KIRKJUVAGR ORKNEY GIN 43% VOL 70CL
Husband and wife gin making teams are all the rage at the moment, with enthusiasts left, right and centre turning their passion into a hobby and their hobby into a business. Stephen and Aly Kemp are just one in a number of betrothed distilling duos to emerge in the past year, but with a team of fellow Orkney-dwellers behind them and a whiplash inducing speed to their work, we couldn’t quite let this one pass us by.
Kirkjuvagr (pronounced kirk-u-vaar, by the by…) is the thousand-year-old Norse name for Kirkwall, the Kemps hometown, which has served as nothing short of inspiration for their gin. “We’ve often contemplated the fact that Orkney's wonderful suite of food & drink exports was absent of a high quality, powerfully branded gin product,” Stephen explains. “We wanted to create a brand that was connected to us and our place.”
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 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.