Dry Island gin is a collaboration between Australian distillery Four Pillars, and Swedish Hernö.
Price: ~ £35
To my shame, I have had this bottle of gin for two and a half years, yet have barely touched it. Do not take that as any kind of commentary on the contents though. As I think I have quite definitively shown over a few of my last posts… I am a terrible buyer and hoarder of gin, and not actually a massive drinker of it (by which I mean if I drank anywhere near the rate I buy it, I’d need a serious intervention!). This bottle arrived at my door courtesy of Craft Gin Club (and I think is the last CGC bottle I still have that I’ve yet to review, hence now!) in August 2018.
I’ve reviewed a couple of Hernö gins so far and my opinion of them could not be higher. Four Pillars however I am much less familiar with, though I know a lot of people who are a big fans. Indeed they are two of the most awarded distilleries in the world, so we can expect good things, I think!
This collaboration was distilled at Four Pillars distillery, using their base spirit, and is where most of the botanicals come from, the Meadowsweet being the signature Swedish botanical in the mix.
The bottle is a Four Pillars standard, round in shape, and with rounded base and shoulder, along with the distillery logo four dots embossed above the label. A large label surrounds most of the bottle with bold colouring and plenty of info. At first glance it’s simple and while bold, perhaps a little forgettable, but the more I read about the design, the more I appreciate it. As it’s a collaboration, there are of course hints to both distilleries here. The colours, blue and yellow, are that of the Swedish flag and while of course it has the four dots (each representing the ‘four pillars’ of good gin from which the Australian distillery took its name.) Beneath that is an ‘O’ in yellow, with the central two dots in the same colour, and at first I thought this was the nod to Hernö, as the last letter of the name, but it is more than that. ‘Ö’ is in fact also the Swedish word for ‘island’. On one side is a description of the gin and list f botanicals, and on the other the usual info. It’s definitely funky and bold, and easily recognisable.
Bright and fresh juniper is first out of the glass, followed closely by fresh, zesty lemon. After sitting a moment, some more herbal, green vegetal notes come forward, followed by a seeded tone that reminds me a little of milk thistle. There’s a definite hint of bitter earthiness, which adds an element of maturity to the aroma, and which I think may be the strawberry gum, apparently a close relative of eucalyptus. There are hints of spice from the roasted wattleseed, which is said to have a flavour reminiscent of hazelnut, coffee, and chocolate, and there’s a definite dryness reminiscent of those things here. It’s fairly classic in profile with the pine and lemon up front, but after spending time with it, there’s plenty more in there. I can sense the fleshy herb of the river mint, and the subtle sweetness of the meadowsweet. It’s very nice, but more subtle than a lot of gins.
Neat, there is a huge amount going on but particularly striking is the soft, smooth mouthfeel. The liquid has an amazingly pure texture, and very little burn. Also remarkable is how sweet the very first taste is. The moment it hits the tongue, there’s a flash of sweetness, so fleeting it’s almost imaginary but for the repetition with each sip. Immediately after that, a host of flavours bombard the senses, from waxy pine to bitter lemon, to dry, bitter earth, and even, at least for me, plump booze-soaked sultanas. For me, there’s a very unique flavour here, though so many elements of it are familiar. I find it dry and bitter like dark chocolate, and full of fleshy, herbal citrus. The longevity is noteworthy too, and I am left with a very enjoyable warmth.
With water, the more vegetal, herbal notes come through, along with the mint and to a lesser extent, meadowsweet. It’s still full of flavour, but for me it’s much more plant-like which I find a little less enjoyable. I think it’s here that the myrtle, mint, and meadowsweet really come through, with the citrus flavours taking a back seat. After a few sips though I also find a good amount of sweetness, and still that backdrop of dry and bitter flavours that for me are the backbone of the whole profile. In fact I am enjoying this more with every sip!
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Franklin & Sons Indian Tonic with a slice of fresh orange to garnish). The result is absolutely delicious. Everything has come alive. The citrus works beautifully with the tonic, but the best part here are those dry, bitter, earthy and herbal tones that take this to another level. The meadowsweet is much more evident here too, acting as a light, sweet contrast to the rest. There’s still so much going on it’s like I’m rediscovering all the flavours I’ve already experienced. For all the classic elements this gin has, it’s got twice as many surprises up its sleeve and I’m almost inclined to say there’s too much going on here! That it would take two or three drinks to find everything, and I can sort of see that being something some won’t enjoy. There aren’t many G&Ts I’ve experienced with this level of complexity, but for me that’s nothing but a good thing. Absolutely fantastic.
When you get two geniuses together, it can go either way. They can clash, or they can mesh, and in the case of Hernö and Four Pillars (as I would hope in most of the pleasantly collaborative gin world) it is definitely the latter. The folks here have taken their task seriously, and learnt from each other to produce something worthy of each of them. This gin has a level of complexity I think is rare, and could have you discovering new, subtle elements with each drink. I can see that not being to everyone’s taste, but for me it’s one side of the same coin when it comes to truly great gins. Some make something complex that you never imagined, and others manage to make simplicity taste divine.
I would highly recommend this gin, but I’m also pretty sure it’s a limited edition, so get it while you can!
Dry Island is available online (limited)
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.