Images courtesy of Hernö Gin
Sweden’s Hernö Gin is one of the most revered gin distilleries in the world. Founded in 2011 by master distiller Jon Hillgren, Hernö has gone on to win an incredible number of awards, including World’s Best Gin in 2017 and 2018 for their Old Tom.
I caught up with Jon to discuss all things Hernö Gin.
You achieved so much in your first few years with Hernö Gin. Did you ever think, “Wow, where do we go from here?”
Well, both yes and no. I have a very clear picture of what we are doing and the map forward but on the few occasions I actually pause and think of what we have achieved, I really do have a wow-moment. That being said, we will continue to craft amazing gin and cover more ground. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking of new limited editions and flavours but the core range is what carries us.
Given you’ve won so many awards, do they still mean as much? And which is the one you cherish the most?
Of course I get really excited about awards and I never take that for granted. The market is booming and the increasing competition is going to dilute the award rain that has been over the past years. In a way the earliest ones were special but being named Gin Distiller of the Year twice is probably the most prestigious so far.
On a personal note, you were recently inducted into Gin Magazine’s Hall of Fame – one of only three people to have that honour. How did you feel about that?
That was truly beyond anything I would ever have expected, that takes me back to what I said earlier, about pausing and really thinking about that kind of stuff. In everyday work that stuff isn’t top of mind but thinking of it makes me humbled.
How different is life at Hernö now, compared to the early days? Are you still as hands-on as you were?
Not as much as I would like to be honest. In a perfect world there wouldn’t be as much paperwork as it is but I try to keep up with everything from distilling to unloading pallets. Of course there is a huge difference since I started out with Hernö Gin as a part time job and today we are 9 employees.
You’ve got a range of gins in your portfolio. Do you have a favourite?
They all have a special place and time. Depending on what cocktail or if I’m drinking it neat, as a aperitif or avec. Over all I probably use most Hernö Gin and Hernö Old Tom Gin.
Do you enjoy making one over all the others?
They basically come from the same recipe, the only one that differs (in the core range) in what goes in the still is Hernö Old Tom Gin. Obviously experimenting with new flavours is a lot of fun too.
Are you constantly looking to innovate with new expressions in the portfolio, or is the main aim to focus on the undoubted success of your current range?
We have three series with vintage releases, Hernö High Coast Terroir Gin, Hernö Sipping Gin and Hernö Interpretations. As I mentioned earlier it’s easy to enjoy experimenting but got to keep the main focus on our core range.
As a proud Scot I’ve a huge passion for the gins we make here. I also have so much admiration for many gins from Scandinavia, and Hernö is very much at the forefront of that. Is there any country or region which stands out to you for making quality gin?
I think one of the fun things with gin is that it isn’t so region based, our botanicals are sourced all around the world and the same thing is true for most other gin distilleries. Obviously you can find somewhat of a style from a country or a region as well. I rather talk distilleries than regions though because I think that tells you more about the product.
I really love the Hernö branding and your use of imagery and landscape to sell your story. Was that a conscious decision from the beginning?
I think a very important part is to tell the story of who we are and where we come from. Our place, The High Coast of Sweden is unique. Yes, that was a conscious decision from the beginning.
Finally, when you’re not drinking Hernö, what’s in your glass?
I really love Champagne, but who doesn’t?