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 from Europe
A. van Wees distillery de Ooievaar is best known for its Genevers, which is the last traditional Genever distillery in Amsterdam (well, so they say). In operation since the late 18th century, the distillery now has 18 different takes on the traditional Dutch spirits, and more than a few gins as well. Three Corner Dry Gin is something of a curiosity owing to its rather lean botanical bill. Simply lemon and juniper, its an apt exploration for students of gin looking to focus on learning the ways different botanicals taste in isolation, but more than that, despite its simplicity it’s a rather versatile gin with a rather distinctive flavor to boot.
Junipers are long lived species. A single bush can live for hundreds of years in the wild. Most of the juniper grown in captivity is much younger than this, and with human development expanding further and further into the wilds there’s fewer of these long lived bushes than their once was, particularly in the UK where although the juniper’s demise might have been prematurely declared. One distillery in particular in Scotland, Crossbill Distillery has traded its reputation on locally sourced juniper, rather than the Italian and Balkan sources most distillers rely on because of its invariability and steady supply.
So Crossbill 200 is the distillery’s love letter to the 20 century old bush that grows just outside its distillery; lovingly distilled along with the rosehip that grows alongside the bush in its natural habitat.
Shortcross Small Cask Barrel Aged Gin starts with Rademon Estate Distillery’s flagship gin, and rests it for four month in European Oak barrels from a Bordeaux Wine estate. The barrel aged gin is the first flirtation with barrels for the young distillery, who just barreled their first batch of whiskey, and which is still some years off…
But I digress, back to the gin.
Absolutely gorgeous nose! Herbal, but more towards the floral side of that genre, a veil of clover, vanillin and barrel notes, herbaceous juniper, grassy meadow notes, toasted walnut and burnt orange rinds. It’s all blended quite delicately, with the wood only subtly in the mix, transforming the botanicals and not shouting or being too literal.
When I first picked this up last year, I naively, despite the name, didn’t realize this was the house brand at a Astor Place Wine and Spirits in New York City. Those of you who follow me on social media know that it’s one of my favorite liquor stores in the city and that I do often go there and I’ve extolled their virtues before. Little is shared about the details behind the gin. It’s 100% Grain neutral spirits [says the label], it’s distilled in England [says the label] in a copper still [says the website].
Designed to be of good quality at an affordable price, the appearance is simple enough, but how does it taste?
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.
The Craft Gin Club tells the story best, in their March post to their members about this special edition of Shortcross Gin*. For those of you who aren’t going to click a link no matter how brief the article [four paragraphs!], the TL;DR is, “they boosted the Clover in their signature formula,” which by the way was unusual and exotic to start, with apple and elderberry alongside juniper, coriander, cassia, orange, and lemon.
Juniper and coriander, heady and rich on the nose. Furthermore, citrus zest, granny smith apple. and an interesting note that’s green, herbal and slightly floral. This is where the clover seems to come through. Though the Gin Club post seems to allude to the greens being present in here, I’m getting hints of clover blossom and not much green.
A love letter from two gin fans to the city of Dublin, it adds Dublin Rhubarb [didn’t know this was a thing] along with some traditional gin botanicals to create a gin that is about the place first, but hopes to one day be distilled in the place with a Dublin distillery part of the long term plan.
Lovely, juniper forward nose, with dry, slightly spicy, [smells perhaps like Moroccan] coriander, angelica, and pine notes with grapefruit flourish along the edges. Exceptional and bright, I love this nose, though you do get slight hints of linalool beneath the surface. Perhaps lavender, perhaps the aforementioned rhubarb. The top notes carry the juniper, but this coriander really makes up the body of it, especially as it warms.
Gibson’s gin is among the most popular gins in a couple of places not necessarily known for their gin drinking. Readily available in Sweden and France, Gibson’s Gin is something of a rarity in its home range of the United Kingdom.
And of course, on shelves chock full of (now!) hundreds of gin, it can be hard for an inexpensive, and not particularly special looking gin to stand out. However, for all of the times I reach for an inexpensive gin and find that you can judge a book by its cover, I sometimes find a gin like Gibson’s, that is worth well more than what you’re paying for it.
From one of the oldest and biggest breweries in Iceland, Ísafold Gin has a relatively nondescript appearance. It’s hard not to immediately see it and think “bargain brand.” Situated on the bottom shelf and available in plastic containers 200 ml all the way up to a full liter, it’s the most inexpensive gin I saw while in Iceland. But despite this, this relatively understated gin with very little information available on it; there’s no story nor mythos. No hidden water sources nor endemic flora inside. It manages to surprise and be a solid dry gin that ticks all of the boxes for gin at a reasonable price point.
A highly volatile nose that comes on suddenly before quickly dissipating delivers with a pleasant accord of juniper, pine, lemon and orange. Quiet underneath, it’s a pleasant smelling classic style gin.
The palate adds some roundness to the nose, with coriander, and baking spice making way before the citrus comes in later.