Anyone who knows me knows I’m a massive fan of Scottish gins. Having two Glaswegian parents and four Scottish grandparents I will always describe myself as Scottish…despite the fact that I was born in England, technically I’m full of Scots blood, right? My gin collection is filled with a very large number of gins from north of the border and that number is only going to keep going up!
As an official supporter of International Scottish Gin Day (ISGD) 2020 I have connected with a couple of distilleries, one which I was already a massive fan of, and another which was new to me. This write up is all about the wonderful Orkney Distillery!
Way, way back, when I had literally just set up my Gin Obsessions page I won a competition run by the Gin Kiosk, the prize was three bottles of gin; Beefeater – London Garden Gin, Long Table – London Dry Gin and Kirkjuvagr – Arkh Angell. I’m not very good at winning competitions so I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on such treasure! This was my introduction to Kirkjuvagr – Orkney Gin and what an introduction it was…but more on that later.
Kirkjuvagr Gin was launched in 2016 by Stephen and Aly Kemp, who have truly embraced the Norse ancestry of Orkney in all aspects of their gin. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean by Norse or Norseman, you will probably be more familiar with the term Viking. Yup, that’s right, Orkney is rich with Viking heritage, owing to the fact that the Vikings arrived in Orkney in the late 8th century after fleeing Norway and remained there for another 500 years. After initially being distilled on the mainland, The Orkney Distillery opened it’s doors in 2018 and is located in Kirkwall Bay, Orkney. Kirkwall is Orkney’s capital and takes it’s name from the Old Norse word Kirkjuvágr meaning “Church Bay.” Making Kirkjuvagr a very fitting choice of title for and Orkney gin if ever there was one. The gin bottle tops are adorned with a Vegvisir, which is a Viking compass. It was designed to guide these seafaring Norsemen on their journeys and in this instance the hope is it will guide you back to buy another bottle!
Not only is there a Viking connection in terms of name and aesthetics, but the contents of the gin itself is also, perhaps a little bit Viking. The angelica used in Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin is grown locally and called Archangelica. It is a variety of Norwegian angelica and legend has it that it was brought to the island centuries ago by Norsemen. Not only is local angelica used, but the other botanicals which feature in Kirkjuvagr are also native to Orkney. These include borage, burnet rose, ramanas rose and uniquely, Orkney bere barley which are grown by UHI Agronomy Institute in the distillery’s own botanicals garden.
At present The Orkney Distillery website boasts seven gins, including Kirkjuvagr, Aurora, Arkh-Angell, Beyla and most recently Northwest Passage Expedition Gin.
Arkh Angell is Orkney Gin’s navy strength offering, but is described on the bottle as “Storm Strength.” Arkh Angell takes it’s name from a well known Orcadian fishing trawler and is also a clever nod to the locally grown variety of Norwegian angelica, Archangelica, which was brought to Orkney by sailors many centuries ago. The smoothness of this gin really does not reflect it’s 57% ABV and is most definitely a fitting tribute to all the generations of island seafarers.
Beyla takes it’s name from the Norse goddess of the bees and is an Old Tom style gin, meaning that it is slightly sweeter than a traditional London Dry. Beyla sees Orcadian honey and Scottish raspberries added to Kirkjuvagr Gin to create something beautiful and distinctive. Despite being a pink gin, Beyla does not fall into the trap of tasting sickly sweet, but is instead well balanced with a drier finish. If you fancy winning yourself a bottle of this, head over to my Instagram page for details!
Northwest Passage Expedition Gin has been created to help fund the Last Great First, the 2021 maritime navigation of the Northwest Passage by human power – the ultimate ocean row. It has been created in collaboration with a team of rowers who are attempting to row the Northwest Passage in 2021, the Arctic route that links the Atlantic to the Pacific. When completed, this will be a record breaking venture, which is sadly only possible because the ice is melting for longer every year. During the expedition the rowers will also be collecting data for uk based climate scientists Big Blue Ocean Cleanup and other data for New York University.
So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of The Orkney Distillery! I would like to say a huge thanks to Neil from the distillery, who took the time to catch up with me on all things ginny and also for sending me samples and a couple of competition prizes which I can share with you guys too!
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL SCOTTISH GIN DAY