As a writer on gin, I am often asked one of two questions: “What is your favourite gin?” and “Have you considered making your own gin?”.
The answer to the second one is no and the reason is that I like being independent and able to chat to distillers without them worrying about disclosing commercial sensitivities to a competitor. But, if I were to make a gin, I think it would be one that was really strong – beyond the Navy Strength of 57.1% ABV. As a spirit that is often mixed, I believe that a strong gin has unique mixing potential.
Fortunately, Swedish distillers Smögen Whisky AB have done the hard work for me, having released their Uncut Gin in the UK: a gin that is bottled at 75.3% ABV. This exceeds the ABV of any other commercial gin, with the closest unaged comparisons being Blackwoods 60 and Finsbury 60 (both 60.0% ABV) and the aged Alembics Caribbean Cask (65.6% ABV).
The Smögen Whisky AB distillery is located in Hunnebostrand. In addition to the Uncut Gin, they make Strane Merchant and Strane Navy Strength. The idea for the Uncut comes from the fact that their gins are made from a blend of three separate botanical distillations, which are blended together before proofing (i.e. undiluted). The resulting liquid was described by distiller Pär Caldenby as, “ too good to hold back” and so limited quantities are bottled at the uncut, off-the-still strength.
On its own
Nose: Lemony citrus upfront, with some juniper pine notes that are well-integrated with hints of spice and herbal notes, with just a touch of menthol and plump juniper berries.
Taste: Despite its high ABV, the spirit is surprisingly shippable: there is citrus up-front, followed by some woody spice, orange peel, vanilla, and a hint of coconut. The finish is a little perfumed with orange blossom and freshly-cracked coriander seed, mixed in with a little resinous spruce, light menthol pepper, and pine blossom.
If you did want to drink this neat, then I’d suggest a single serving of a half oz measure served in a mini Glencairn glass – lovely.
This serve adds viscosity and intensity; it has very strong flavours. It’s excellent served this way, but one downside is that it probably makes the spirit very smooth and easy to drink and so, in some ways, makes it harder to savour than when you sip it at room temperature (when it’s easier to take your time over it).
Gin & Tonic
A strong Gin & Tonic in terms of alcohol, but especially in terms of flavour: it is strong and piney, with citrus and coriander notes, too. A bold, but straightforward Gin & Tonic that makes an excellent choice for the first drink of the evening. Textbook.
Probably the most powerful Martini that I have ever had. It really packs a punch, but isn’t hot and does not burn. It’s so packed full of flavour: juniper, angelica, coriander, citrus, spice, herbal and floral notes – all the key flavours associated with gin are here and integrated very well together. Superb.
As you would expect, Uncut produces a bold and flavoursome Negroni; a cocktail that delivers some powerful flavours and is not for the faint hearted. As a lover of the Negroni, I think this is super: it is piney and juicy, plump with fruity notes and some deeper, herbal flavours, before the anticipated bitter finish. Watch out, though, this is very easy to drink, so I would suggest having one delicious (but small) serving.
Very, very crisp and leafy with hint of cucumber peel, coriander, and fresh citrus, followed by some pine and floral notes. This is a lovely way to enjoy the gin, because you can lengthen it significantly without losing any of the gin’s character. It works well at a 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, or even up to a 10:1 ratio of gin to soda water.
Strane Uncut is certainly a unique gin and one I would recommend trying; not only is it an experience, but it tastes very good, too.
Strane Uncut Gin is available for around £59 for 50cl from Master of Malt.
STRANE NAVY STRENGTH
On its own
Nose: Dried green leaf with a touch of tea and a hint of smoke.
Taste: Coriander upfront, followed by citrus and a light, sweet biscuit spice. There’s a warmth that grows, but doesn’t burn. The finish is dry, with notes of citrus, coriander, and a hint of pine.
Gin & Tonic
Strong and citrusy, with a slightly menthol coriander note coming through and a spicy citrus note reminiscent of lemongrass. Yum!
Heavy and intense, with plenty of juniper. This is a cocktail that really raises the appetite – it’s a lovely choice for the first drink of an evening, especially if you’re looking for something strong, cold, and well-made.
This has heavy juniper notes that really shine through. I think it is absolutely superb and shows how much of an impact the gin can have in the cocktail. Fresh and crisp, it has less bitterness than usual. It would make a great choice for an aperitif.