Kongsgaard Raw Gin
Kongsgaard translates to “the place where the King lives.”
It’s also the surname of Danish couple, Søren and Bettina, who produce this inspiring gin.
Søren and Bettina entered the gin industry from differing, but complementary backgrounds. Søren previously worked in sales and export and had close ties with the Danish apple industry, (which proved very useful) whilst Bettina was a graphic designer already focused on marketing spirits. Together, they have also established a creative design agency with the fantastic name of Poke the Bear.
With a mutual appreciation for good food and drink alongside watching the gin sector explode in recent years, they decided they’d love to make their own gin with a distinctly Danish character.
The inspiration behind Kongsgaard gin is an oak tree. Not just any oak tree. Outside the town of Roskilde in Denmark, lies the Kongsgaard Hall, an expansive ancient Viking long hall, (and the landmark from which Søren’s family name is derived.) The surrounding area was the ancient seat of power for the Vikings and many relics have been discovered, including a silver figurine of Odin, fragments of drinking glasses and pottery.
Surrounded by legend and stories of kings, it was the oak the hall was constructed from that inspired. Forming their gin into the structure of an oak tree with a solid earthy base and fruity top notes, Søren and Bettina have done this concept justice.
Created with Danish inspiration and local botanicals, Kongsgaard gin reflects the evocative ancient countryside and deep pull of the earth. It is very much part of the landscape that sculpted it. By that I mean that the dark green bottle with elegant copper band and distinctive lettering feels like exactly the right fit for both the story and the rich liquid inside.
The bespoke font was designed specifically to highlight the letter “k”. The right-hand forks of the letter go on to form the basis of the Kongsgaard logo which altogether creates an image of the ancient Viking hall.
The copper band encircling the bottle does reflect the copper still used in the gin’s production, but it’s also a reference to mythology. Midgard is one of the Nine Worlds of north mythology, the only one that is completely visible to mankind. Around Midgard lies the Midgard Serpent – a snake so large it wraps itself around the world entirely and grasps its own tail.
The only problem is that the bottle is sealed with a cork. It’s a very nice DIAM cork with the Kongsgaard branding on, but it’s not very practical. Once you’ve removed it the first time, you have to wedge it back in inelegantly for every serving subsequent. Yes, you can flip it over the first time you want to reseal the bottle, but that only really helps that one time. If you push it too far in, you need a corkscrew to remove it again and we all know corks do not like being reopened multiple times. Luckily, I have R2-D2 who came to the rescue, but even so he’s now out of action until I finish that bottle…
At this point we also come to the term “raw gin.” It’s the “Danish way to say it’s just gin.” I understand that you would want to highlight the provenance of your botanicals and the integrity of your back story, but to me it’s just another marketing term which doesn’t mean anything. “Just gin” as opposed to what exactly?
Organic juniper from Bulgaria
Locally-sourced Danish apples
Chufa root (also known as tiger nuts)
Whole fresh lemons
The botanicals in Kongsgaard gin are worth noting. Firstly, and most dominant are locally-sourced Danish apples. The Danish climate creates perfect conditions for orchards to grow and provides an ideal bittersweet balance in the fruit. In respect to these integral fruits, each bottle of gin features the variety of apple used and the year they were harvested. The first batch, of which my bottle is one, included Guldborg apples harvested in September 2016. This is a nice touch and I find it slightly surprising as I would have imagined a blend of apple varieties were used. The variety used changes batch to batch throughout the apple season – I’d love to try one of the gins using a different variety and see how distinct (or not) the difference is.
The botanicals I struggle with are the 100 million year old Danish resin which washes up on the shores and the charred oak. The resin apparently gives a piney and citrus character, but I can’t differentiate it from the pine notes I’m accustomed to find with juniper and the citrus of coriander. Therefore, I don’t know if I can actually taste the resin or not. If it’s taken 100 million years to get to the glass, I’d just like to be a bit more certain it’s adding something! Similarly, the idea of adding charred oak to represent the tree structure makes sense on paper, but I feel it’s taking the metaphor one step too far. I don’t taste a distinct woody flavour and would rather it was aged in a barrel anyway…sorry!
Dreaming up flavour profiles and choosing botanicals is one thing, but Søren and Bettina needed someone to distil the gin for them. Enter Australian, Miko Abouaf. Miko always knew he wanted to run his own distillery and eventually – via a bit of travelling – he did just that in the Cognac region of France.
Søren and Bettina dutifully flew to Cognac to meet Miko and discuss all things Kongsgaard gin. They already had a pretty good idea of the botanical profile they wanted so Miko set about making distillates and building the gin one stage at a time.
Produced on an 800 litre traditional open-flame Cognac Charentais still, the gin begins life with its winter wheat base. Sourced from the Picardy region of northern France, (often referred to as the country’s “bread basket”) the wheat spirit is diluted down from 96.1% with limestone-filtered water from the Grande Champagne region of Cognac in a process which takes two months. Miko distils the juniper separately to the other botanicals to retain control over the delicate aromatics.
Every aspect of production is kept within the Cognac region. Distilling, bottling and warehousing are all kept local to minimise their carbon footprint – I was slightly concerned they’d be shipping the liquid back to Denmark for bottling/labelling, but they reassured me they’d already considered that! The bottles, corks and boxes are all sourced from within the region too.
Aromas: A silky, earthy texture with delicate complexity. Juniper at the fore supported by lemon spice and ginger. Warm earthiness reminds me of baked earth cracking open in the sun. A touch of apple sweetness overlays.
Palate: A viscous palate with golden baked apple and vanilla notes. Piney juniper throughout and a touch of liquorice at the end. A full powerful structure with good progression of flavours and no heat from the 44% alcohol.
With Tonic: Bright golden apple and lemon raisin aromas alongside a gentle floral tone. A slightly discordant liquorice texture fights silkiness against the tonic's effervescence. Resinous pine and baked apple with floral top notes.
Garnish: a slice of apple transforms this gin and really balances out the rich texture, which can be a little overbearing otherwise.
Whilst there are a few elements that I have issues with, I am genuinely impressed with the quality of this gin and I love the backstory.