Today, we have an exceptionally exciting product to work and we’re proud to say we were given the first bottle to review, too. That product is Hernö Juniper Cask Gin from the Hernö Distillery, the world’s Northernmost distillery in the small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in North Sweden. This spirit follows on from the great success of their Swedish Excellence Gin and their Navy Strength Gin.
A few Craft Distillers have already experimented with aged/rested/yellow gin, but most use ex-bourbon casks; other examples include Cognac and ex Jean de Lillet casks (the latter is used by Burrough’s Reserve), but, as yet, no-one has integrated that vital component of gin into their use of wood: juniper.
Hernö Juniper Cask has been matured in barrels made from Juniper wood. The barrels are Ankare in size, which is a traditional Swedish measurement dating from the 1600s that equates to 39.25 litres. After its time in the barrels, the gin is diluted with water from the distillery well to 47.0% ABV. It is purposefully not chill-filtered, in order to retain maximum character.
On its own
Colour: Light lemon/straw yellow.
Nose: Some lemon and orange, followed by a progression of crisp pine notes, woody notes of juniper and a little sappiness. Intense, inviting and engaging.
Taste: A rich, smooth and silky – almost honey-like – texture. There’s a herbal sweetness to start, before moving onto a light, green juniper note, followed by a darker, heavy flavour of juniper and rich, bold pine notes. Finally, there’s some citrus peel and a little woody sappiness.
Finish: Resinous pine, a hint of beeswax, citrus peel and a touch of coriander – long and harmonious.
Very thick, with a silky texture. Big, full and bold flavours of green juniper, pine, and hints of sappiness, followed by citrus, coriander, and some herbs and spices, such as fennel. The flavour then progresses on to notes of vanilla and wood, before a long, dry finish of pine with a hint of beeswax. Intense, superb and a great way to enjoy the spirit.
A great long drink: the piney, woody juniper notes work really well with honey, as opposed to sugar. This is a great way to appreciate the gin in a long, refreshing drink.
Gin & Tonic
Some savoury spice notes come through on the nose, such as cumin and caraway. The flavour is mainly strong juniper and coriander, with a little sweetness to start, followed by a dry finish, which is long and lingering.
Looks superb – a very light gold in colour. This is a clean and crisp Martini, but, although it makes a good drink, I can’t help but feel that the vermouth detracts from the flavours of the gin at the ratio that I used (5:1). I think the solution to this problem would be to go dryer, i.e. use less vermouth. Also, mixing it with Lillet may have some potential.
Very intense; perhaps a little too sweet with Martini Rosso (which adds a slight note of coconut), so I would recommend using a more bitter vermouth, such as Antica Formula or Sacred Sweet Vermouth. There’s a great, long finish of piney juniper with just a hint of sap. With the more bitter vermouth, this is simply superb.
Juniper Cask French ‘75
An intense French ’75, but nonetheless very good, indeed. This is full of excellent, strong pine notes, a little sappiness and a hint of raw honey. Complex and unusual. Superb.
Hernö Juniper Cask is a superb spirit and certainly one of the highlights of 2013’s gin releases so far; I’ve not had anything as exciting and engaging and with such bold juniper flavours since I tasted Barr Hill from Vermont – coincidentally, fans of this gin are sure to be fond of Hernö Juniper Cask.
The gin is excellent on its own, but I enjoy it even more from the freezer. As mixed drinks go, I think the Bees Knees (a variation on a Collins) was my favourite.
A special thanks to Jon and the Herno Team for giving this exciting preview.