Hernö Swedish Excellence is a rather new organic and handcrafted Swedish gin, made at “the world’s northernmost gin distillery” in a small copper still named Kierstin, just outside of Härnösand about 400 km north of Stockholm. I had heard lots of great things about it, especially from the UK where it’s now available at The Whisky Exchange, so I decided to find out what the fuzz was all about.
Swedish Excellence is a London Dry style gin, made by steeping eight botanicals – juniper, coriander, meadowsweet, cassia, black pepper, vanilla, lingon berries and lemon peel – in their house made wheat spirit for 18 hours before distillation. It comes in a beautiful hand numbered 500 ml bottle signed by master distiller Jon Hillgren. So far so good.
Nose: Prominent aroma of juniper, citrus and fresh pine, with hints of coriander and liquorice. Mouth: A full on explosion of flavours with juniper, citrus peel and anise on the top with just a hint of sweetness, and as the long aftertaste fades out the coriander kicks in together with pine and a floral freshness – wow!
Gin & Tonic
When I asked the master distiller for cocktail recommendations, he answered “our gin is made to stand on its own, but when it comes to drinks I prefer a Gin & Tonic without garnish or with either lingon berries or a lemon wheel” – and I can definitely see why because it’s truly wonderful by itself. However, I was very excited to try it out in some classic gin cocktails – but first I decided to do as he told me so I started with a Gin & Tonic (60 ml Hernö Swedish Excellence, 120 ml Fentiman’s Tonic Water, lemon wheel) and it did not disappoint. Maybe Fentiman’s is a bit too citrusy for this gin, but at least it highlighted the coriander and floral notes very well.
Corpse Reviver #2
Next up, I made a Corpse Reviver #2 (30 ml Hernö Swedish Excellence, 30 ml Lillet Blanc, 30 ml Cointreau, 30 ml fresh lemon juice – shake with ice cubes, double strain into a Valkyria Absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass, garnish with lemon zest) and it came out top notch, but I probably wouldn’t know it was made with Hernö gin in a blind test. Curious as I am, I continued with a Negroni (40 ml Hernö Swedish Excellence, 40 ml Martini Rosso, 40 ml Campari – stir with ice and strain into Old Fashioned glass with one big ice cube and garnish with orange zest) and these liquids fit very well together, this time with more citrus and coriander coming through together with some of the floral qualities on top.
Last but not least, I had to do a Dry Martini (50 ml Hernö Swedish Excellence, 10 ml Noilly Prat – stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon zest) and now I got more of the fantastic juniper and pine notes together with the coriander, and the oils from the lemon zest really elevated the citrusy elements of the gin.
This gin has got a very suitable name – Swedish Excellence – and I’m really impressed with it. It’s well balanced, highly versatile and also different enough compared to other similar products on the ever expanding gin market. The company also released a navy strength gin just a few days ago – can’t wait to try it!
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