I would love to say that my annual abstinence from Movember was a personal choice. And I guess, in a way, it is a choice…my second choice.
I could write and tell you a multitude of reasons that I stick to a look of, at best, ‘morning shadow’ stubble;
‘I can’t take part in Movember because it’s my Wedding Anniversary in November’. A half truth…
‘I can’t have facial hair at work due to company policy (a company policy that has long since been abolished)’.
‘I can’t grow facial hair because when I do I look too intimidating to others.’ Whilst completely untrue, I did once jokingly leave myself with a ratty little ‘moustache’ when shaving to surprise my wife (and amuse myself) – only to then drop & break my electric razor.
I had to keep ‘the look’ for 48hrs, resembling a perpetrator from the US TV show ‘Cops’, until a replacement razor could be sought. Bad times.
But alas, all of these are excuses. Every last one of them. And I can’t blame you for not believing me – not by the hairs on your chinny chin chin (show off). As my wife would say, I am neither ‘a grower OR a shower’. At least I think that’s what she was on about?…
My lowest follicly challenged moment was perhaps when, after meeting nearly every day for four years, the canteen lady at my old office building leaned forward and squinted through her glasses and asked (in a less than confident tone); “are you trying to grow a beard?!”. Demoralisingly, my look hadn’t changed for a single encounter during our time together. That one stung.
But what do these hairlessly challenged woes have to do with gin you may, more than a little fairly, enquire? Well friends, my latest sloshy postal drop came baring gifts of both gin and beard envy – a strange yet welcome duo, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The product of former bartender and experienced forager, Bareksten Spirits had made the journey from Bergen (Norway) to the Midlands. And if they are half as impressive to drink as their distillers beard is to behold, I was in for a treat…
Bareksten Spirits; The Stig
Now, some say that he invented Juniper. Others say that he once turned water in to gin. All I know is that he’s call ‘(The) Stig’…
Note to reader: At this point I hasten to add that, given the ABV % content of this blog, we won’t be endorsing a couple of laps around a track in a reasonably priced car…
Stig Bareksten launched Bareksten Spirits in 2015. Produced at Norway’s Oss Craft Distillery, the spirits pay homage to their homeland through the use of botanicals that are primarily sourced from the Norwegian forests. And it’s fair to say that the flagship expression has proved ‘quite popular’, bagging a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition (noice!).
The Bareksten Spirits range has since grown to include their Navy Strength Gin, Old Tom Gin, Double Gin, Absinthe and Botanical Aquavit. A number of which I was lucky enough to received on the door mat! (as in they were delivered in the post, not aggressively thrown at my house by Stig himself).
On opening the parcel, I was seriously impressed by the effort that had gone in to the packaging and design of my three 50ml samples. No expense has been spared in replicating the look & feel of their 70cl ‘bigger brothers’, within the beautifully presented ‘Tasting Collection’ box. The
The twisted branches of a winter woodland Norwegian forests scrawl across both the presentation box, and each miniature, representing the foraging for local botanicals. The signature Nordic looking font and branding lend an authentic feel, with the matte black design adding a heightened sense of intrigue.
And talk about attention to detail; each bottle has its own individually labelled stopper – you’ll find no screw tops here!
Bareksten Spirits to taste
Norway has long been on my ‘must visit list’. But in lieu of making the trip in person, I was to be transported through the drinking experience by three of the Bareksten expressions; the Botanical Gin, Navy Strength Gin and Old Tom Gin.
On approach, the aroma is quite savoury and almost Mediterranean. There’s a slight salinity to the vapours, with lemon and orange peels shining brightly to give a citrus blast to the upfront florals of the nose.
Influences of the forest are prominent. I spent a few minutes trying to identify a familiar character note, until the unmistakable profile of caraway hit home. Once you’ve got it, you can’t lose it. Fennel, mint and aniseed give a menthol quality, whilst the elderflower, blueberry and lingonberry help to give a fruited sense of softer perfume.
At 46% ABV, the neat spirit packs a punch – it is boisterous, untamed and exciting. To taste, and it is the caraway that presents first on the palate, transporting me back to Aquavit tastings over the Scandinavian border. It’s complemented by the weight of mint and fennel, which provides a complexity & depth to the flavour profile and leaves a pleasant sting on the tongue after each sip.
The fruited qualities sit on the back notes, with the citrus being a growing player as the gin opens up in the glass. Leave the spirit to rest on the tongue for a few moments and the oils of the fresh peels make themselves known.
Served with a Mediterranean tonic, the additional sweetness would complement the fennel and caraway, whilst a light tonic will help accentuate the citrus and floral characters. But for me, grab the vermouth and serve yourself a Dry Martini for the win; that 46% ABV implores you to do so!
Navy Strength Gin
My first thought from the nosing is that this is soft, sweet and delicate – not at all what you’d expect from a Navy Strength expression at 58% ABV…
Perfumed notes of lemon peel rise from the glass, whilst the punchy notes of juniper are oily, rich and in your face. The sweetness of the fruited elements is definitely at play, with the elderflower and blueberry having a lot to answer for.
Upon tasting, the chamomile is much more noticeable on the back of the throat in this expression, subsiding to a pepper and chilli finish that warms you to the pit of the stomach.
Everything from the Botanical Gin is amped up to 11; the caraway, fennel and aniseed in particular impart their points of difference, whilst the elderflower and lemon/orange bring a bright sweetness to offset the savoury notes.
It’s perhaps not the smoothest Navy I’ve tried – but I REALLY enjoy it. There’s something very endearing about its raw and wild side. It feels almost dangerous, and a reflection of the Norwegian wilderness from where it’s botanicals hail
To serve and, sure, a G&T is good – but look no further than a Negroni. Your taste buds will thank you.
Old Tom Gin
On approach, the Old Tom expression wields a smooth and sweet composure that’s enjoyable to explore.
But it’s on to the tasting where things really take off…Wow. For me, this could well be the pick of the bunch. And I didn’t expect to say that!
The neat spirit carries a reassured poise and balance, where every botanical seems to work in harmony. The mouthfeel is rich, as the spirit coats the tongue in a liqueur like way.
Whilst the flavour profile may be similar to the other offerings, this seems to be the perfect celebration of them..The menthol is tamed. The savoury character of the caraway and fennel is noted but more subdued. The citrus is bright but not overwhelming. The juniper is refined and pulls the strings. There are fruited nods on the back notes, though not at the expense of the rounded balance.
To serve, if you must expand beyond neat, and we’re in pure and unadulterated G&T or Dry Martini territory here. Don’t do anything too fancy – let the gin do the talking.
Bareksten Spirits; It’ll put hair on your chest (maybe)
This is a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of a range of gins that possess that magical ability to portray the landscape and heritage of their birth place, transporting the drinker to truly understand the mindset and art of the distiller.
In an interesting twist of fate, I did actually (briefly!) meet Stig at Junipalooza 2019, where he was exhibiting in an impressively on brand alcove bar. Though I’m not sure he’d recognise me now, with my ‘could be chocolate cake / could be beard’ aesthetic.
But who knows; you’ve heard of things putting ‘hair on your chest’. Perhaps this could be gin to put ‘hair on your face’?! It can’t hurt to try right?…Cheers.
With huge thanks to Bareksten Spirits and Oss Craft Distillery for my complementary tasting collection gin miniatures.
For all of the latest happenings, and to get your fix of all things gin & facial hair, be sure to check the team out across the t’interweb;
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