Kirkjuvagr Gin has a real sense of place and beautifully represents Orkney, from the founders, brand and name through to the botanicals and the end-product gin itself. The gin is well-balanced and there's a depth of flavour, from floral and herbaceous notes to subtle, almost sherbert-like sweetness offset with a peppery twist in the lingering, dry finish. Kirkjuvagr Gin delivers on flavour, complexity and personality in a way that many new gins can't match, and it deserves the big future the founders are aiming for.
Juniper sweeps the senses straight into a pine forest, though there’s a hint of island about it; a faint saline splash on the nose that reminds us of a crisp sea breeze.
To taste, the gin is a flower bomb. The beach rose, burnet rose and borage explode onto the tongue, bringing an almost soapy taste when sipped neat. The saline from the nose is present, too. It’s almost as though a strain of seaweed has been used in the botanical bill, but for a producer to use such an ingredient and not shout about it would be too unusual, so we’re not entirely convinced it’s that. It’s complex overall and unsurprisingly from the listed ingredients, has a strong rosey hue that doesn’t ever become pungent nor ever really dissipates throughout, along with a warming spice underpinning the gin and a hint of something almost smoked lurking towards the back.
With tonic, Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin holds its own; the flavour journey is similar to when tasted neat, with flowers making a loud entry whilst that dark green, vegetal quality creeps up quietly, wrapping itself around the tongue entirely. There is a sweet orangey citrus burst towards the middle of the sip, which seems to elevate the flowers, lifting them above the green taste and carrying them to the end, wherein they blossom across the mouth, bringing with them memories of summer picnics and sticky sweet perfumes. It’s a lovely gin, surprisingly delicate for its robust hometown and evocative of summer strolls and handfuls of poppies, plucked from the beach.
Stephen’s suggested serve is a twist of orange rind (“calamondin fruits are really intense once dried and offer a unique and vibrant citrus edge to the spirit that explodes the moment you add a twist of orange peel to your drink”), which would certainly help to bolster the citrus qualities. We’d follow the same suit, perhaps tossing in a handful of juniper berries to up the piny qualities as well.
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.
Nose - Sherbet\Barley\Juniper
Neat - Well given the stormy nature of the label and the name of this gin its real eye opener when that first sip starts with a slight sweetness before the coriander comes rushing forward in a really smooth and rounded way. The citrus just sparkles like the sun glinting off the crests of waves whilst the juniper is mild in the background, on the breeze is the floral to soften things whilst an orange tinge comes from the sun. With each sip going down your left with a mix of coriander and mild juniper and then a feint saltiness on your lips. This isn’t overly dry or bitter just right in the middle in what has been a great trip so far for our taste buds so far.
G&T - Once we had the tonic mixed in was the storm about to erupt well it seems not as to start there is a lovely orange bitterness before the soft floral side comes washing over like waves lapping at the shore one after the other. There is a really tanginess developing and with the mild juniper and mellow spices it just so easy to quaff this down, but take your time and a lovely sherbet lemon taste will come to greet you as well. The floral really brings everything together and binds it before your left with a mix of oranges and lemons afterwards; we garnished this with some orange peel.
Well given where this gin comes from and the design on the label we were expecting it to either be a wet and damp style of gin or a really dark and stormy one but instead what you get is very much the opposite. There is a really lovely combination of floral angelica and rose with the orange inside that is very different from traditional gins, and the floral never gets overwhelming either and just something we think would make a perfect spring drink to awaken to.
We both loved the fresh sea breeze smell which strikes you straight away. The gin had a slightly sweet smell and we could also detect a slight hint of lemon. Firstly we tried it with a mixer of Fever Tree Tonic and a small amount of orange peel. After one sip we were instantly impressed with the beautiful freshness of this gin. The sweetness we could smell was also easy to detect on the palate. The slight hint of spice worked wonderfully well with the orange peel. For us the quality of a gin is how it tastes when drunk neat. After finishing our gin and tonic we poured a large measure and this time just added some orange peels. After a few sips we both agreed this Gin tasted even better when drunk neat. We could taste and appreciate the flavours from the gin, not always the case when drinking other gins. After trying many new gins over the last year we can say this would now easily make the top 10 that we have ever tried, it really was that good.