The 64th parallel passes just south of Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and the eponymous distillery fashions itself after the parallel and the city, suggesting a tight connection with the landscape and a sense of place. The 64° Reykjavik Distillery makes several spirits which highlight the local flora. Crowberry, blueberry; that highlight the local tradition: Brennevin/Aquavit, and that ubiquitous conifer that we all love in the gin world, handpicked local juniper from the nation’s only native conifer.
Their Einiberja is organic as well, and features the aforementioned juniper.
For many years they made a clear, juniper snaps under the same name and proof point. A schnapps would suggest that the juniper is fermented and distilled along with the base (which can be anything, grain, fruit, etc. Often however, it is a brandy base). Contrary to contemporary expectations, Schnapps are not those sickeningly sweet liqueurs often bought on the bottom shelf to cover up the taste of cheap booze at college parties. A proper schnapps, in the Scandinavian/Northern European tradition is clear and normally unsweetened. I’m not 100% sure if this is the same product, rebranded as gin.
Crisp, cold, almost-frozen-in-space, juniper explodes off the nose. Pine-forward, it definitely exudes a holiday tree/Douglas Fir sort of aroma. There’s mint notes as well, which I think lend it that perceived coolness, with other conifer notes mixed in the background. Very lovely, and very inviting. It’s quite different in its vibrant quality, even compared to other juniper forward gins.
The palate is clean and juniper forward. I’m not sure that I’m picking up a fruit base or anything which overtly suggests to me that the juniper was added as part of the fermentation process. Even if it was, it tastes like there might have been another distillation, in a more traditional gin sense. The spirit tastes incredibly clean, with a pleasant warmth and quite rich mouthfeel. The juniper— and that is the prominent flavor— is bright and loud. Clean notes of pine, freshly chopped juniper berries, with more resiny notes coming out on the finish. A suggestion of orange zest and and dark green herbs as well. But overall, unless I’m being purely pedantic, it’s an exquisite distillation that showcases juniper at the fore.
I love this spirit just simply Neat, but It works well with a simple, and not altogether sweet Tonic like Fever Tree’s light. I think that although the gin is not sweet in and of itself, it doesn’t need much to highlight the juniper and make a good drink. I prefer this gin prepared simply; however, in things like the Negroni it works well owing to its bright flavors. But I really do love it just on its own, simply poured and sipped as it is. Which, is the traditional way to enjoy Snaps, sipped with family before a meal.
Overall, I highly recommend this gin. Fans of classic gins like Gordon’s, Beefeater or Tanqueray I think will love the way juniper is showcased here. But I also recommend this to fans of contemporary gin, who’ve shied away from juniper as a starring role. This may challenge your expectations of just how great juniper and mostly juniper can be, and may change your mind. But overall, this gin is a beautiful expression of clean juniper with hints of pine and fir, smooth enough to sip neat, straight from the bottle. Highly Recommended.
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