Review – Herno Gin
In an era when standing out from the crowd is all but essential, Herno gin has a few things going for it. Being Swedish certainly helps, for this certainly isn’t the world’s most prolific gin producing nation. Having some unusual and intriguing botanicals adds another tick to the uniqueness chart, as does being darned tasty, but we’ll see about that. Herno gin is distilled in a copper pot still using organic wheat spirit which is first diluted with well water before being redistilled. Juniper and coriander are then added and the temperature cranked up to 70C before the heat is turned off and things are left to macerate for 18hrs. The remaining botanicals (cassia, black pepper, meadowsweet, vanilla, lingon berries, and lemon peel) arethen added and a single-shot distillation used. The Juniper cask gin is unique in the category for being the only gin aged in casks made from Juniper wood.
Nose: A big hit of pine greets the nose, with a not so subtle hint of TCP about it as well. Lavender, despite not being included in the botanical makes an appearance, balanced by some coriander spice.
Neat: More complex and balanced than the nose, this admittedly unusually-profiled gin is more easy going on the palate than the nose. The coriander follows through on the palate, with a wonderfully fresh lemon note that livens things up considerably, whilst a gingery bite offers some contrasting spice. In an uncharacteristic display of restraint for this botanical, vanilla very much takes a backseat, whilst both the meadowsweet and lingon berry make their presence felt, creating a thoroughly unique taste profile that takes a little getting used to, but is very much one to grow on you.
Mixing: This is a gin that cries out to be used as a base in herbal and boldly flavoured cocktails. Whilst its high quality means that there are no flaws to be revealed in simpler drinks like a Martini, its bold flavours mean that some will consider it to be a bit too much. For those with a braver palate, the substitution of vermouth with a dry sherry works very well to create a thoroughly interesting drink. The godfather of all herbal drinks the Last Word sets the benchmark for this gin, which stands up well to the intensity of the lime and Chartreuse to deliver a wonderfully complex but also balanced libation. Equally, the Poet’s Dream is a cocktail that does not show the best side of all gins, but Herno makes a great choice. Longer drinks such as the simple G+T do however reveal a small chink in this gins armour via slightly lacking mid palate. In shorter drinks the bold upfront and finishing flavours dominate, but the fruit cup again reveals that this is a gin to stick with shorter more concentrated flavours.
Nose: Less pine-driven than the regular strength, with a bolder coriander influence , smoothed by meadowsweet and vanilla.
Neat: Again, the juniper is less assertive on the palate, which is expectedly powerful in character. Generally smoother and more rounded than the regular strength, despite the higher abv. The citrus is toned down and the vanilla turned up. Plenty of all elements on the sweet, savoury and spicy spectrum of flavours, with a decent lavender floral note as well.
Mixing: Such intensely flavoured high proof spirits can prove troublesome to mix and achieve a balance of flavours and this gin is no exception. It is however a fine spirit that warrants a little time spent getting to know its strengths and weaknesses, for it is quite capable of delivering some intriguing drinks. Dilution does of course help, and a ‘generous on the tonic’ G+T reveals that the higher abv compared with its weaker sibling carries flavours more confidently and the chink in the armour observed with the regular strength is not noted. Oftentimes Navy Strength gins benefit from the addition of citrus such as in the White Lady, but the combination of flavours, and in particular the floral notes here just don’t work. This is not so much of an issue in longer drinks such as the Basil Bramble Sling where the citrus does serve to cut through the intensity of this spirit,whilst the basil and creme de mure pick up on both the herbal and fruity elements of this spirit. The truly brave might wish to consider a Wink, although admittedly taking forty winks is all you’ll be good for after this intense cocktail.
Nose: Immensely waxy/sappy with fresh green pine aromas combining with honeyed grass and a sage-like herbaceousness.
Neat: Incredibly intense and powerfully aromatic. The impact of the Juniper wood is everything you would expect, there is sappy pine in abundance. The characteristic Herno flavour profile stands up well to this added flavour dimension, being linked with a beeswax mid-palate that offers an almost chewy texture. Not for the faint of heart, but this is no novelty gin , the Juniper wood offers real character.
Mixing: If the Navy Strength was tricky to mix with, this stuff is just plained difficult. This is not a gin that thinks much of the idea of working in harmony with other flavours, the majority of which it crushes with unashamed aggression. Even the similarly bold Campari is no match, and this gin is no more suitable for the flavourful Negroni as it is in the more delicate and floral Aviation. Whether you consider this a suitable choice for a G+T or Dry Martini will depend largely on quite how much of a fan of this intense flavour-bomb you are. The clue to success in mixing is the role that the honeyed character plays in bringing all the flavours together in the neat spirit. The Bee’s Knees for example, is very impressive indeed with this gin. Alternatively, drinks in which the gin is not the primary ingredient, such as in the vermouth-heavy Martinez, also allow the gin to showcase its full chatacter without becoming overbearing.
Herno Gins achieve the difficult task of standing out in a saturated market. The intense, unusual and intriguing flavour profile that is the result of the inclusion of botanicals such as meadowsweet is a success and although not immediately approachable, will appeal to those seeking something different. Rating: ★★★★
Herno Gin is available to buy from The Whisky Exchange.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.