Hven Organic Gin is a Swedish import brought from a small island located between Denmark and Sweden. Both pot distilled and oak matured, this organic wheat gin really is something special.
Hven is a beautiful green island reached only by boat in the strait of Oresund, with about a near 5-mile (or 7.5km) circumference and a population of 350 people. Established in 2008, The Spirit of Hven started up as a whisky distillery, and soon developed to become one of the bigger players within Sweden and Denmark’s burgeoning distilling scene, producing gins, vodka and other spirits.
As its success grew, there was a realisation that organic, locally made spirit with pedigree and authenticity was in huge demand. Organic may not have caught on in drinks as much as it has within the food industry, but for many looking for a point of difference, this marks Hven out as a cut above the rest and gave it crucial momentum to begin its journey. This may sound obvious but when the two biggest problems for new craft distilleries are finding 1) a niche and 2) a route to market – strong demand for a specific type of consumer is incredibly useful to capitalise on.
Thus Spirit of Hven started experimenting around and slowly but surely, their spirits portfolio was steadily added to – from vodka through to oak matured Aqua Vitae. They finally released their pot distilled gin in the UK in July 2012.
Being whisky makers, overseeing and producing everything from grain to glass is how they operate… Spirit of Hven make their own organic wheat based spirit from scratch. In the context of creating gin, however, things get complicated. Using an unusual method in comparison to other gin makers around the world, they pour this grain spirit over some of their gin botanicals in a large vat for at least 24 hours, allowing the fresh botanicals and spirit to infuse fully. The botanicals are sieved out and the spirit is laid to rest in American oak casks for around 18 months.
The idea behind doing this is that the oak matured gin gains a distinctive texture and depth of flavour due to this maceration and ageing period, thus standing it out from a normal gin crowd. It is highly unusual to do this before distilling as barrel aged gins are all “matured” post distilling – but this is also the point – they are not making a barrel aged gin, they are just priming the spirit before it is distilled to give it additional character. The idea is to have an increased oiliness in the final bottled product, making it easier for the gin to cut through and come across in cocktails and to have a richer mouthfeel – not to have oaky gin.
Once the 18 months have passed, the aged spirit is then added to the copper pot still and the distillation begins. Hven’s stills have very long necks which creates increased copper contact with the volatile spirit giving the gin a smoother and less acidic profile. After distillation, in which the ‘head’ (the first runs coming off the still) is discarded, the distillate is then allowed to rest in a large stainless steel container for a further 3 months. To most distillers, this is already more than a lengthy process and they would be keen to call it a day and get the product out the door, but no, it doesn’t end there for the Hven team… The spirit is then re-distilled once more to give it additional smoothness, then cut to 40% ABV and individually bottled and labelled on site.
Using locally picked juniper, other botanicals include grains of paradise, citrus, aniseed, Guinea pepper, Sichuan pepper, calamus root, cardamom, cassia, and Mauritian Bourbon vanilla. These flavours give a well-rounded gin a complex but soft gin profile. So, just to recap for the less techno savvy. Botanicals are macerated with spirit then removed, spirit is then aged for over a year in oak barrels, then distilled. The best part of the spirit run is kept, rested some more in a giant vat, then re-distilled. The final liquid is then watered down to 40% ABV, bottled and labelled to create phenomenally complex and awesome tasting gin. Got it? Just about…
On the nose, there is an aroma of juniper, spice and citrus reminiscent of traditional gin but with an added waft of freshness. Hints of vanilla and sweetness are also touched upon. The juniper remains prominent but does not overpower. Whilst there are two types of pepper within the mixture, this actually does not take over the gin profile.
Notes of spices are noticed on the palate, adding to the warmth of the lingering taste. Citrus and coriander add to this, tasted in the more oily and thicker mouthfeel that keeps the overall palate smooth. You can’t taste oak or ageing – but its subtle influence on the mouthfeel can be detected if sipped straight. It is easy to see why this gin has gained such wide spread appeal – it’s easy going, smooth and interesting.
From a marketing point of view – Hven Gin’s compelling package has all the right things. Fairtrade and organic sourcing combined with an incredibly technical and lengthy production have come together to add to the provenance and pedigree. The care and passion that goes into making Hven Gin is testament to the team’s dream of producing the best possible spirit they can achieve and adds real authenticity. Furthermore, the one and only Noma – voted best restaurant in the world in 2010, 2011, and 2012 – serves Hven as their gin of choice highlighting the gin’s quality, delectability and prestige (and quite the endorsement to receive!). The gin itself tastes smooth and unique. As a result it’s got a lot of strings to it’s bow and will, without doubt, grow in the UK once the team decide to make their move.
With other distilleries producing quality gins in Sweden, most notably Hernö Gin, only time will tell who will establish themselves as the market leader. For gin fans world wide – this added competition can only be good news. Hven really is a very pure and complex gin; and worth seeking out. In fact, the team have boasted that their gin is so pure it does not cause hangovers! Well, there is only one way to find out…
For more information about Spirit of Hven Gin, visit their website: www.hven.com
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