Ólafsson Gin

Ólafsson gin: the exquisite, natural taste of Iceland

Icelandic gin is on the rise. I suppose it should come as no surprise that one of the most dramatic landscapes on earth has turned to its natural resources for inspiration. Iceland now creates some of the most interesting new gins available anywhere in the world. From the early days of the gin revolution, brands such as Martin Miller’s spotted the gin potential of this bleak and barren landscape.  They were one of the first to make the connection and marketed themselves as a “super premium gin, distilled in England blended with the purest Icelandic water” . This water is filtered through 800 years of glacial melt, so it is as smooth and pure and clean as water can be.

Martin Miller’s found a niche and made a bit of a name for itself at the vanguard of the gin revolution.  And then, a few years ago, some friends returned from a visit to Iceland. They introduced me to the delights of Himbrimi gin, a deliciously unique Old Tom gin. This unique, sweeter and smokier gin is made with pure Icelandic water, hand picked wild flowers and honey. It appeared that the Icelandic gin revolution was now in full flow.

Ólafsson Gin – made from nature

In fact, there are now more than a dozen craft gin distilleries operating on this island of 350,000 people. And it’s starting to build quite a reputation for itself.  So, when a couple of Icelandic friends visited us in Barcelona recently (bearing a lovely looking bottle of Icelandic gin), we were delighted. The classic label and limited edition batch number just made us even more excited to give this one a try. And, we were not disappointed. Ólafsson gin, with its slogan: “Hreint Og Villt” (loosely translated as “pure and wild”) comes in a striking bottle. It has an etched label featuring an image of Iceland’s most famous explorer, Eggert Ólafsson gazing out dramatically at a scene of geysers, rocks and wild animals.

Driven by a taste for adventure…

In the 18th century, Eggert Ólafsson roamed this island to discover more about its native culture and natural secrets. He wandered the tundras, rocks and hills, discovering geysers and glaciers and waterfalls and volcanoes along the way. In 1772, he recorded his findings in one of Iceland’s most famous books, Travels in Iceland. Since then, he has become a part of Iceland’s folklore and a hero to many.  So, when the folks at Eyland spirits decided they needed a name for their new gin, Ólafsson was the first name they thought of.

Iceland’s gin revolution

So, what is it about dramatic, rugged, cold Iceland that makes it such a popular place for gin making? Well first of all, apart from the pulsing heartbeat of Reykjavík the capital, there’s not much to do on those long Iceland days and nights. So, Icelanders turn to their heritage keeping traditional skills alive.  There is a rich craft history here and this has led to a culture of creativity that extends all the way to gin.  That enthusiasm, combined with the natural gifts of the rugged Icelandic landscape, have come together in a sensational blend.

Pure water and unique botanicals

Pure water direct from glacial melt and unique, hard to find botanicals, some of which are unique to Iceland all combine to create a little gin magic.  There are now more than a dozen distilleries on the island, each with their own unique blend and distinctive style.  And we expect more to come.  Icelandic gin might not be easy to find in your local liquor store. But it’s worth the effort to track some down and the proof is in the taste.  So, how about this Ólafsson gin – how did it all begin?

The taste of Iceland in a bottle

Well, the folks at Eyland spirits were determined to capture the purity of the Icelandic landscape in a bottle of gin. That’s exactly what they’ve tried to do in their Ólafsson gin. Their aim was to harness these fresh, clean tastes in a bottle.  To do this, they began with the crisp, clean notes of juniper and a grain base. They then added a range of complex botanicals to deliver floral and citrus notes and earthy spice.

Getting under the skin of the gin

So, let’s get under the skin of this special gin. With a classic juniper base, the unique flavors of Iceland are brought out by the native notes of Arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss.  All of this is then blended with its pristine arctic water for a unique, smooth and refreshing drink. On the nose, you’ll pick up complex notes ranging from lime zest to kiwi. There are hints of ginger, Earl Grey tea and peppercorns to give it a little extra spiciness and angelica and juniper also shine through.

The taste test

And then, the best bit – the taste. There’s a lovely citrus zest from the lime and the complex warmth of the spices comes through to make this a sophisticated treat for the senses.  The overall impression is of a smooth, complex gin featuring classic botanicals in a refreshing. modern style. As with all gins, we think it goes best with a simple premium tonic water, but Olafsson gin is also a dependable gin for cocktail making.  In fact, we think it works particularly well in a Dry Martini, a Gimlet or even a French 75.

