Vor Gin is composed of an entirely, and uniquely Icelandic, assortment of botanicals ranging from the trendy (Thyme) to the obscure (kale). It’s base spirit is composed of also Icelandic Barley, and for their barrel aged variant, ultimately it is rested in an oak barrel— that I suspect owing to the lack of oak, the barrel may not be locally coopered— but alas, it’s Icelandic and barrel aged. And it’s a gin that we were quite a fan of on its own, so how does it stand up after a gentle rest?
All Gins containing: Thyme
The Distiller’s grandfathers’s eponymous gin— Gustaf— is grain-to-glass distilled from Winter Rye— hand done at that, and then distilled with a decidedly modern botanical blend, including meadowsweet, oft purported to be the botanical which gave early Hendrick’s a unique touch, sadly since replaced, and botanical du-jour thyme— for that herbally citrusy kick and cucumber— well where isn’t cucumber these days?— all bottled up nice and tidy at the strength the British Royal Navy would have liked— but this one hails from the decidedly inland Rye plains of Minnesota— in a beautiful austere bottle no less.
First, let me say that I’m not a fan of a wine-style cork in a bottle of gin. I know that Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin Slate/Schiefer Riesling after distillation, which means it’s an intentional design decision to call to mind the process; but I’m not a fan. Unlike wine, you wont finish this in one sitting [probably] and therefore you need to seal it [oh, and a bottle opener to open it]. A weak seal though will allow evaporation, and aromatic volatiles to dissipate, reducing flavor upon further sips. Buy a good wine bottle sealer [you don’t need vacuum] or just grab yourself the plug from an empty.
As if a pioneer organism, the East London Liquor Company has brought distilling back to London’s East End for the first time in over a hundred years. The re-purposed glue factory that they call home is where they distill their rum, vodka and line of gins, which number three at the moment. They have their entry level gin and two premium gins. One features tea and the other (the subject of this review) takes a more herbal forward approach featuring bay, sage, fennel and the unusual winter savory. Closely related to the summer savory, it played yin to summer’s yang.
If you’ve already picked up my book Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival (available now, worldwide!), you’ve already seen my notes for Solveig Gin. But it’s such an intriguing and interesting gin (not to mention one of the most handsome bottles I’ve seen) that I’m going to talk about it again here.
What is Solveig?
First, the name itself is relatively well recognized in Scandinavian Culture. It comes from the Old Norse, for a “child of the sun,” or “the sun’s strength.”
The gin itself is grain to glass, with its base distilled of Hazlet Winter Rye, a hardy winter rye grown widely across Canada and the Northern United States where harsh, cold winters are the norm, In what’s becoming more common, each botanical is distilled individually and then blended to produce the final product.
Terroir, the notion that place imbues the plants grown in a certain place with a unique character; or rather the idea that the climate that a plant experiences, the conditions of the soil, the time of the year, the sun, so and so forth, can alter that character of that which you grow in a certain place is backed up by innumerable chemistry journal articles which analyze the essential oil characteristics of such gin staples as angelica, juniper and coriander. For this piece we’ll call this terroir type I.
But a further more obvious aspect of terroir is often at play in gins such as Vor. What grows around you natively is perhaps the most readily identifiable aspect of a place’s regional food culture. The same soil conditions that can cause juniper to contain different quantities of linalool also dictates why crowberry or a kind of moss grows in Iceland and nowhere else. And why you might not be able to grow Tapioca in a northern clime, or banana. For this piece we’ll call this terroir type II.
Vor gin is a gin which uses both affects to delirious effect. And it’s far from just a gimmick: the combination of the two creates a gin which is wholly like anything else out there.
If you asked me, “what is the hottest place for innovation in the gin spirit category,” I would obviously reply “The United States.” But suppose you asked me, “what would be the next hottest place for innovation in gin?” I wouldn’t even hesitate to say it is definitely Spain.
The contemporary gin movement is not limited to the states. It is alive and well on the Iberian peninsula, and as we’ll see with Gin Mare, this Mediterranean gin is wholly unlike anything I think I’ve had thus far.