Solar Branco is a mansion that was built in the hills of Sao Miguel, the largest island in the Portuguese Azores, in 1885. Today, the estate has been converted into a hotel with an unusual feature: its very own Gin Library.
Assembled over the course of the owner’s travels—the collection now includes more than 609 gins in all flavors, shapes, and sizes. It is said that this is the second largest public gin collection in the world, after the well-named Atlas Bar in Singapore. The massive array of glistening bottles collected on the remote Azores islands boasts origin stories that span the world over, ranging from the United Kingdom to Japan, France to South Africa, and Australia to Israel.
The collection’s crowning jewel isn’t the rare Japanese apple gin or the expensive bottle from Scotland. It’s the new house-made spirit, Baleia Gin, concocted during the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to give back to the Atlantic islands that the library calls home. Whales are endemic to the waters of the Azores and are closely tied to the island’s history and economy. Naturally, each bottle of seaweed-infused Baleia (the Portuguese word for whale) supports whale conservation projects in the Azores.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own bottles of gin, and there’s added incentive to procure a rare variety. If you come bearing a bottle that’s not already in the collection, you earn a free tasting of the wares. Otherwise, guests are welcome to sample the diverse array of booze for a fee. If cocktails are more your cup of gin, the library also serves plenty of expertly crafted G&Ts.
Know Before You Go
While the hotel doesn't open until 2023, the Gin Library is open for tastings by appointment.
Those in the know could also look to unearth the password for the only speakeasy in the Atlantic Ocean, named after local legend Senhor Raposa.