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!
- 2 shots of Ólafsson gin
- 1/2 shot Extra Dry vermouth
- 1/2 shot Martini Bianco vermouth
- Lime twist
- First, find yourself a classic Martini glass (even better if it’s been in the freezer for half an hour!)
- 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.
- Half fill the shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds.
- Strain into the martini glass.
- 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!)
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