The blog has been on a little bit of a hiatus lately due to life generally doing it’s thing and getting in the way (adulting – who would want to?) – but it’s time to get back on it and start with a VERY overdue look at Hrfan Valhalla Gin from Raven Spirits.
I came across Raven Spirits in 2018 when they released their first gin: Thought and Memory (My notes here). The story behind it was great, it sounded delicious and I’m an absolute sucker for some Norse Mythology so I ordered myself a bottle soon after release. Absolutely wasn’t disappointed with the inaugural offering and between the other half and me, we polished off most of the bottle in the first few days. It’s since gone on to win 2 gold medals in international competitions. A little rebranding also took place, changing the name from “Raven Gin” to “Hrfan Gin” – the old Norse word for Raven, which just makes me a little happier. Sad as it may be to geek out over a stopper, it’s one of my favourite new additions compared to the original bottle though. I already loved the Elder Futhark runes in the logo but now they’ve added them to a gorgeous copper stopper as well which is absolutely beautiful. Sadly, I could already read Elder Futhark (don’t ask), and remain convinced there’s a secret code in there somewhere… despite Peter from Raven Spirits saying there isn’t and the letters making no sense. Still… I persist!
Anyway, rune geekery aside, in the middle of last year, they released Valhalla as a variation on the Thought and Memory recipe, and Peter very kindly sent me a bottle down to try (So sorry that getting my thoughts down has taken as long as it has Peter, utmost apologies!).
I spoke about a bit of the background of the distillery, Callum and Peter and how they got started in my Thought and Memory notes, so I’ll get jumping straight into the gin this time. I still love the bottle design the guys came up with. Valhalla has a deep blue background with the bronze foil rather than the white of the Thought & Memory, but Hugin and Munin are still there front and centre (which makes my inner mythos geek a bit giggly). A variation on the original recipe, Valhalla tweaks the seven botanicals and also bumps the ABV up from 45% to 49% – rarely a bad thing in my book. It’s still a classic, one-shot distilled dry gin at its core though, with that extra little tweak from their signature botanical: mandarin. I’ve always thought that mandarin is rather a clever selection of botanical to feature front and centre. In the summer months, you’ve got that fresh orangy citrus note that makes great martinis and G&Ts, but then mandarins are also so associated with the winter months and Christmas that you can’t help but want help put it in a warming (ice cold) Negroni as well.
Since I restocked on Thought & Memory (T&M from now on), I thought it’d be interesting to compare the two side by side. Interestingly, for me, on the nose, the Valhalla actually seems just a little more restrained than the T&M. With T&M I get a little more of the mandarin along with the juniper and spice. With Valhalla, the mandarin and juniper are still very much there, but it’s almost like they’re overlayed with a more deep, earthy note. Whether there’s a little more of the angelica and orris root in there, whether the higher ABV has an impact on that, or whether it’s just me, I couldn’t say. Adding just a tiny splash of water actually lifts the nose a little and the mandarin starts coming back through on equal footing with the earthiness again.
Tasting, things get switched around and the higher ABV very much makes itself known. It’s still smooth as T&M was, but there’s definitely more of a noticeable warming alcohol hit and the earthiness from the nose gives way to the other botanicals. Juniper is at the fore as you’d expect, hope, and wish for, before giving away to that citrus and spice mix. At the end, you’re left with a very slightly less sweet finish, but somehow the citrus hangs on much longer with the spice, whereas the spice outlasts everything else in the T&M.
A splash of tonic switches things around again – The spice leans back a little more and lets that signature citrus get out in front to make itself known. Some gins suit a larger amount of tonic (with reason!) but here, too much starts to take too much away from that flavour profile, and I actually found myself preferring a 1:1 ratio with this to get that citrus upfront, but not ruin the flavour of the gin itself. You’ll see a little louching occur as the tonic hits and the gin and the oils release – which while some purists may not be keen on, I’m always rather pleased to see as I know I’m in for a great, smooth texture to the drink.
So, Valhalla, a tweak to the T&M recipe, but a really successful one. Bringing the alcohol up to give you a little more of that warmth, but somehow swapping the order and magnitude of the flavours around at the same time. Similar yet different and well worth looking into!
If you want to pick up a bottle, or just find out some more, you can get the info from their web site.
Bottle was gifted, but all thoughts and opinions ar