With many gins come many gin awards. And even more medals. For even the most prestigious competitions have a tendency to award a multitude of medals. Consequently the value of such achievements is being diluted; forget bronze – even silver and gold medals make few ripples. And, perhaps more tellingly, most gin-lovers say they do not consider award stickers of being indicative of a gin’s quality either. A Double Gold (such as Pothecary was awarded at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition) certainly stands out within the industry at least, as does Hernö‘s recognition as “Europe’s most awarded gin”, but it takes something really special to catch the attention of the press and public alike. Something like Napue Gin‘s well-deserved title as “The World’s Best Gin for Gin and Tonic”.
The irony, in this case is, that Kyrö Distillery, home to Napue Gin, never set out to win medals. Or even to make gin. The Kyrö Distillery Company was conceived in a sauna. Sipping on a foreign rye whisky, three friends came to ponder why no rye whisky was produced in their home country of Finland. A good question, it would appear, given that rye is considered a typically Finnish grain with natives consuming six times more rye than the world average. So these friends set out to create the best known rye distillery in the world, recognised for the quality of its products rather than the number of awards it won, or the quantity of spirit it produced.
“We started to wonder why nobody does rye whisky here. Because we make everything else out of rye.”
Napue (pronounced Na-pu-eh) Gin was created largely to fund their whisky dream. In keeping with their founders’ ambitions, and despite being a notoriously difficult grain to distill, Napue is made with 100% whole-grain rye, combined with 12 fairly traditional botanicals (including juniper, lemon peel, angelica and cardamom) and four local wild botanicals – meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, cranberries and birch leaves – individually distilled to achieve the same balance of flavour in every batch.
In a further nod to their Finnish roots, all of the distillery’s products are named after a local site. They proudly say their gin is “crafted in the spirit of the infamous battle of Napue 1714”, where more than half of the local male population was slaughtered by Russian forces. It also happens to be where they forage their meadowsweet and, additionally, the launch date coincided with the 300-year anniversary of the infamous event.
“It’s good to have something good coming out of the same region, to give it a positive upswing”
And my, what an upswing! In 2015 Napue Gin won the International Wine and Spirit Competition‘s inaugural Gin and Tonic Award. The competition received submissions from 150 distilleries but Kyrö Distillery didn’t just win a medal, it was the overall winner. The only winner. Suddenly Kyrö Distillery had to increase their production ten times over to meet the demand for this outstanding gin!
On the nose, Napue Gin features a strong piney juniper with sweeter notes of vanilla and meadowsweet. To taste neat, it is a strong gin both in flavour and in ABV at 46.3%! The juniper is very prominent alongside coriander and cardamom and it also has a peppery warmth. Mixed 50/50 with water, some of the more subtle flavours shine out, particularly the delicious, jammy cranberries.
But really the World’s Best Gin for Gin and Tonic has to be served in a gin and tonic! To make it, combine one part Napue Gin with three parts Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water and add plenty of ice, a twig of rosemary and a few cranberries. As you’d expect, this makes a smashing G&T; dry, full-bodied and complex. I find that the cardamom and rosemary really stand out, but it also has a fruity and subtle sweetness. It’s not just the World’s Best Gin for Gin and Tonic, but also one of my favourites. You can definitely expect to see it in the line-up for my top 10 gins of 2017!
Napue Gin is available to purchase from Master of Malt at £34.95 for 50cl.
With thanks to Kyrö Distillery for the complimentary bottle of Napue Gin.