herno-gin-and-tonic

Hernö Gin

Hernö Gin hails from Sweden, better known for its vodka and brännvin (literally burnt wine). However, as you need a good spirit base, i.e. vodka to make gin, it’s not surprising that the Swedes have turned their hand to the juniper spirit!

Founder and master distiller, Jon Hillgren, discovered a passion for gin while working as a bartender in London in the late 1990s. He spent the next 12 years travelling the globe tasting gin, studying to become a distiller and visiting other distilleries, before opening his own in 2011.

Between his two copper stills, Kerstin and Marit, Jon produces four different gin styles: this one (a dry gin), Navy Strength, Old Tom and Juniper Cask (barrel-aged).

The Botanicals

Hernö Gin is made with juniper, coriander, lemon peel, lingonberries, meadowsweet, black pepper, cassia bark and vanilla. All of the botanicals used are certified organic.

lingonberries
Lingonberries

I like the fact that Hernö have used Lingonberries (a red berry native to Sweden, Canada and Alaska) among the more traditional gin botanicals. Lingonberries are related to blueberries but closer to cranberries in flavour, although less tart.

Aroma and Flavour

On the nose Hernö Gin is green and fresh with a slightly floral aroma. It has a light, fresh flavour with a delicate floral sweetness. This slight sweetness is balanced out by spicier notes from the coriander and black pepper. It’s a testament to the skill of the distiller that none of the botanicals overpower one another.

Hernö Gin is perfect for those who prefer their gin with a lighter juniper flavour. The number of awards it has won tells you that this is a quality gin and I’ll certainly be seeking out the other styles to try.

Country of Origin: Sweden

ABV: 40.5%

Price: High

broken-heart-gin

Broken Heart Gin

The history and stories around gin fascinate me. Whether it’s how the distillers came to make gin or how they came to choose the ingredients, anecdotes add something to the drinking experience for me.

But none have touched me as much as the story behind Broken Heart Gin.

Joerg and Bernd, two Germans, living in the Southern Alps in New Zealand were great friends sharing a love for gin and a passion for distilling. They decided to work together to create a new gin. Sadly before they could complete the project, Bernd became gravely ill and died. Bereft, Joerg and Bernd’s widow, Annie, almost abandoned the idea, but after some time decided that they should continue in Bernd’s memory. The broken hearts they were carrying for Bernd, became the name of the gin.

Broken Heart Gin is a traditional London Dry style with 11 botanicals that include; juniper, coriander, lemon peel, lavender, cinnamon and angelica. These botanicals are steeped in a base spirit of wheat and molasses before being re-distilled.

On tasting, there is a welcome hit of juniper on the nose and palate, with coriander and citrus also coming through, ending with a hint of liquorice. It’s a fresh, clean gin and very well-balanced. Broken Heart Gin recommend serving with a slice of orange, but it stood up well in my Monday Negroni!

broken-heart-gin-negroniCountry of Origin: New Zealand

ABV: 40%

Price: Medium

bols-genever

What is Genever?

During the events I host, I like to share some of the rich, vibrant history behind gin. Genever (or Jenever) is considered to be the starting point for gin in England, however it’s also a delicious spirit in it’s own right.

So, what is Genever?

Genever is a separate white spirit category that has been produced since the 16th Century.

It is a blend of malt wine, a botanical distillate containing coriander, caraway and aniseed, and juniper that has been distilled separately in malt wine rather than neutral grain spirit. Bols, the main producer of Genever, also add a secret ingredient from their ancient recipes.

Genever has Appellation D’origine Controlee status meaning it can only be produced in the Netherlands (and a few surrounding areas), putting it on par with champagne, cognac and Scottish single malt whisky. The status also determines how much malt wine and juniper the genever must contain.

Relationship to gin

When William of Orange, the Dutch king, ascended the English throne, he brought Genever over with him. Sadly the English distillers weren’t as skilled in the art of grain distillation and began using other distillates that they would flavour with juniper, creating early versions of gin.

What does it taste like?

Fresh, pine flavours with hints of spice rounded out with hints of yeast. It tastes a little like unaged whisky.

 Use in cocktails

In the 19th century the import of Genever to the USA was six times greater than gin and it was one of only 4 spirits recognised as accepted bases for cocktails (the others being brandy, whisky and rum). Genever is the main ingredient in some of the oldest cocktail recipes, like the Tom Collins and Holland House. It makes a fabulous ingredient in a Gin Crusta.

Should you try it?

