Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin
The creators of Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin are cooler then us. They might be cooler than you, too. They ooze Nordic chic from every pore, from their style to their attitudes to their ability to turn a city of strangers into a city of friends. Does cool make a good gin, though? Or has a decidedly laid back approach resulted in a chaos of noise and mess?
Calle and Anna Wikner fell deeply in love with the craft booze world when living in Vancouver in 2015. They were there for two years, hanging out in local breweries and small distilleries and observing the rise of craft with gin-greedy eyes. There were no distilleries in Stockholm at the time, so the Wikners soaked it all up, trying to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.
“Right there and then a small thought planted itself in our minds that we could perhaps start a distillery of our own in Stockholm,” Calle said. “The reason that we decided to focus on Gin was both based on the fact that Gin was our absolute favourite spirit and also the endless possibility to vary it due to its broad definition. That the Gin market is growing all over the world helped, too…”
When in Vancouver, they travelled the Pacific North West, visiting distilleries in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and everywhere in between. Everyone was open to share their do’s and don’ts with the duo, so armed with borrowed knowledge, they bought themselves a small chemistry lab and began distilling small crops of botanicals that had been steeped in vodka, slowly piecing together a book of recipes.
As delivery time on a still was long, the Wikners ordered their 350-litre beastie whilst still living in Vancouver, deciding that they’d just find a space when they got back. This, Calle confirms, “was easier said than done! We wanted a space that was available for the public as we wanted to create the same open meeting place as the distilleries and breweries had in Vancouver. Also, there are many requirements from different regulations that made the search harder”
In the end it took over a 100 location scouts and more than 10 months of searching until they found the perfect spot – an old Jaguar workshop just around the corner from their apartment.
When creating the flavour for Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin, the Wikners had two goals: one was to share a taste of their Nordic surroundings, showing provenance and culture by capturing local tastes. The second was to create a spirit that was loud enough to stand out, yet compliant enough to work well in classic cocktails.
In a twist sweet enough to spike your blood sugar levels, the end recipe ended up being the one the Wikners made for their wedding in Summer 2016. The botanical line-up –formed of juniper, coriander, angelica, heather, elderflower, lemon peel and rosemary – was inspired by Torö, the town in which their wedding took place.
To make Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin, the couple steep their mixture in an organic wheat spirit, which has been cut down to 60%. The liquid is gently heated and left overnight, then their Holstein still is cranked up. The Wikners take just the hearts cut (the heads and tails are discarded), which is cut to 40%ABV with city tap water, then left to rest for 24 hour before bottling.
All in, all production takes around two days and while their still is perfectly capable of creating 800 bottles, for now they’re sticking to 200 per run. Anna takes care of this for the most part, as she has given up her job in mechanical engineering to focus full time on the distillery, whilst Carl still works full time at a branding agency (though dedicates evenings and weekends to the gin).
Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin to taste…
There is an incredibly rich, deep juniper here on the nose, one that’s so tart it’s almost like dark chocolate. Elderflower delivers a sweet floral lift keeping it fresh, while heather chimes in to drag it in a slightly cooled direction. It’s alluring, full of complexity and makes you want to dive straight into the glass.
To taste, bright and zesty lemon dances a dizzying tango with elderflower up front, doing a sweet-sharp-sweet-sharp loop on the tongue. Coriander seed warms the citrus, carrying it through to the juniper explosion of a finish. It’s a simple botanical line up done with impeccable finesse. The mouth goes everywhere at once – from soft summer flowers, to sharp sweet citrus and to snow dusted pine. Incredible.
With tonic, the floral smell is even stronger, while the heather and rosemary take on an almost savoury feel. The quinine and lemon join forces immediately, placing the tongue in something of a citrus chokehold while the flowers dip in and out of the picture. Bittersweet and mouth-wateringly fragrant, this is a perfect G&T without any garnish at all, though the Wikners recommend lemon peel and a sprig of rosemary to exaggerate the citrus and herbal elements.
Needless to say, we’re hooked, so we were quick to ask if the duo were planning any variants. “Oh definitely,” Calle confirmed. “The broad definition of Gin was one of the aspects that drew us to the category in the first place, so we’ll definitely look at doing limited editions and taking advantage of the nature around us in Stockholm.” One planned variant is an ex-bourbon barrelled aged edition of their gin, although one that’s had a hint of pepper and orange peel added. As for Navy Strength… well that already exists, though they’re only selling it to a select few bars.
That such a fantastic tasting gin has come from two absolute newbies is not as surprising as it should be; the Gin community is a welcoming one and Calle and Anna had already soaked up a lot of second hand wisdom before beginning their adventure. Calle is quick to name check sources of wisdom: “In Sweden we received a lot of help from Jon at Hërno, who has been a super partner in our journey. We hope that together we can educate the Swedish consumer that there’s an alternative to the larger established industrial scale brands.”
The branding is every bit as cool as it should be too; packaged in short brown apothecary style bottles (almost identical to those of Monkey 47), Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin channels the small batch appeal, with hand written details on the label showing the craft nature of the brand.
The journey from inception to production was swift at just 18 months, but it wasn’t without its tremors. The struggle to find a space meant that they had to team up with a brewery to afford the space in the end, and starting a business always comes with the feeling that the floor is about to disappear from beneath you at any point.
Luckily, the Wikners have fully embraced the hand dealt to them, and teaming up with Modernist Brewery to build a home for Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin has helped them to form the ethos upon which their entire brand is built. Calle explains: “The joint vision between us and Modernist Brewery is to create a meeting place focusing on small scale production where we can explore ideas ourselves and together with other companies, and where the public can join in.”
Working as a husband and wife team has also helped them to turn the journey into a joyous one. “All the wins and milestones feel like they are multiplies because we are doing it together,” Calle said, adding that “it doesn’t feel like work when we are at the distillery, which means that it doesn’t feel like we have to prioritise spending time with each other to run the project. There are also times when it’s tough of course, and it can be hard at times when we’re both down when things are not moving along the way we expected, but we’re pretty good at lifting each other up and looking ahead.”
With a product this good in packaging that slick, we’d hope that the Wikners are on easy street from now on. Distribution to the Nordic countries is off to a flying start, so all we have to do is cross our fingers and hope that Calle and Anna are going to find some UK routes to markets soon.
So what about that noise and mess? Nothing like it; Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin is cool, calm and collected, fusing stripped back Scandi chic with an outrageous dose of juniper and a twist of modernity that places it perfectly in the middle of classic and contemporary gin.
For more information about Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin visit the website: stockholmsbranneri.com
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