It's been a while, but I have been under the weather, literally. That and a touch of the flu! But Gin waits for no man and after a game of 'Spot the Tree' on Orkney I gave up after four days. We've taken the bus back to Kirkwall, Orkney's bustling capital. Kirkwall was originally called Church Bay which in the Language of the Norse is Kirkjuvagr. This name has now been resurrected in the guise of a Gin that would please any Viking wanting to lose his Noggin the Nog. The gin draws heavily on its heritage and has an unmistakeable Viking look with Celtic waves washing across the label and smart runic branding.
So, let us set the scene for our own Norse Saga - Orkney is an island that dances to the beat of its own drum. A slow steady beat that is nostalgic to a better time, a more inclusive time - like a costume drama, we would all love to live here and in this time. There is a respect for the land and a pride in what can be made from it and Kirkjuvagr Gin, though a new comer, certainly sails on this pride. Let us go down to the sea again - well, Orkney harbour - and watch the bustle as we pop our cork. I love this bottle; its silver and turquoise branding is fresh and sparkles like light falling on the sea. It suggests a breezy freshness and the botanicals gleamed from the Orcadian land bodes well too. There is Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, Borage, traditional Orcadian bere barley and locally sourced Angelica.
The masterminds of Kirkjuvagr Gin are Stephen and Aly Kemp and they have been very involved and conscientious in perfecting Kirkjuvagr's recipe. Together with the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Kirkwall Stephen and Aly have crafted something special and authentic. I raise my glass to them - and inhale deeply.
The nose is light and fresh - like Njöror, the Viking God of the Wind whistling Mendelssohn. There is a sweet smell of pine, from the juniper and top notes from citrus that glisten with sherbet. The middle is contained in a faint floral, I find on a second nosing. With an ABV of 43% this is a good and robust strength to allow a lighter handling of botanics.
The taste is very surprising, given the botanics I mentioned earlier. I must have missed something. The start is sweet and warm with mere whisps of spice. I am getting orange trending to mandarin with coriander seed in the middle section and this slides down to the bottom register on a creamy bed of roses. The barley giving this creamy mouth feel with the attar of the roses. A good balanced middle that is deepened by the juniper and the local angelica on the bottom. The borage must help cut into this lower level with herbaceous notes as it is not a heavy gin - it's very light and the rose acts as an anchor to give a shading into the depths and up to the floral citrus high notes. All in all, the balance is clever, understated and tastes easy. There is a long dry finish with a little fizzle of pepper. This gin has personality!
I'm going to try this as a G&T with Walter Gregor Tonic, as the mint will help to boost Kirkjuvagr's maritime freshness. A peel of orange or tangerine would suit this drink well. There is no need to complicate it with garnish and plastic monkeys clinging desperately to bottled cherries. The simplicity of this gin is all you need with a classic premium tonic.
If you feel the need to become a flairing barman, throwing bottles around (No, just don't), then you could try this gin in a Tom Collins - the most classic of all gin cocktails - but with a finesse of orange flower water.
Combine first four ingredients in a Hiball glass with ice
Stir and then top with Soda. Add straws and serve
Garnish with a strip of orange zest
The success, both real and yet to come, has turned thoughts to moving the distillery to a new home within Kirkwall. Plans for a visitor centre, shop and hopefully tour have been given the green light by the Orkney Islands Council. This shows a connection to Orkney and the feeling of giving back to the land - creating Asgard here on earth. I'd easily get off my Noggin the Nog for that.
Unfortunately, it's time to leave Orkney and head back to the mainland. Apparently, there is a hue and cry of gin demanding my attention. The bus has had a diesel and tonic, Molly is dry and the sun is shining - all is well with the world.