Mad Owl Citrus gin is an organic grain spirit from Thornæs distillery in Kagerup, North Zealand, Denmark.
Price: ~ £ See below
Grains of paradise
In a disused stablehouse on a working farm north of Copenhagen, Torben Thornæs Andersen met his gin’s namesake. An owl had been nesting in the loft for quite some time and when production drove the tenant out and into another disused building nearby, Torben decided to dedicate his first gin to the Mad Owl.
Torben had left a 20 year career as a copywriter and journalist to follow a new dream. That dream was actually to drink his own 12-year old whiskey by the time he turned 60, and of course the only way to do that was to start a distillery. There were a number of hurdles to jump first though, as Torben had next to no knowledge of the processes involved in making spirits, he was merely a self-proclaimed enthusiastic whiskey drinker. He travelled to Scotland to learn the basics, and spent time working in distilleries before returning to Denmark to begin putting everything he needed together.
To develop his gin recipe, he took over his father’s old bedroom and using a small still and water run from the bathroom, he distilled almost daily until he was happy with what he had learned and produced. By February 2020 the stablehouse conversion was complete and the team worked hard to produce enough gin to sell at an upcoming fair in Copenhagen. It was then that Covid hit. Thankfully the distillery received a lot of support from gin fans, and managed to succeed, going on to produce a range of gins, and of course laying down whiskey to age in time (give or take a year or so) for the dream to be fulfilled.
Another Craft Gin Club special offering, this Citrus edition of Mad Owl gin was an exclusive release for the club back in November 2021. From what I can find, it is now only available in the UK via CGC (approx. £42), otherwise I think you’ll probably have to go to Denmark to get hold of it (where the price converts to around £29 for 50cl). It is part of a wider range of gins made at the Thornæs distillery, where they are also producing single malt whiskey.
The bottle is clear glass, round with an angled shoulder, medium height neck, and ending with a wooden topped cork stopper. The label is printed on lightly textured off-white paper which takes up most of the height and wraps round over half of the body. It is printed with a very delicate floral and vine illustration in pale pink on each side along with owls in flight facing inward. Front and centre is a similarly illustrated owl in fine, dark blue ink. Look closely and you’ll see that the body of the owl is made up of vines and petals too, which is a very nice touch. Beneath that is the name of the gin, with the bottom third of the front split into neat boxes within which, in typewriter print, is information on the distillery, botanicals, and other details. The back of the label is a bold orange that gives the bottle a sense of being slightly tinted, and along the bottom though hard to read through the distortion of the liquid, is a little blurb explaining the gin’s name, and a note to us to enjoy it for what it is. So on that note…
First on the nose is a smooth, warm citrus that is quickly followed up with fresh pine and a fruity tang of pepper. The orange is prominent for me, which I like, but it blends nicely with the more traditional, core gin notes. There’s a hint of earth, dry and light, while the pepper builds and expands to tease out some more fruity citrus notes. It has a lovely, almost tropical aroma, but manages to never lose sight of the juniper and coriander. It’s undoubtedly a citrus gin, like many others, but it does smell very tempting.
Neat, there’s a big rush of flavours that, for a split second, feel as though they’re going to be competing for attention, but no sooner has the thought crossed my mind than they all blend together to become greater than the sum of their parts. A flash of pepper lights up the taste buds, leading to a smooth, full-bodied citrus flavour that is just the right level of sweetness for me. Dry juniper rolls around the outside, holding everything together, and an earthy note ensures nothing gets too sweet or fruity. It’s very well balanced, though has a little more burn than I would like.
The addition of water brings about an explosion of citrus. It’s a little more dry than before, and the earthy notes from the angelica are exposed too, adding a little more bitterness. There’s a bit more of a vegetal and herbal tone to it now for me, as well as a good deal more of the fruity, pepper flavour, all of which works well to keep the profile dry but flavourful. I’m impressed with how much the flavour has grown with the dilution.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Franklin & Sons Indian tonic with a wedge of orange to garnish). The result is fresh, crisp, and dry, but for me ultimately lacking. It’s good, no doubt about it, but there’s a lot less flavour there than I was expecting, and certainly for me nothing that makes it stand out. This is even after adding an extra glug of gin. There are flavours there, and all of them pleasant, but it’s a struggle for me to latch on to them beyond anything more than the flavour of the tonic and a mild citrus. It’s very very refreshing though.
Mad Owl citrus is a good gin, though I think might work better in a Martini or Negroni than it did in a G&T. It has a very well balanced citrus profile that will appeal to many a fan of gin, and the fact that it uses an organic base is always a bonus. Obviously the downside is that it seems difficult to get hold of outside of Denmark and Craft Gin Club, but it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of citrus gins. Personally, I’d love to try their Herbal expression!
Mad Owl Citrus is available via Craft Gin Club or Thornæs distillery
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.