Ólafsson Gin: the perfect pour

While we would normally recommend a classic gin and tonic recipe as our perfect pour, for this gin, we’re going to go with a Dry Martini.  That’s partly because it shows off the complexity of this smooth gin, but it also just happens to have been awarded a Gold Medal as the Best Gin for a Martini by the Beverage Tasting Institute, so we thought we’d go with that.  Here’s all you need for a deliciously smooth Icelandic Martini!

Ingredients:

Ólafsson Gin
  • 2 shots of Ólafsson gin
  • 1/2 shot Extra Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 shot Martini Bianco vermouth
  • Ice
  • Lime twist

Method:

  1. First, find yourself a classic Martini glass (even better if it’s been in the freezer for half an hour!)
  2. Next, pour 2 shots of Ólafsson gin, ½ a shot of extra dry vermouth, a ½ shot of Martini Bianco vermouth into a cocktail shaker.
  3. Half fill the shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds.
  4. Strain into the martini glass. 
  5. Peel a twist of lime over the glass and drop into the drink. Et voila!

Enjoy this little piece of Iceland. And don’t forget the ice!


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Oxley Gin

Oxley Gin: the gin that came in from the cold

If you like a classic juniper-forward gin with a twist, then we might have just discovered the perfect gin for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of Oxley Gin, a classic blend of tradition and innovation that delivers one of the most well balanced, smoothest and easiest to drink gins around. With 14 different botanicals (each individual batch is vacuum-sealed and frozen to make sure that the flavour is protected) you’d expect this to be a complex and sophisticated blend – and you’d be right!

So, how did this smooth, juniper-forward classic come about and what’s the secret behind its subtle, elegant flavours?

How it all began

Well, Oxley Gin is now part of the Bacardi family and it all began as an experiment.  In fact, the folks at Oxley spent 8 years developing this beautiful gin.  And along the way, they invented a completely new way of distilling gin. Traditionally, gins are distilled using heat.  This reduces the spirit and the botanicals to vapour.  However, the Oxley team decided to turn conventional wisdom on its head.  Instead of using heat to create the vapour, they did the exact opposite. 

They create an intense vacuum, which reduces the pressure within the still. In turn, this takes the temperature down to around -5C, at which point the spirit (already in its 15th hour of maceration) vapourises.  Then, a cold finger probe (frozen to -100c) is introduced, which returns the vapour back into a liquid with a beautiful, smooth blend of flavours that set this gin in a league of its own

Eight years to make, but worth the wait

Despite being owned by such a big brand, this is still a small batch gin. It took them 8 years and 38 recipes to get it right, but it was worth the wait.  The 14 botanicals include juniper, coriander seeds, vanilla, grapefruit peel, cassia bark, grains of paradise, nutmeg and cocoa nibs.  The cold distilling process means that the gin leads with a big hit of fresh fruit, citrus , herbs and floral flavours for a delightfully smooth, yet complex gin that works very well in a standard G&T but which also adds a rich complexity to cocktails.

Plus, the bottle is as classy as the gin itself. Tall, with a short neck, it tapers into a textured, indented base. It is decorated front and back with a classic rectangular, green edged label which contains the recipe number and the unique batch number

So, what exactly does it taste like?

Well this is one classy gin!  On the nose, you’ll find licorice notes alongside orange and tangerine, followed by a smooth (but unmistakable) juniper blast.  Then, when you take a sip, you start to get a sense of the complexities that lie within. One by one, you start to unravel the botanicals within and peppery notes and complex aromas begin to appear.  It all finishes with a clean, sweet finish that lingers with a delicate mintiness, lengthened by a touch of aniseed, juniper and even a little mace. 

The perfect serve: Oxley classic Dry Martini recipe

This is one of those rare gins that is so smooth and mellow that it can be sipped neat (or with a bit of water to bring out all the tastes).  It also works brilliantly in cocktails that require a smooth, well balanced taste profile that complements rather than detracts from the cocktail itself.  And,  like most classic gins, we think it makes a great G&T. 

At 47% ABV, this gin is no shrinking Violet, but its subtle composition doesn’t allow the alcohol taste to be over dominant, allowing for a great G&T.  But its smooth, subtlety means that it is a perfect companion for a classic Dry Martini.  With its delicate flavours and smooth, mellow tones, it works really well in a 3:1 ratio with a dash of orange bitters that allows the botanicals to shine through delivering a crisp, complex and delicate drink.  Best garnished with a little orange zest to bring out the best of the citrus notes, this could become your “go to” brunch cocktail.  We think you’ll enjoy it…

Ingredients:

  • 45 ml Oxley Gin
  • 15 ml Noilly Prat vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters
  • Orange zest

Method:

  1. Stir all the ingredients over ice
  2. Strain into a martini cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with orange zest

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Corpen

Corpen’s Brian Burgess: my favourite cocktail

Corpen Week is coming to a close and we’ve loved learning more about this brave new Barcelona gin brand. We’ve heard about how tough it is to open a gin brand in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve reviewed the deliciously complex Corpen Llevant to reveal its complex flavours. We’ve heard why integrity is so important to the Corpen process.

