Of all the liquors that could be made in Iceland, I didn’t expect gin to be one of them. Yet there it was, on the shelf in one of the liquor stores in Reykjavik when we visited last year. This was Vor Icelandic Gin. It looked too interesting not to buy it and give it a try.
The ingredients in Vor (Icelandic for “spring”) start off pretty standard for a gin – juniper berries, a neutral spirit base (in this case, made from barley), angelica, and other botanicals. But it’s those “other” botanicals that take Vor to a place most other gins would fear to tread. Birch leaves, creeping thyme, organic kale, Iceland moss and kelp are just a few of the more unusual additives in this gin.
Vor Icelandic Gin is made by Eimverk Distillery. The company started in 2009, originally making single malt whisky. Which, after I tasted this gin, suddenly made a world of sense. Let me explain.
Vor is not your regular, run-of-the-mill gin. In my mind, gins are bright, fresh and crisp. Vor is none of those things. It’s much moodier and weightier. At first sniff, you get the welcome hint of juniper berries, but they share the spotlight with a dry tannic, smokey woodiness. In fact, it reminds me vaguely of the smell of peat burning on a rainy day in Scotland. Or the damp, woody scent of a whisky distillery filled with oak barrels. (And since Eimverk started by making whisky, the whisky-esque attributes might not be so unusual, after all.)
I feel like categorizing it as a gin at all is a bit of a misnomer, due to its heaviness on the palate. I would almost classify it as a whisky, or maybe some brand new, yet-to-be-named hybrid between gin and whisky.
In the glass, it’s perfectly crystal clear. And as you can see from the level in the bottle, we’ve been steadily working our way through it. It’s actually a nice sipper, but not what we would have expected from a gin.
Mark and I tried to make Gin & Tonics with Vor, but frankly, found that it overwhelmed the crispness of the tonic. The addition of lime destroyed the uniqueness of the gin itself, and elderflower cordial or cucumber clashed with its woody notes. That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable; but it’s almost a waste to try to make it into a summery, light G&T. I actually prefer it as a straight sipper, or perhaps in a heavier cocktail.
Their website has some interesting cocktail recipes that we’ve yet to try. But I can see this gin working particularly well with a dry vermouth in a gin martini.
We have a bottle of their Floki Single Malt Whisky as well, but have yet to open it. I’ll be very curious to try it and see if it shares some of the same flavour profiles as Vor Icelandic Gin does!
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