Review: Strane London Dry Gin

The small Swedish distillery Smögen Whisky, located in Hunnebostrand approximately 130 km north of Gothenburg, was established in 2009 by former lawyer Pär Caldenby together with family members - and the first barrel of whisky was filled in summer 2010. Whisky enthusiasts have followed the progress with anticipation, and Smögen Whisky's first commercially available product, Primör (more about this in a future post) was made available just two weeks ago in Systembolaget's online shop, and according to Expressen 800 of the 1 600 available bottles were sold during the four days of sales.

Anyway, while waiting for the whisky to mature, Smögen Whisky decided to install another, smaller, traditional wood fired pot still and also start producing gin. The first release is Strane London Dry Gin - availabe from two days ago - made by macerating twelve botanicals over night: juniper, coriander, sage, lime and lemon peel, basil, mint, sweet almond, cinnamon, liquorice - and two secret ingredients - into three distillates with different flavour profiles. These are then blended into the final product. This batch resulted in 360 bottles à 500 ml at 47,4% "merchant strength" abv. After having read that prior to creating Strane, they tried a great number of high quality gins like Tanqueray Ten, The Botanist, Beefeater 24, Martin Miller's, Williams Chase and Sipsmith and aimed for something even better and more aromatic, it's safe to say that I had really high expectations. A very bold statement indeed...

Nose: Pretty intense with a citrusy freshness to begin with, which evolves into a comforting mix of juniper, coriander, Earl Grey tea and hints of wood. Mouth: This is a full-bodied gin with a pleasant oily mouthfeel and a complex explosion of aromatics - tannic citrus and an almost tingling spiciness from coriander and cinnamon together with a long yet dry, woody finish - all balanced out by the elegant presence of juniper.

Swedish magazine Livets Goda wrote in a quick "review" that Strane wasn't suitable in a Gin & Tonic, but after tasting the gin I was certain it would be perfect. I used the rather new tonic water Le Roc which I found in Berlin and was supposed to have prominent citrus notes similar to Fentimans tonic water, something Smögen Whisky themselves have recommended. Gin & Tonic (60 ml Strane London Dry Gin, 120 ml Le Roc tonic water, build in rocks glass on ice, garnish with lemon zest) and it's a really good match, even though I think the gin itself has got enough citrus, so maybe Fever Tree tonic is an even better choice.

Next I wanted to try a Dry Martini, and according to Smögen Whisky only a very small amount of dry vermouth is needed, if any at all, together with a lemon zest. Still, I decided to try my usual measures: Dry Martini (50 ml Strane London Dry Gin, 10 ml Noilly Prat - stir with ice until desired dilution, strain into Martini glass and garnish with a lemon zest) and to me it was pretty spot on - the vermouth softens the citrus a little, and brings out the botanicals - creating a clean and nicely balanced drink.

Trying to kill two birds with one stone, trying out a new Swedish punsch in the same drink, I went for a Biffy Cocktail (45 ml Strane London Dry Gin, 22 ml Tegner & Son Punsch, 22 ml fresh lemon juice - shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass) and its simplicity was perfect for showcasing both the pungent sweetness of the punsch and the intensity of the gin.

Last but not least I made a Negroni, and considering the potency of the gin I was certain that it would be able to match a powerful sweet vermouth (30 ml Strane London Dry Gin, 30 ml Campari, 30 ml Antica Formula vermouth - stir with ice until desired dilution, strain into ice filled rocks glass and garnish with orange zest) - and it sure did! The bittersweet Campari played very well with the bright, zesty notes of the gin, and the richness of the vermouth in combination with the spicy, herbal complexity of the gin sealed the deal.

Strane London Dry Gin is a perfect example of all the great new products from small craft distilleries that keep opening up for business around the world. Even though Smögen Whisky, as the name suggests, mainly is about whisky, this gin proves that these people certainly know what they're doing. Highly recommended!

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