Yes! Genever is a versatile spirit suitable for making cocktails or sipping, or if you prefer, you could do what the Dutch do and perform the kopstoot (headbutt). Genever is taken straight from the freezer and poured into tulip-shaped glasses. As the glass is so cold it’s best to instead leave the glass on the table, and sip directly, bending your back to get the drink in your mouth!

genever-crusta
Genever Crusta by The Barbershop, Sydney

G’Vine Gin

The creator of G’Vine gins, Jean-Sébastien Robicqeut was born and raised amongst vineyards so it’s not completely surprising that vines would inspire him to create a different style of gin. His bold choice to use vine flowers (fleurs de vigne) as a botanical ingredient resulted in two different styles of French gin. G’Vine Floraison and G’Vine Nouaison.(Floraison and Noauison refer to two different stages in the growth cycle of the vine. Floraison is the blossoming stage and Nouaison is the stage after where the first young berries appear.)

fleurs-de-vigne

The small, green flowers blossom on the Ugni Blanc vine for only 10-15 days. Pickers have to move quickly, otherwise they have to wait a full year! The delicate petals are then steeped in Ugni Blanc neutral spirit for several days before distillation. The other botanicals are separated into 4 flavour groups (sweet, spicy etc) and also steeped in grape spirit for 2-5 days. Each group of botanicals is then distilled separately before being blended together with water and more grape spirit before being distilled together in ‘Lily Fleur’, the G’Vine copper pot still.

G’Vine Floraison Gin

floraison-g'vine-gin

This is the gin to offer someone who claims not to like gin.  It has a floral and zesty scent and flavour with the juniper turned down quite low, so not for those of you who love a punchy junipery gin.

It’s perfect in a gin and tonic – how much do I love these Spanish-style halon glasses? I’ll definitely be sharing the Floraison love with friends. (I will convert them!)

Botanicals: ‘Floraison’ blossom, juniper, ginger root, liquorice, cassia bark, green cardamom, coriander, cubeb berries, nutmeg and lime.

ABV: 40%

G’Vine Nouaison Gin

Nouaison-g'vine-gin

Instead of using the blossom as a botanical in Nouaison, the tiny, green berries are used.  The rest of the distillation process is identical to the one used in the production of G’Vine Floraison, however the infusions are blended to different proportions so there is more of a juniper hit and it’s higher in ABV, making it more like traditional gins.

It’s bolder and spicier and much more to my juniper-loving taste. It stood up well in a dirty martini but works with a twist too.

Botanicals : ‘Nouaison’ berries, juniper, ginger root, liquorice, cassia bark, green cardamom, coriander, cubeb berries, nutmeg and lime.

ABV: 43.9%

I was gifted the bottle of G’Vine Floraison as a ‘Thank You’ for guest-judging a G’Vine cocktail competition in Melbourne. G’Vine kindly provided  Nouaison for review. 

 

Xoriguer Mahòn Gin

 

xoriguezgntTaking a little break from Aussie gins to introduce you to this little Spanish number, Xoriguer Mahòn Gin.

Pronounced ‘sho-ri-gair’, Xoriguer Mahòn Gin is produced in Menorca (a beautiful island off the Spanish mainland). I visited there a few years ago, but didn’t manage to fit in a visit to the distillery (might start saving for a return visit).

Xoriguer is one of only 2 gins in the world that has it’s own EU Designation of Origin, Plymouth gin is the other.

The bottle suggests something a little unrefined and gimmicky, but don’t be deceived!

It is floral in aroma and flavour with hints of citrus and an almost perfumed after-taste. It went very well with Fever tree tonic water and lots of lemon and lime slices.

I also created a martini with my fave Lillet and although a little on the sweet side, it made a delicious variation.

 

Country of Origin: Mahòn, Menorca, Spain

ABV: 38.5%

Price: Medium

Gin Mare

 

Definitely in my top 5, Gin Mare is so flavoursome you don’t need to put out nibbles when you serve it up to guests!

A full-bodied Meditteranean gin, it is distilled with olives, thyme, rosemary and basil in Barcelona, Spain.

You still get the hit of juniper when you smell the gin, but as you taste, the spicier notes of the herbs and other ingredients; cardamom, coriander, ginger berries and citrus fruits, come through. Those citrus fruits have been soaked in clay jars for up to a year in advance of distillation.

Gin Mare makes an excellent G&T. Refreshingly summery, as if someone has captured the Mediterranean in a bottle.

For a slightly different garnish, add a sprig of rosemary (crush the leaves lightly to release some of the flavour), cracked black pepper and a smear of fresh lemon juice around the rim of the glass. Divine!

Country of Origin: Spain

700ml/42.7% ABV

Price range: High