Now, in a final flourish, we’ve invited Corpen’s co-founder Brian Burgess to be Barcelona Gin’s guest bartender for March. 
The team at Corpen have created an extraordinarily delicious gin. It’s bursting with citrus notes, brimming with earthy tones and jam-packed with gentle spice. When you have a gin as good as this, the last thing you want to do is to ruin its unique flavour by drowning it in a sea of sugary cocktail mixes. This is a good gin and it demands respect.

We asked Brian to suggest his favourite cocktail. Something that would make the most of the gorgeous flavour combinations in Corpen Llevant. 

This is what he came up with…

“For me, it’s the Martini – a cocktail classic that stands the test of time and showcases the flavour of the gin. For me, the perfect mix is a 50/50 Martini. “
“The classic version can sometimes be a bit intimidating. There’s a hard core of drinkers whose use of vermouth is, shall we say, minimal. I think we all know these people. We may even be these people. The common view is that drier is better. Just wave a bottle of vermouth in the general direction of the glass and you’re done. Some martini lovers think that you should simply rinse the glass with vermouth and then pour out the contents before adding the gin. Others pass a bottle of vermouth over the mixing glass without even taking the cap off the bottle. Winston Churchill used to just wave his glass of gin in the general direction of France!”

“Don’t get me wrong, this is fine and each to their own. We love our gin and serving it cold on ice is still delicious, but it’s not for everyone. We think the vermouth can add some delicious flavours and we don’t want to miss out on them. We use Dolin Dry as our vermouth and a squeeze of lemon, which we think makes this a much more accessible drink than the ultra dry version. We don’t add any bitters. It’s a less boozy version of the classic and we think it’s a great entry level Martini. We hope you enjoy it!”

Corpen’s 50:50 Martini

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Add the gin and dry vermouth to a mixing glass
  2. Fill with ice and stir until well chilled
  3. Strain into a chilled Martini glass
  4. Squeeze some lemon into the glass
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist

Cheers!

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a martini glass with the james bond background

Dukes Bar, London: where James Bond would drink

There’s a little bar, very discreet, tucked away in a quiet corner of Mayfair. It sits inside a classic Mayfair Hotel. You’d probably never know it was there. Welcome to Dukes Bar.

This bar is famous for one very special thing, the simple classic drink that they do extremely well and that they make with proper old-fashioned style. Dukes Bar has been serving dry martinis for 112 years now, so the bartenders know their stuff. It’s the sort of place that James Bond would go to meet M for a quiet drink. In fact, it was the preferred haunt of Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, so no wonder his hero was partial to a dry Martini. And if the walls could speak, what stories we’d hear.

This is the perfect place to meet a lover or to seal a secret deal. The sort of place where the white-jacketed waiters see everything but say nothing. It’s a place that doesn’t need to advertise itself. It likes things just the way they are. This place has built its reputation over more than a century. And news of its delights has spread in the best way possible. By word of mouth.

Small, intimate and stylish, in a very British gentleman’s club kind of way, you can sit on small, round tables, overstuffed sofas or gorgeous leather armchairs.

Getting trollied

Spread over three rooms, Dukes Bar does things the way it has always done them: with oodles of crusty British style, discretion and just a modest touch of panache.

The main thing to know is that you should always order your Martinis from the trolley list. Someone will wheel a small trolley to your table. From it, you’ll be offered a selection of 2-3 spirits served from bottles so cold they could stick to your hands. Straight from the freezer to your table, the icy gin is poured directly into a Martini glass that has shared the freezer space to become equally cool.

Alongside your preferred gin, your bartender will offer you a choice of vermouth (made in house) or a selection of bitters along with a small bowl of fruit. Your drink will be stirred in front of you (no hurry here) and garnished from the fruit bowl.

This is cocktail heaven, the old fashioned way.

They source their lemons directly from a supplier on the Amalfi coast of Italy and if you’re looking for food, the dish of the day appears to be salty nuts. This is not a place to come to eat. You come here to drink.
Slowly.

