I arrived in Gothenburg, Sweden a little after three o’clock in the afternoon. From the bus station we walked a couple blocks over and checked into our hotel, and by four we were out exploring the city. It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-August, and I was surprised to find the streets quiet and most of the stores, even a number of restaurants, closed up. Sunday starts early in Gothenburg.
As dinnertime approached, we struggled to find some place to go. But I remembered a restaurant I saw in the Michelin Guide, Familjen. There I had not only a great meal, but an incredible gin tasting experience. As I often do, I asked the waitress about the local gin and she sent over Tom (good name) who guided me through three different expressions of Hernö Gin as well as Skrea Backe, an amazing gin from Falkenberg, Sweeden.
Of the three Hernö gins Tom had me try, the Old Tom was his favorite. It was easy to see why. It was absolutely delicious neat. It’s made with eight botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seeds, black pepper, cassia bark, vanilla, lingon berries, meadowsweet, and lemon peel, the same botanicals used in their dry gin. They add additional meadowsweet and a little sugar. It is 86 proof, but drinks, very smooth.
So I had a great gin experience and I thought, I’ll just run down to the liquor store and pick up a bottle. Well that isn’t how it works in Sweden. First, liquor is only sold in state run stores. And second, those stores close at 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturdays and don’t open again until 10:00 in the morning on Mondays! And to make matters worse I was leaving Gothenburg early Monday afternoon.
So on Monday August 8, 2022, at 9:55 am, I found myself in line with a couple dozen of Gothenburg’s finest waiting outside the Systembolaget for it to open. The selection was limited. I was actually hoping to get a bottle Hernö that is aged in juniper barrels, but they didn’t have it. I also wanted a bottle of the Skrea Backe, but no luck there either. So with those options off the table, I settled on the Old Tom Hernö for 348 Swedish Krona about $34, and entered it into the collection as gin no. 072.
At home, I did a tasting. We tried it neat and with tonic, tasting it in the same evening as gin no. 071 and gin no. 073. Old Tom Hernö was the clear winner. The combination of of vanilla, meadowsweet, and added sugar makes it easily drinkable. Tonic is not necessary, as this gin is incredible to sip on.
A final thought, if you don’t want to work as hard as I did to get a bottle of Hernö, just fly to Copenhagen. They sell it in the airport!