Stig Bareksten is an imposing presence and almost certainly someone that, on first glance alone, your nana probably wouldn’t like at all. A fearsome crossover between Santa Claus and a Hells Angel, yet a contradiction in terms as Stig is a gregarious, enthusiastic, Norwegian distiller who speaks his English at a million miles an hour, especially when he’s given the chance to talk about his passion: Bareksten Botanical Gin.
Stig started his foray into the booze industry back in 1993. He worked as a bartender in Bergen, before moving to London a few years later to attend bar school. Upon his return to Oslo in 1998, he kept his head in the game for a good decade or so, before co-founding Det Norske Brenneri in late 2015.
The main focus of the distillery was bringing Norwegian plants to life in spirit form, and the products it proudly calls its own now, including the quite brilliant Harahorn Gin, are testament to his creative brilliance.
Still, Stig is a man of many ideas, so it wasn’t long until he was itching to do something else. In 2011, he joined OSS Craft Distillery in Bergen, where he was able to really hone his ideas and create, finally, his namesake: Bareksten Gin.
Bareksten Gin took four years to build, all told; the idea was allowed to live and form in Stig’s head for a good couple of those, before he finally started hacking away at local flora and trialling it in spirit form.
He has very firm ideas about the way a gin should be structured, so recipe creation was less of a puzzle and more of a formula in some respects, although he does work on the premise that there’s a great deal of room for creativity. “A gin should start dry and end bitter,” Stig decreed. “You can play around with everything else. I wanted to create a London Dry Gin with a traditional base line and a clear Norwegian identity. A rich and floral symphony of flavours that can be enjoyed neat as well as mixed.”
The resulting gin is an absolute flavour-fest, with 26 botanicals vying for attention, 19 of which are local. Stig even has a botanical GPS marker for each of the ingredients that are foraged. It’s a small way to bring technology and precision to the wildness of nature.
Bareksten Gin’s botanical goes on and on: there’s juniper, coriander, blueberries, grains of paradise, fennel, rose hips, lime peel, rose flowers, cinnamon, caraway, cardamom, angelica, lemon and orange peel, orris, rhubarb, aniseed, nutmeg, red clover, lavender, chamomile, mint arnica flowers, elderflowers, lingonberries… It’s as though Stig has exhausted the land that surrounds him, plundering it like a pirate on the high seas with a treasure map only he and Google pinpoints will ever know.
Bareksten Gin is a London Dry Gin, made in a single shot distillation. The citrus, rhubarb and a handful of flowers are suspended above the still in a vapour basket, where their flavours and oils are collected raw. The rest of the botanicals are added to the spirit for a full 24-hour maceration period.
The 600-litre still is left to run slowly, taking nine hours to run in total. This allows a smoother profile and more flavour to come through. Mouthfeel was always the starting point for this gin, so the more copper contact it has the more it was able to meet Stig’s aims. The blueberries and other fruits play a large part in this, too, allowing an almost gloopy texture to evolve on the tongue.
The traditional Norwegian potato base also helps with mouthfeel. Yes, Gin is made from vodka. Yes, vodka is a ‘neutral’ spirit, but it’s a very rare experience when a hint of the base doesn’t remain, and vodka made from potato and whey, for example, rather than cereal and grain, tends to be a great deal creamier.
While many gins shout about being grain to glass (or farm to glass, in this respect), Bareksten doesn’t make a song and dance about its potato roots. In 2019, the process of making their base will be entirely in house, yet don’t expect to hear too much about it; rather than being touted as a huge selling point, it’s merely something Stig sees as a necessity when it comes to overall quality control. It’s quite something to be able to choose not to talk about, but such is the luxury of having too much to present.
Bareksten Gin to taste…
Bareksten Gin tastes exactly as you would expect it to – of the Norwegian forest. The nose is vibrant and inviting with clear notes of fresh pine intertwined with enticing spiced undertones. It’s dense, dark and as much forest floor as it is budding spruce tips in Spring. Tasted neat the fresh pine lashes at the senses once more, but here, it’s joined by a lovely fruit roundness, with blueberry contributing a soft, full mouthfeel. The finish culminates with a burst of caraway that lingers with mentholic intensity long after the sip.
The bottle is a shroud of mystery, black, handsome and well thought out with botanical illustrations and the words ‘botanical gin’ ensuring that the message is not lost. This is a gin made of Norway, and everything about its design is intentional.
The dark speaks of the enigmatic nature in Norway, which can be either monstrous or beautiful, depending on how you treat it. The contents of the bottle, however, are floral and romantic, light and easy. “Like us Norwegians,” Stig explains, “what meets the eye changes once you get to know us…”
Bareksten Gin is strengthening by the second. A Navy Strength and an Old Tom are now also part of the portfolio, and expansion into new foreign shores is growing by the day. Currently, Bareksten is available in sixteen countries; but this time next year? Anything is possible.
Awards help with that too, to a certain extent. Bareksten Gin took home Double Gold from the San Franciscso World Spirits Competition, proving, surely, that Bareksten Gin is onto a good thing. At this suggestion, Stig responds wryly. “Well, they say it is difficult to be a prophet in ones own country. In that case, Double Gold in San Francisco made it a whole lot easier.”
Much like Stig himself, Bareksten Gin is a sweetheart in a tough shell. He’ll win your nana over in no time at all, because nana’s love nothing more than a good G&T, and he just so happens to be quite good at making them…
To hear more from Bareksten Gin, visit the website: barekstenspirits.com
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