There’s no music, no television and the crowd are engaged in a quiet conversational hum. Oil paintings hang on the walls. This is a 20th century bar oozing with 19th century atmosphere.

But those Martinis – I keep coming back to those Martinis

The real reason people in the know come to this bar is for those Martinis – rightly considered amongst the best in the world.

On their trolley, Plymouth Gin (paid link) is offered for the Martini base. They then wave a bottle of home made vermouth in the general direction of France and add three olives from Sicily or, if you prefer, a very thin slice of those Amalfi lemons. But they have others available too, including Sacred Gin (paid link), which they claim was Ian Fleming’s favourite.

As they say at Dukes: “One is alright, two are too many, three are not enough”.

The delicate dance of the Dry Martini

The making of the Martini here is a performance all of its own, more like a dance than a job. The white jacketed, black tied, mostly Italian waiters have it down to a fine art. After 112 years, Dukes has had plenty of practice.

So, if you’re looking for an intimate place with heritage and pedigree, if you want to spend the evening quietly sipping the best dry martini in the world while speculating which one of your fellow drinkers will be heading back to MI5 with a hangover in the morning, then this is the place.

You are going back to the source – and you won’t be disappointed.

Dukes Hotel, 35 St. James’ Place, London SW1A 1NY


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A classic bartender shaking a cocktail behind the wooden bar counter in Dry Martini cocktail bar

Dry Martini: Barcelona’s cocktail HQ

In a year when we said goodbye to Sean Connery (arguably the greatest Bond ever to grace our screens) we thought we’d pay tribute to a Barcelona bar that has been honouring his favourite drink for more than 30 years. Welcome to the legendary Dry Martini bar in Barcelona.
From the outside, you might not notice it but this elegant and sophisticated bar will impress you once you enter the swing doors. Inside is a sophisticated space with high ceilings, impressionist artwork on the walls and banquette sofas to perch on as you order your drink. There’s a long bar to sit at if that’s your preference. Or you could pull up a chair at one of the elegant tables.

Jazzy vibe, elegant decor, classic artwork

Look around you at the walls bedecked in artwork. Survey the shelves of wine bottles protected behind their pristine glass cabinets. Take in the bartenders and wait people, all dressed up in white tunics and black bow ties, scurrying around making sure that everyone’s drinking and everyone’s happy. Soak up the warm colors of the paneled walls and listen to the chilled jazz soundtrack getting you into that mellow mood. Then, when you’re ready, order your drink. And really, there’s only one drink for you to start with in this cocktail palace. It’s the drink that gave the bar its name. Say these words, slowly: un Dry Martini, por favor.

The perfect Dry Martini

Your reward will be a classic Dry Martini, made to their exacting requirements with a strict formula that has stood the test of time. Their special combination: 1/2 London Dry gin (you can choose from their wide selection or let them decide). They then add an equal amount of French vermouth, before adding a dash of orange bitters and stirring it in an ice-filled beaker before decanting it elegantly into your Martini glass. The glass will then be garnished with either a squeezed lemon rind or a ripe, juicy olive, dependent on your taste. Then simply sit back and take a sip. Then another. And when the sipping’s done, order you’re second drink (since one of these is never enough). In fact, one of the distinguishing features of this classic cocktail bar is the incongruous digital counter that sits behind the bar.

Hitting the button, every time…

Every time a Dry Martini is ordered, the Martini button is pushed and the number goes up by one. At the last count, well over one million Dry Martinis had been ordered here since the bar was first opened. And with that sort of endorsement from your customers, it’s not surprising that this is one of only 6 bars in the world to have made it onto the world’s 50 best bar list, 7 times in a row. This is a tribute to the vision of Barcelona’s pioneering cocktail king, Javier de las Muelas who founded this legendary place back all those years ago.

And while this bar is all about the cocktails, they serve some decent tapas as well, served with panache to a well-heeled crowd of upmarket locals, cocktail fanatics and curious tourists.

A hidden speakeasy, a terrace and a cocktail school

Plus, hidden behind the panelled walls at the back of the bar is a secret door, leading to the clandestine Speakeasy restaurant, serving continental and Spanish fare in an atmosphere reminiscent of a gentleman’s club. Dry Martini serves a range of cocktails alongside its classic Dry Martinis and features all the standard classic gins such as Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire’s Star of Bombay, Bloomsbury and Puerto de Indias for a blast of Spanish strawberries. Plus, the icing on the cake – these guys run a pretty decent cocktail school right next door where some of the best mixologists in Spain will share their tricks and tips – at a price.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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