Old Islandia – A smooth Icelandic treat
When Icelandicdrinks.com posted a special offer on Instagram to grab a bottle of Old Islandia for £20 (including delivery), it seemed rude not to take them up on the offer! A few days of waiting and a trip to the Post Office to eventually collect the bottle (We swear the postman makes sure we’re out before trying to deliver any parcel!) and we had it in our hands.
Both the name and the branding, evoke thoughts of tradition (Islandia being the Latin for Iceland). The scrolled label design and “ye olde worlde” style map on the reverse of the bottle don’t scream “cutting edge gin”, and in fact, the recipe has been refined from a thirty year old recipe from northern Iceland.
The distillers, Volcanic Drinks, were founded in 2010 and are based in Reykjavik. The neutral grain spirit base is distilled 7 times(!) to make it very smooth and the gin is cut to its final bottle strength of 40% using pure Icelandic spring water that is further filtered through a unique lava rock filter process. This makes for an incredibly pure spirit that is very smooth to drink. (If you are at all familiar with Martin Miller’s gin, you will know that it too uses very pure Icelandic water, and how very smooth that is to drink.)
If the outside of the bottle is traditional, it’s no surprise that the liquid inside follows suit, using quite a familiar line up of juniper berries, coriander, ginger and angelica. We were hoping the botanicals would include something that would back up the Old Islandia name, something specific to the island such as Arctic Thyme for example, and indeed Volcanic Drinks mention a “mix of unique regional herbs” on their website. Alas, it turns out it is only the angelica which is local (but not really unique to the island), and that is getting increasingly hard to source locally now. It’s a shame, as we think Volcanic Drinks have missed a great opportunity to create something a little more unique, with some geographical differentiation, to make it stand out from the very large crowd.
To taste, this, as you can guess by now, is a very good, solid, traditional gin. And maybe that’s the point. It’s a classic gin done very well, no fancy/quirky/trendy twists, just good, honest gin. It’s very smooth when sipped neat, with a slight earthy and warm taste that emerges at the end once the juniper has had its say. If paired with a good Indian or light tonic, we’d suggest going for a 2:1 ratio so as not to drown out the gin, and a simple garnish of lemon. We also tried Old Islandia with ginger ale, but it was totally overwhelmed. Maybe if drunk neat over ice, then a splash or two of ginger ale could add something to the sipping though.
If you are looking for a good quality, traditional gin that also happens to be very pure, then look no further, especially whilst it’s at the current bargain price of £20 including delivery!