Founded in 2011, Hernö Gin has gone on to become one of the most revered gin brands in the world, decorated with countless awards across its range. The distillery’s Old Tom gin was launched in 2014 and as well as being a double winner of best gin at the World Gin Awards, it was 2020 winner of the IWSC award for best gin and tonic.
Read my review to find out about the Hernö story, how their Old Tom is made, its tasting notes and how to serve.
From browsing photos of Dala, the home of Hernö Gin, there can be few more picturesque locations to make gin. Their website encourages you to “feel the bliss of solitude” – misty forests, snow-drapes trees, tranquil lakes; it’s the most beautiful imagery and something which was a conscious decision to share as part of the Hernö story.
Situated in he High Coast of Sweden, on the east side of the country, sits a remote 19th century farm-turned-distillery. And it’s here where one of the world’s most iconic gin brands was created.
Hernö Gin was founded by Jon Hillgren in 2011, but the story of the distillery can be traced back to London in 1999. It’s at this time that Jon first ‘discovered’ gin, whilst working in a bar in the city. A passion soon developed and Jon spent years learning about gin, visiting distilleries across the globe, and really honing his knowledge before buying the farm where he also lives with his family.
Founder & Master Distiller
When established, Hernö was Sweden’s first gin-only distillery and they’ve been at the cutting edge of the country’s gin scene ever since – one which has come on leaps and bounds.
Their flagship London Dry gin was released in 2012 and there are now several expressions in the range, including a navy strength and the focus of this review, an Old Tom. They’ve also dabbled in successful collaborations with Australian distillery Four Pillars, releasing Dry Island and Botany Bay.
Within a few short years a range of awards had been bestowed on Hernö – including best gin for Hernö Old Tom at the World Gin Awards in 2017 and 2018. The most awarded gin in Europe between 2013 and 2017, they’ve also won the IWSC Gin and Tonic Trophy for the best G&T twice in its six year history – Export Strength in 2016 and 2020 for the Old Tom.
On a personal note, in 2019, Jon Hillgren became the third person to be inducted into the Gin Magazine Hall of fame, where he sits with iconic names such as Desmond Payne (Beefeater) and Charles Maxwell (Thames). In just a few short years, Hernö is a name renowned across the globe.
© Hernö Gin
Most of Hernö’s gins come from the same recipe and the only one that differs in the core range is the Old Tom.
Eight botanicals are used. These are juniper, dried meadowsweet, coriander, cassia, black pepper, vanilla, fresh lingonberry and fresh lemon zest. All the botanicals are certified organic, while the lingonberries are the sole botanical sourced from Sweden.
The slight tweak to the Old Tom recipe from the London Dry and Navy gins is that there is more meadowsweet used for the Old Tom, and of course, added sweetness post-distillation.
The gin is distilled in a 1,000 litre Holstein still called Marit using a wheat-based grain neutral spirit. The juniper and coriander are macerated for 16 hours in warm spirit diluted to 50% ABV, allowing the essential oils to be gently released. The remaining six botanicals are added to the still before distillation begins.
The spirit comes out at 78% ABV before being diluted to 42% with water from Hernö’s own well. Being an Old Tom, the gin is then sweetened using organic sugar at a ratio of 19 grams/litre, before being bottled.
© Hernö Gin
How to serve Hernö Old Tom Gin:
*Hernö Old Tom won the IWSC Gin and Tonic Trophy, paired with Double Dutch Indian Tonic Water. My personal preference is Fever-Tree Mediteranian.
On the nose, Hernö Old Tom has a familiarity about it and is definitely a close sibling of their London Dry, It’s grassy, floral and fresh, with sweet citrus and juniper supporting. There’s a subtle hint of vanilla as I revisit. It’s quite transportational and takes me to the remote fields and forests of Dala, and the distillery’s home.
With a sip, the sweetness of the Old Tom is apparent, but it’s only a step up from what I’d expect from some dry gins. Lemon peel coats the tongue with fresh, piney juniper in tow, and a lovely floral embrace from the meadowsweet. Vanilla and some sharpness from the lingonberries follow before a warming finish of black pepper.
Add some tonic and you get a bit more of the citrus and vanilla and lovely floral meadowsweet. I tried it in numerous tonics and it just works so well in them all – even full sugar tonics didn’t bring too much sweetness, such is the beautiful balance of the gin.
My sweet spot was roughly 100ml tonic to 50ml gin, with a garnish of lemon zest. Fever-Tree Mediterranean was my favourite pairing but it’s my go-to tonic for most gins, so probably some bias there, on my part.
Given its reputation, and who makes it, it’s absolutely no surprise that Hernö Old Tom is special. With the number of accolades its received, it really doesn’t need me to add my voice to the army of advocates of the gin, as well as the distillery itself.
I love Swedish gins but Hernö tops the lot for me – in fact it’s one of my favourite gins full stop. Despite the distillery’s success, there’s something very humble about the brand. Confident and assured, yes, but there’s a sense of humility there too. There’s nothing that I really don’t like about the brand. The only thing missing, perhaps is that the packaging is quite understated by today’s standards. But with a gin as good as Hernö Old Tom, it really doesn’t matter one bit!
Hernö Gin is made in Dala, Sweden, at their own distillery.
Hernö Old Tom Gin is recommended as a gin and tonic with 2 parts tonic to 1 part gin, garnish with lemon peel.
In the UK, expect to pay around £30 – £35 for Hernö Old Tom Gin.
Hernö Old Tom Gin uses eight botanicals. These are juniper, dried meadowsweet, coriander, cassia, black pepper, vanilla, fresh lingonberry and fresh lemon zest.