Choosing one to represent Spain is tricky but we’ve singled out Gin Mare because it’s bursting with Mediterranean passion.

You might think this would be a one sided match but La Vita E’Bella is one of our co-founder’s favourite gins and for excellent reasons. Boasting intense citrus notes and a really fresh taste, it’s like drinking sunshine.

The Result:

Probably the most exciting match of the entire tournament. Spain have technical precision stemming from solid elements working in harmony. In contrast Italy have a few star components that absolutely dominate. At the end of the day, passion, power and style wins it for the Italians.

Winner, Italy

Game 6: Wales vs Northern Ireland

Shortcross Gin vs Da Mhile Seaweed Gin

The Teams:

2 hungry young sides that aren't traditional gin powerhouses but which are both coming on strong. Wales only boasts 2 gin distilleries at the moment but both make an excellent product and Da Mhile Seaweed adds a little laverbread flavour with its use of seaweed as a botanical. Shortcross is Northern Ireland's first craft gin, and it's instantly evocative of that country's floral meadows, wild berries and grassy hills. A fantastic Northern Irish gin.

The Result:

A very tightly fought game, with both sides evenly matched. But Da Mhile Seaweed demonstrated just that little bit extra with the seaweed innovations letting them pull ahead.

Winner, Wales

Game 7: Germany vs Slovakia

Elephant Gin vs Spis

The Teams:

There are a few great German gins but the spicy and refined Elephant Gin is our favourite. Plus 15% of profits go to elephant charities. In contrast, we couldn't find any gins made in Slovakia at all. They do make a drink called borovicka though, which is a juniper flavoured spirit with a brandy base.

The Result:

No contest. Germany's playing with one of the world's best gins, Slovakia can't even get a proper team together.

Winner, Germany

Game 8: England vs Iceland

Plymouth Gin vs Vor Gin

The Teams:

How can you choose only one gin to represent England? There are hundreds of gin brands made in England, many of them world classics. Well in the end we opted for Plymouth Gin because, thanks to its P.G.I status, it’s the only gin that legally must be made in England. It's also got a long history, Plymouth Gin is Britain’s oldest distillery still operating in its original location. And it's plenty tasty too, it has a great depth of flavour with deep earthy notes and a wonderfully fresh juniper and lemon bite.

Iceland's Vor Gin might not have tradition but it does have plenty of interesting touches. It's made with Iceland Moss (a kind of lichen) that gives the gin a distinct flavour that's nearly, but not quite, liquorice.

The Result:

Iceland do surprisingly well with an inventive and delicious gin, but England have been at this a long time and know exactly what they're doing.

Winner, England

Quarter Final 1: Switzerland vs Portugal

Switzerland vs Portugal

The Result:

Xellent is a great gin but it simply can't compete with the depth of flavour that Tinto can bring to the table. Rich, fruity, dry and herby at the same time it's a stunning gin!

Winner, Portugal

Quarter Final 2: France vs Belgium

G'Vine vs Braeckman Oude Jenever

The Result:

A true defensive battle here as it all comes down to the base spirit. Jenever uses a malt wine base that gives a smooth and malty quality to the drink but also limits what it can do. Jenever is really best drunk neat and doesn't work well in a classic G&T or pair well with garnish. G'Vine's wine base though adds a whole new flavour dimension to the drink whilst still keeping it recognisably a gin. It lets it work in all manner of combinations as well as being delicious neat.

Winner, France

Quarter Final 3: Italy vs Wales

Da Mhile Seaweed vs La Vita E Bell

The Result:

Plucky little Wales' run comes to an end when faced with the stunning La Vita E' Bella. It all comes down to depth. Da Mhile Seaweed is all about the seaweed, and whilst juniper and other botanicals support that flavour it simply doesn't compare to the harmonious blend of 24 organic botanicals in La Vita E' Bella.

Winner, Italy

Quarter Final 4: Germany vs England

Elephant Gin vs PLymouth Gin

The Result:

Once again, it's the old enemies England and Germany facing each other in a quarter final. As ever, both sides are pretty evenly matched. Elephant and Plymouth are solid examples of a classic London Dry with strong juniper flavours up front and robust bases in the back. But Elephant is just that little bit smoother and more interesting.

Winner (via penalties), Germany.

Semi Final 1: Portugal vs France

Tinto Gin vs G'Vine

The Result:

A tough game as both gins are similar in many ways. They're both noticeably fruity but back that up with strong juniper elements and complementary botanicals. In the end though, the depth of flavour and more classic approach of Tinto wins through.

Winner, Portugal

Semi Final 2: Italy vs Germany

Elephant Gin vs Lavita E Bella

The Result:

Elephant is a solid London Dry enlivened with some spicy style. La Vita E' Bella seems to be all flash with dramatic citrus and sherbet aromas. But that flash is supported by an amazing organic gin base. It's a tough call but La Vita E' Bella is the ultimate winner.

Winner, Italy

FINAL

Tinto Gin vs Lavita E Bella

The Result:

What a match up.

2 gins that are both incredibly evocative of their country of origin.

2 gins that showcase some amazing botanicals in unusual but delicious combinations.

2 gins with a fruity flair; Tinto with red fruits and La Vita E' Bella with citrus.

But as close as it is, the Italian gin just has a little more passion, a little more flavour and a little more punch.

Life surely is beautiful, viva Italia!

Winner,Italy

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