Ornabrak Single Malt Irish Gin Review
An Irish Single Malt Gin for Whiskey Drinkers!
In all the years that I have been reviewing Irish Whiskey here on IrishWhiskey.com, I have only reviewed one non whiskey drink. That was my review of Kalak Irish Vodka. I broke my “whiskey only” rules for two reasons.
• Kalak Vodka is distilled from Irish Malt Barley.
• Kalak Vodka is distilled for Origin Spirits by the wonderful West Cork Distillers in my native West Cork.
From the start, there was something quite special about Kalak. As a triple distilled single malt Vodka, it was obviously a “Vodka for Whiskey Drinkers”. But there was also the stunning branding – from the brand name to the bottle and label design. As someone who has lived and worked extensively around mainland Europe from the Scandinavian Arctic to the Balkans, I immediately identified with the fusion of the Nordic influences of Northern Scandinavia and the Limestone and Ogham infused heritage and West Cork Celtic Mysticism of Drombeg and Beara.
Kalak was a most unusual vodka. Creamy, smooth and packed with flavour. A Vodka to be sipped neat and at room temperature rather than chilled or iced. And the bottle, label art and beautifully silver stopper just oozed sophistication and quality. I have written about the importance of this feel good factor before. If I am paying a bit extra for a premium spirit, I don’t just want a super whiskey, Gin or Vodka, I want to feel good about my purchase. Think of it like buying a Jaguar car. You are not just buying a powerful car that is fun to drive. You are buying an experience. To paraphrase Clarkson, a Jaguar without wood and leather is not a proper Jag. You don’t just give someone a bottle of Kalak, you present them with a bottle of Kalak.
It takes someone quite special to get this mix of product, style, brand and packaging just right and that person is Tipperary born Patrick Shelley, the Owner Director of Kalak’s parent company, Origin Spirits.
Patrick previously worked in the international luxury goods market, holding senior positions with LVMH (Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton) in France, UK, Germany, Austria, South East Asia, and Russia where he had the opportunity to represent some of the world’s top wine & spirits brands, such as Hennessy, Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Krug, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Belvedere. All of this experience supported the branding of Kalak and it shows.
Now Patrick has turned his attention to the world of Gin with the launch last week of Origin Spirits first Gin expression, an Irish single malt gin called Ornabrak.
Crafted from 100% Irish malted barley, the single malt base spirit is four times copper pot distilled in West Cork and then distilled a fifth time with five carefully selected botanicals to create a complex and floral single malt gin @ 43% ABV.
The name ‘Ornabrak’ is derived from the Irish language words ‘Eorna Braiche’(pronounced Or Na Brack) meaning Malted Barley.
Ornabrak Gin was meticulously crafted following 36 distillation trials over 12 months, and with input from some of the world’s best bartenders. Starting with an initial palate of almost 30 botanicals, this was carefully narrowed down to just five . Juniper Berry, Douglas Fir Needles, Garden Angelica Root, Lemon Verbena Leaf and Lemon Peel were finally selected to best complement the complex and unusual Irish single malt base spirit.
Ornabrak Single Malt Gin is one of a small number of gins internationally which actually distills its own base spirit. This spirit is made in its entirety from Irish malted barley, sourced principally in the South East of Ireland from contracted growers, before being malted in Cork, and subsequently milled, mashed, fermented and copper pot distilled for Ornabrak by West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen, West Cork.
Speaking at the launch of Ornabrak, Patrick Shelley, said,
“Ornabrak is one of very few Single Malt Gin’s being produced around the world and its creation was slightly more complex as we needed the malted barley’s richness and creaminess to shine through, while creating a harmonious balance with the botanicals .”
“Many gin brands will argue that as 75% of your G&T is tonic, ensure you only use the best. We agree but like to highlight that if 95% of your gin is made from base spirit, ensure the latter is also the best! For us, provenance is key as international consumers are becoming increasingly discerning, particularly with respect to the authenticity and transparency of the brands they consume with more demand for ‘farm to bottle’ products.”
Botanical Bottle Art
The Ornabrak bottle was inspired by vintage apothecary and perfume bottles, and the label by Victorian botanical illustrations. Each botanical was custom illustrated for Ornabrak by one of Ireland’s leading botanical artists, Lynn Stringer. Lynn is a former gold medal winner at Bloom, has exhibited her works at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Botanical Art show in London and has provided illustrations to the acclaimed Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. Lynn is currently chair of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists. Each of Ornabrak’s five botanicals and the Irish barley of the base malt spirit is beautifully illustrated by Lynn on the label. Note also the beautifully turned wooden stopper which also contributes strongly to that all important feel good quality factor.
Official Ornabrak Tasting Notes
• Nose: Rich and creamy nose with underlying juniper, malt, pine, subtle spice and citrus.
• Palate: Smooth and complex flavours unfolding with juniper, vanilla, pink peppercorn, and earthy citrus.
• Finish: Long and persistent
Stuart’s tasting Notes
Nose: Deep and complex with juniper and pine to the fore, backed up by a tang of lemon zest.
Taste: Rich creamy oiliness. The heads – center cut split of the fifth distillation has really captured those rich botanical oils. All five botanicals are beautifully harmonised over a firm but subtle malt base. A small drop of water opens up the botanical notes to an incredible extent.
Finish: Really long and rich, especially if sipped neat with just a small dash of water.
Official Serving Suggestions
• Neat: As a single malt gin, Ornabrak can be enjoyed neat in a tumbler glass
• Gin & Tonic: Ornabrak pairs perfectly with Poacher Classic tonic.
• Cocktail: The Single Malt Vesper
An Irish take on the Classic Vesper Martini
40ml Ornabrak Single Malt Gin,
10ml Kalak Single Malt Vodka,
5ml Lillet Blanc
Stir with ice and garnish with a lemon peel swirl.
Stuart’s final thoughts.
As a gin and (Poachers) tonic, with ice and slice, Ornabrak is a wonderfully refreshing summer drink with rich complex flavours. The lemon zest and lemon verbena add a zing that lifts it beyond many other gins.
I also tried it neat with just a cube or two of ice, but I felt that the ice just interferes with and ruins your appreciation of the wonderfully powerful botanical flavours.
Drink it like Whiskey!
Sip Ornabrak neat like a good whiskey and it is a wonderfully smooth spirit with a rich, oily mouth feel and layers and layers of flavour. Add a small splash of water, either chilled or room temperature and the botanical flavours really open up. If I was serving it to friends in the garden on a warm summers evening, I’d bring out large whiskey tumblers, the beautiful Ornabrak bottle and a large jug of water packed with ice and a few slices of lemon.
I have given Ornabrak Irish Gin a Three Pooka Rating. Note! – Swop “Whiskey” for Gin! ;>)
Ornabrak is definitely a Gin for Whiskey Drinkers – At least in the Summer!!
To Buy Ornabrak in Ireland
Ornabrak Single Malt Gin (43% alc.) will be available in independent off licences throughout Ireland from 28th May. RSP: about €49.
Stuart McNamara is a Whisky and Whiskey Blogger. Stuart is the owner and Editor in Chief of WhiskeyBlogger.com, IrishWhiskey.com, The Irish Whiskey Trail, The Dublin Whiskey Trail, Irish Whiskey Way Atlantic Coast Whiskey Trail , Haig Whisky and The Scottish Whisky Trail. Follow Stuart @WhiskeyBlogger on Social Media.