Icelandic gin is a relatively new player in the global gin scene, having emerged only in the last decade or so. Despite its youth, however, Icelandic gin has quickly gained a reputation for its unique flavor profile, which draws heavily from the natural environment of the island nation. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Icelandic gin is made from, and how its ingredients contribute to its distinct flavor.
First, it’s important to understand what gin is at its core. Gin is a spirit that is defined by its predominant flavor of juniper berries. However, there is a lot of room for variation within this definition. The other botanicals (i.e., plant materials) that are used to flavor gin can vary widely, and can include everything from herbs and spices to fruits and flowers. The choice of botanicals, as well as the method of production, can have a significant impact on the flavor of the gin.
Icelandic gin is no exception to this rule. While juniper berries are still the dominant flavor in Icelandic gin, there are a number of other botanicals that are used to create its unique taste. These botanicals are carefully selected to represent the natural environment of Iceland, which is known for its rugged landscapes, volcanic activity, and cold, clean waters.
One of the key botanicals in Icelandic gin is angelica root. This plant, which is native to Iceland, has a slightly sweet and herbal flavor that pairs well with the juniper berries. It is also said to have medicinal properties, and is often used in traditional Icelandic medicine. Another important ingredient in Icelandic gin is wild Icelandic thyme. This herb grows in abundance in the volcanic highlands of Iceland, and has a strong, earthy flavor that adds depth and complexity to the gin. Icelandic birch leaves, which have a subtle, sweet flavor, are also often used in the production of Icelandic gin.
Other botanicals that may be used in Icelandic gin include lemon peel, which provides a bright, citrusy note, and cassia bark, which adds a warm, spicy flavor. Some Icelandic gins also incorporate more unusual ingredients, such as Arctic sea kelp or Icelandic moss, which can add a distinctive umami flavor to the gin.
Of course, the quality of the ingredients is only part of the equation when it comes to producing a great gin. The method of production is also important. Most Icelandic gins are produced using a traditional distillation method known as pot distillation. This involves boiling the botanicals in a pot still, which creates a concentrated liquid that is then mixed with a neutral spirit (usually made from grain). The resulting mixture is then distilled again, often multiple times, to create a smooth, clear gin with a complex flavor profile.
One of the most distinctive features of Icelandic gin is its water source. Iceland is known for its pure, mineral-rich waters, which come from natural springs and glaciers. Many Icelandic gin distillers use this water to create their gin, which can have a significant impact on the final flavor. The water in Iceland is naturally filtered through volcanic rock, which can impart a subtle mineral flavor to the gin.
So, what does Icelandic gin taste like? As with any gin, the flavor can vary depending on the specific botanicals and method of production used. However, Icelandic gin is generally characterized by its crisp, clean flavor, with a strong juniper backbone and a subtle herbal and floral finish. The use of local Icelandic botanicals, such as angelica root and wild thyme, gives Icelandic gin a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from other gins on the market.
Overall, the blend of botanicals used in Icelandic gin is carefully chosen to reflect the unique natural environment of Iceland. From the rugged volcanic landscapes to the pure, mineral-rich waters, every aspect of the country’s environment is represented in the flavor of the gin. The result is a spirit that is both distinctive and delicious, with a flavor profile that is sure to appeal to gin lovers everywhere.
A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE DIFFERENT BOTANICALS
Juniper berries are the cornerstone of gin, providing the dominant flavor that characterizes the spirit. In Icelandic gin, juniper berries are often sourced from the Italian Alps, where they are harvested and then shipped to Iceland. Juniper berries have a piney, resinous flavor that can be quite intense, and they provide the base for the other botanicals to build upon.
Angelica root, another key botanical in Icelandic gin, has a sweet, earthy flavor that pairs well with the juniper berries. It is often used in other types of gin as well, and is known for its complex flavor profile that can include notes of musk, spice, and herbal tones. In Icelandic gin, angelica root is sourced from Iceland, where it grows wild and is harvested by hand.
Wild Icelandic thyme is another important botanical in Icelandic gin, and one that contributes a unique and memorable flavor to the final product. Thyme is a common herb that is often used in cooking, but wild Icelandic thyme is a specific variety that grows in the harsh, volcanic highlands of Iceland. It has a strong, earthy flavor with notes of spice and lemon, and can lend a savory quality to the gin.
Birch leaves are another botanical that are often used in Icelandic gin. Birch trees are a common sight in Iceland, and their leaves have a subtle, sweet flavor that can add a delicate touch to the gin. Birch leaves are often used in traditional Icelandic medicine, and are said to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Lemon peel is another botanical that can be found in some Icelandic gins. This provides a bright, citrusy note to the gin, which can help to balance out some of the more earthy or herbal flavors. Cassia bark, which is similar in flavor to cinnamon, can also be used to add a warm, spicy note to the gin.
Some Icelandic gins incorporate more unusual botanicals, such as Arctic sea kelp or Icelandic moss. These ingredients can add a distinct, umami flavor to the gin, which is both complex and intriguing. Arctic sea kelp, for example, has a briny, salty flavor that can be quite intense, while Icelandic moss has a subtle, earthy flavor with notes of smoke and moss.