- Jonathan Winters
Himbrimi Old Tom Gin Review
The world’s most interesting gin? And hard to find too..
Review Himbrimi Old Tom Gin
Made in: Reykjavik, Iceland, Brunnur Distillery ehf
Base: grain spirit.
Still type: custom still with water jacket - geothermal heated
40% alcohol/80 proof
Botanicals 5: Juniper, wild arctic thyme, angelica flowers, lemon peel, honey.
Style: Compound Gin, Old Tom Gin.
This is a very hard to find gin (unless of course you happen to live in Iceland).
Himbrimi is a bird of a different feather compared to what we usually find in a bottle, it’s a compound gin. Compound gin, sometimes called bathtub gin, doesn’t require the distiller to actually.. Well.. distill. They just add their flavorings. That doesn’t make it an inferior gin, but rather an old fashioned one, but it’s a style that has fallen out of favor, and some gin snobs do turn their noses down at this style . That’s one of the reasons that Himbrimi, which is the icelandic name for the northern loon, is quite remarkable - as it won the award for World’s Best Compound Gin at the World Gin Awards 2019.
It’s based on an 18th century recipe from when gins were infused more commonly with botanicals (rather than distilled with them), and were often sweetened. That’s pretty much the origin of any gin called an Old Tom.
It’s made in very small batches. The main botanical (besides juniper) is wild arctic thyme which is hand picked by Oskar Erikson, the gin’s creator. He created it as a gin to be your companion while fishing, and this is the gin I’d want with me when fishing in cold water and icy seas.
When I say this gin is hard to find, I mean it. To my knowledge there is one place in the UK you can find it, but aside from that it can only be found in Iceland. Honestly this is the souvenir you want from Iceland, and one of a number of gins worth drinking from that country.
This review is for batch 8, bottle 1084 - and was a gift to me last year. I’ve been savoring it very slowly as who knows when I’ll ever be lucky enough to get another bottle.
*** Note - from talking to others who’ve enjoyed this gin, there seems to be a bit of variability in the flavor, as the Arctic thyme is wild, and probably exhibits slight variability. Additionally it’s worth noting that the flavor of this gin changes due to oxidation the longer it is open. I found it was much mellower when young, and became more spicy and strong as it aged.
This is a sipping gin, plain and simple. It’s great on the rocks, and especially in cold weather. And while many of the best sipping gins are in fact old tom gins, this one isn’t one you’d classify as a traditional old tom either.
The nose is full of notes of pine and spice with a hint of floral.
On the tongue you are not disappointed. There is a warming blast of spice from the arctic thyme, pinryness from the juniper - it’s bold and strong, and mellowed by the angelica flowers, (which in themselves are an unusual botanical as most gin distillers use the roots) which add an almost sage like flavor to the mix, Lastly there is just the most subtle understated hint of honey, which imparts more of the taste of the honey rather than the sweetness.
The mouthfeel is dry and crisp, and leaves a hint of spicy thyme on the palate.
Due to the Himbrimi’s unique and spicy nature I wasn’t sure just how well this would do with a mixed drink. But by and large I was very pleasantly surprised.
It made for a very unusual, but pleasant martini, so unusual you might think it would have been a type of martini unto itself. It made me think of both dirty and cajun martinis, without being quite like either. It was zesty, unctious, and yet remarkably interesting - and it could be a cocktail until itself, rather than defined by an existing recipe.
In a gin and tonic, with a traditional indian style tonic water, it jumped out at you with its strong herbal nature, and was beautifully mellowed with the dilution and a few drops of lemon from the garnish.
While Himbrimi’s own website suggests trying it in a Tom Collins, I decided that instead I’d give it a go with a Bees Knees, where the ingredient honey syrup and lemon juice, would compliment the nature of the gin. In that combination it reminded me a bit of a sour with a zing, somewhat margarita like, but with a pleasant herbal zing. I’d definitely have a few more if i had more of this gin to spare.
But alas, my bottle is empty, a sacrifice to the review, which, unlike the Himbrimi I can offer to share with you.
While I have a great love for this gin, I’m not sure it’s really one that can be called Old Tom gin, but I’d really call it more of a modern gin. It’s certainly one of the more unique gins in the world, and for that reason alone I’d recommend it.
That said, it may not be for everyone - I suspect some might find this flavor profile a bit medicinal, but it’s also quite inspiring to see a compound gin this good.
As far as cocktails with this gin, I think you’d need to be very selective about what you choose to make. I’m quite sure a good mixologist could create elevated drinks around this flavor profile, but I’ll choose to drink it with nothing more than ice.
Overall rating: 96. One of the most interesting gins in the world. If anyone feels the urge to send me another bottle, please do!
What you need to know about reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.