Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn “Organic Gin” (40%, OB, Sweden)

Avid followers know that in october, Master Quill likes to go to the Whisky Show in London, England. Up ’till now there has always been something that really surprises. A few years back Tomatin surprised with a lot of non-1976 bottlings. Another year, a lot of offerings from Benromach were a discovery, and this year (2015) was the year of Indian Distiller Paul John. Especially their single cask bottlings were stellar. Even a Boutique-y Paul John was fantastic! However, hidden in a corner of the room, next to the coffee stand near the entrance, were three Swedes. They didn’t even had a real stand, but they used a cask as a table and put some Erlenmeyer flasks with colored stuff on top. I have to say, I met some driven and passionate people doing the Spirit of Hven. Spirit of Hven is not only a distillery, but it is also a hotel, a restaurant, Whisky bar and chemistry lab! Mad scientist with a passion for booze? I like that! So apart from Paul John, the discovery of the year was this Spirit of Hven Gin. Go figure!

Gin is an interesting product, since Gin can be made rather quickly, you don’t have to wait ages to see how it turns out. Nice stuff to experiment with and make it personal, by thinking up and combining different botanicals. This Gin has its obvious basis of Swedish Juniper and citrus. Other botanicals include Grains of Paradise, Aniseed, Calamus Root, Mauritian Bourbon Vanilla, Cassia bark, Cardamom, Sichuan Pepper and Guinea Pepper (dried fruit), not to be confused with Grains of Paradise which is also known as Guinea Pepper (ground seed). The Gin is oak aged prior to the final distillation, so the influence of wood is another ingredient.

HVEN Organic GinColor: Clear water.

Nose: Laid back and sweet-smelling juniper. Toned down by some sweet carrots and hidden vanilla. You know it’s there but somehow in disguise. Soft vanillin from wood maybe? Sure it is a Gin, with juniper and citrus, like all, but in here the combination smells excellent yet different. The sharpness is shaven off by the hidden vanilla and the promise of sweetness. A bit like a Gin Liqueur, although this might not be sweet tasting at all. Next some grain, black tea and dried grass. It’s still a Gin, so not extremely complex, but this one is so well-balanced. It’s hard to put down and stop smelling. Very soft and mellow with a nice floral touch and some sweet spices and soft wood to finish it off. Pine forest (floor) after autumn rain.

Taste: The first sip is of sweet grain and paper. The basis is there. It has notes of Vodka, a very smooth and soft Vodka. Next come the juniper, sweet oaky vanilla and well-integrated soft citrus note as well as a hint of caramel. Towards the finish we’re most definitely in the territory of sweet licorice. Laurel licorice. It’s a honeyed kind of sweetness, so more depth than sugary sweet. I use “sweet” a lot, but let me assure you that this comes nowhere near Gin Liqueur and not even an Old Tom. The finish has quite a bit of length and finally it leaves you with a nice anise and licorice aftertaste. Wonderful sipping Gin.

This is the first Gin on these pages and for a long time there was a good reason for that. Gin usually winds up in a cocktail or in a Gin-and-Tonic and I am a drinker and taster of Spirits. When Gin gained popularity the last few years I obviously got the chance to try some very nice Gin-and-Tonics, the way I like my Gin the best. It all went wrong when I started trying Gins by themselves. Nipping them, say, like a Whisky. Well, I can assure you, Gin is no Whisky! So Gin seemed to be not for nipping, so I left it alone for a while. I did find some nice Gins though, that worked well in Gin-and-Tonics. Hendricks with Fever Tree is nice, but Zuidam aged Gin with Indi Tonic, was a lot better. The Zuidam aged Gin was the first Gin I liked by itself, so I decided not to give up on Gin (as a sipper) yet. And then I encountered this Organic Gin. Wonderful stuff. With this one I never got passed the sipping stage, it’s that good. I do hope I have enough left to try it with Tonic though. Recommended!

Points: 78 (and believe me, that is a lot of points for a Gin by itself)

Benromach 2008/2014 “Organic” (43%, OB, Virgin Oak)

Not really a NASser since this is a vintage 2008 bottling. We also know this was bottled in 2014 so it is a 5yo or 6yo. Benromach doesn’t like hide its Whiskies in a shroud of mystery. Of course I love an aptly named Whisky but I was brought up with age statements so I like to (officially) know what I’m getting. Maybe all those NASsers are for a younger, more hip, generation? We’ll see. This “Organic” was distilled in 2008 and filled into virgin oak casks, just like they do with Bourbon spirit. Don’t worry, this will not turn this Whisky into a bourbon since only malted barley was used, and no corn nor rye. Why not make a rye Whisky then Benromach, wouldn’t that be something different and exiting?

Benromach Organic 2008Color: Gold

Nose: Yes woody. Sawdust, but also vanilla and warm vanilla pudding. Custard. I would say American Oak, wouldn’t you? Sugary sweet. The apparent sweetness is balanced out with some spicy oak, but not all oak is spicy, it also has a sappy oak quality to it. Sweet barley. Given some time, (when the taste becomes waxy), the nose tuns more floral. Floral with sandalwood.

Taste: Sweet at first, then vanilla and a more fruity note. Still all sugared fruits. Behind that the oak comes in again, but it’s not all wood alas, The wood also emits a cardboardy taste. Luckily that is soon exchanged with the sappy oak. That sappy oak turn a bit waxy and that in turn becomes a bitter edge into the finish. The bitterness also has some staying power. The finish is rather austere, so its quite different from the sweet start. The florality and waxiness of the nose, becomes also evident in the aftertaste.

For a Whisky this age and only new wood was used, this has already picked up a lot of color (as do Bourbons). Nosing and tasting this Whisky it really is what you may have expected. A Whisky that is defined by the use of new wood. Otherwise quite sweet and obviously not very complex, but more than expected.

Points: 82