Cocktails with… Hernö First Craft Gin

Mrs B and I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Northern Sweden as guests of the lovely folks at Hernö Gin Distillery. Whilst visiting the distillery, Jon shared with us a gin made to this first ever recipe; the balance of botanicals is similar to that of their Artisan Gin with one variation: meadowsweet is replaced with almond.

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Meadowsweet Infusion and Dried Meadowsweet at Herno

Although meadowsweet has been used in other gins, such as Hendricks and Caorunn, it wasn’t until visiting the distillery in Dala that I really understood what it adds to a gin. Tasting a maceration of meadowsweet in alcohol, lots of lightly floral hay notes come through; slightly reminiscent of bison grass or holy grass vodka.

That’s probably enough of a focus on a botanical that is not even in this gin! Hernö First Craft’s botanical mix does include: juniper, coriander, lemon, black peppercorns, cassia, vanilla and lingdon berries and is bottled at 40.5% ABV.

Herno First Craft Gin

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Floral, oily notes with woody juniper and citrus, along with aromatic coriander.
Taste: Quite dry, but with rich citrus, floral, and spice from the coriander that I see as a trademark of Hernö’s gins. There’s also a creamy nuttiness with a hint of chocolate and marzipan. The finish is of light, dry, resinous juniper and a little citrus peel.

Gin & Tonic
Full of flavour, with rounded coriander notes and a slightly bready malt flavour. Then comes citrus and a little berry tartness. Clean and well-integrated.

Martini
A crisp, bright, and juniper-rich, resinous Martini. Clean, like a shard of ice. A pure delight of a drink with a long, dry, spicy finish.

Negroni
A resinous, yet smooth cocktail; a pleasant nuttiness comes through, with an underlying sweetness to it. This has a great texture and a good dose of bitterness on the finish.

In Conclusion
In comparison to their other gins, Hernö 2012 First Craft Gin is dryer in style, but still maintains the distillery’s signature character. Well-worth seeking out. My favourite cocktail was the excellent Martini.

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World Exclusive! – Cocktails with Herno Juniper Cask Gin

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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.

Until now…

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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.

Frozen
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.

Bees Knees
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.

Herno Juniper Cask - The Barrel

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.

Martini
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.

Negroni
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.

In Conclusion
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.

Cocktails with… Hernö Gin Navy Strength

After my recent focus on gin from the US, it was lovely to return home from our trip (and I had an amazing time, by the way) to find a new and exciting European gin waiting for me; namely, Hernö Gin Navy Strength Gin. We reviewed their original “Swedish Excellence” Gin back in January and I had the opportunity to chat to the chaps from Hernö on February’s Gin Ramble.
The Navy Strength Gin, bottled at 57% ABV, follows a whole host of new high-strength gins coming onto the market, but, so far, these have been focused in the UK and USA. For more information, check out our tasting.
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On its own
Nose: Lots of coriander, as well as some beeswax, sappy pine and juniper notes, and more citrus – very intense and lasting.
Taste: Silky smooth to start, with plenty of spicy and citrus coriander. Then a little warmth grows, along with some sweetness and notes of juniper. This is followed by a return of the coriander and citrus, and a crisp and very long-lasting finish that lasts for well over 90 seconds. Flavourful and intense, it really shows how the higher ABV carries the botanical characteristics in a far bolder way. Excellent.
Gin & Tonic
A strong and punchy flavour, full of very intense floral and coriander notes. A clean and not too cloying tonic is needed for this drink; I think I would be inclined to pair this with Q, 1724 or Fevertree Mediterranean, to just balance out the more floral elements and bring up some of the herbal elements that I personally crave in a Gin & Tonic. This is pretty tasty and has lots of potential.
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Martini
Perfectly balanced, with flavours of fennel, coriander, dry pine, beeswax and citrus, as well as some lighter, floral notes. Simply superb and perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
Negroni
Whoosh! There’s lots of flavour here. In addition to the coriander, some anise and fennel come through to start, followed by some juicy, fruity berry notes. Then, the herbal elements of the vermouth and bitter aspects of the Campari come through, along with a long, bitter-sweet finish with some piercing pine. Intense and thrilling to drink.
In Conclusion
I have a bit of a penchant for Navy Strength Gin; it is one of my favourite spirits to mix with and Hernö Navy Strength Gin is no exception. I like the original, but I like the Navy even more. Certainly worth checking out.

Cocktails with… Herno Gin

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My story with Hernö gin started back in January 2012, before their distillery was built and not even the merest drop of this juniper spirit had been tasted. At the end of November 2012, two bottles arrived on my doorstep (one for me and one to be shared by the Modern Madame of Juniper and the Queen of Gin at the Juniper Society).

Hernö Gin is made in small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in the Northern part of Sweden, making it the world’s northernmost gin distillery. The gin is made using organic spirit in “Kierstin”, a 250 litre, hand-beaten copper still from Germany. It’s bottled at 40.5%ABV and is made using a mix of 8 botanicals:

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#1) On its own
Nose: Juniper and lemon verbena; piney and perfumed.
Taste: Juniper to start and then a full, zesty, jammy and floral combination of orange-coriander, followed by some orange and lemon blossom mixed with lemon balm and verbena. The finish is long and lingering, with plenty of citrus. The citrus and floral notes give this gin a contemporary character, but it’s backed up by plenty of pine. Very enjoyable and a fine gin to enjoy on the rocks.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Really flavourful and very tasty: fresh, crisp, sappy pine and plenty of coriander, as well as some lighter herbal and floral notes. This is crisp and refreshing and reminds me of when I tired Hendricks for the first time – simply superb.

#3) Martini
Taste: Lovely – cool and crisp with both some zesty citrus notes and a deep flavour of coriander; the other herbal botanicals stop it from becoming too zesty. There’s also lots of pine on the finish. There are a lot of classic elements to this Martini: it’s clean, cool and crisp, and gives you that Martini woosh! At the same time, it’s a little twist away from a traditional Martini.

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#4) Negroni
Quite sweet, but with lots going on.  There’s a hint of lemon balm and lemon verbena, along with low herbal and high floral notes and a fair bit of coriander. Not too bitter, but the familiar Negroni finish is there (although perhaps more dry than bitter). I really like this, a treat to drink.

#5) Alexander
Floral and herbal notes make this quite unusual. There’s lots of coriander and piney juniper, but, despite the mix, I think that it works surprisingly well; you might do a double-take after the first sip, though.

#6) French ‘75
A rather odd French ‘75: the heavy citrus and coriander combine with the Champagne to create both a very dry and very citrusy drink. This cocktail actually appeals to me quite a bit and, as the sugar cube dissolves, the drink does improve.

In Conclusion

Hernö Gin is a great example of how craft gin distilling is moving out across the world, after a concentration in the US and some parts of Europe. It is a gin with a distinctive character and one that reflects the individuality of the distillery and distiller.

Despite the heavier citrus and coriander notes, there is something about the deeper herbal flavours in this gin that sets it apart from the “coriander monsters” of the USA. It makes some unconventional cocktails that some people will think are superb (the Gin & Tonic and Negroni did it for me) and also has a lot of potential for bartenders to experiment with. A great gin with which to launch another year of gin reviews.