From big corporate office to big gin ideas
“In 2014, I left the corporate world due to the fact that I was bored,” quips Jakob Vallentin, Founder and Managing Director at Nordic Gin House. “You know how it is working in big companies – it’s all about KPIs and preparing yourself for the next board meeting. I had the big office, the big salary, the big BMW. But I was bored.”
There’s no bluster to Jakob’s confidence. It’s the simple truth, evidenced by what’s hanging behind his desk: a wall of global accolades stretching from floor to ceiling, many of which have been awarded to his København Klassisk Gin.
Transitioning from the C-suite to something else entirely isn’t uncommon. But moving into the competitive spirits world requires more than just rose-tinted daydreams. It requires passion, money, patience, and a firm plan for how you will define your brand.
“In 2016 I decided that I wanted to make the world’s best Nordic gin,” Jakob says. “The idea was to create one gin for each of the individual countries in the Nordics – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and even Greenland. That was the initial idea of behind Nordic Gin House.”
With his vision firmly planted, Jakob began travelling around Scandinavia in search of the best people to join his team. When he found his way to master distiller Patrik Axelsson, Jakob’s dream began to form into a very achievable reality.
“My own journey started back in 2010, with the Bergslagens Distillery in Örebro, Sweden,” Patrik says. “I’d always been interested in food and drink, especially whisky, aquavit and gin, so when I had the opportunity to start a distillery, it was a pretty easy decision. It was the dream.”
But Patrik and his team didn’t have much to compare themselves to back then. “When we started, there were only about five distilleries in Sweden. All of them were making aquavit, maybe three of them were making whisky, but none were making gin. We were the first to do it in 2012, and in fact we were one year ahead of Hernö Gin.”
A few years later, sitting with Jakob and listening to his ambitious plans for Nordic gin, Patrik made another easy decision.
Finding the flavour of Denmark
With the Nordic Gin House concept nailed, Jakob needed to refine some of the initial recipes he’d mocked up.“The recipes were based on the London Dry style of gin, but I wanted to use local ingredients as much as possible. I also needed each gin to have a special touch of botanicals from their individual country.”
First up was making a Danish gin with Patrik, which resulted in the København Klassisk Gin you are enjoying this issue.
“It was not easy to find the right ingredients to be Danish,” Jakob admits. “I lined up a meeting with a wine and tasting expert, a Norwegian bartender and a number of people who were working in the field of gin botanicals. We had to work out what is and is not Danish. That meant tasting a lot of different ingredients to find the ‘magic touch’.”
At the end of it all, they found their holy grail – or rather, two grails: Nordic spruce (pine) and licorice root. Thus, Jakob and Patrik had defined the signature for their Danish København Klassisk.
A punch of juniper – but balance in all things
When you first taste København Klassisk – to be honest, a sniff alone will suffice – you’ll be swept up by the most recognisable of gin’s botanicals, juniper, in large supply. It’s no coincidence when you understand Jakob’s intentions from the outset.
“Looking at Copenhagen as the capital of Denmark, it is in many ways a developing city. It’s a strong city in the Nordics,” Jakob says. “So the headline of developing the København Klassisk Gin – one that would be a tribute to the city – was to use flavours like licorice. But juniper is also heavily represented in this gin. It has one of the highest amounts of juniper per litre in a gin product.”
Jakob says he was trying to create a profile that could perform just as well as other juniper- rich gins. “I asked myself, ‘Which gin do I want us to identify next to?’ That was the Sipsmith VJOP (Very Juniper Over Proof). It has extreme juniper – you’re never left doubting that you are having a glass of gin.
“But I also didn’t want to have a juniper kick that was overly dominating – I wanted it to have a balance. So when you drink the Kobenhavn Klassik, you’ll get a classic gin with a lot of juniper – no matter how you mix it, you will get the real taste of gin. And that’s probably why I have the hall of fame of awards behind my desk. This gin has won more than 60 awards at competitions around the world. It’s because the gin is so clean, so neat and so classic. But also it has that balance when you taste it.”
Sticking to the klassisks
Paying tribute to the classics is of paramount importance for Jakob. He’s a strong believer in doing something well, rather than being different just for different’s sake.
“We live in an area of the world where we believe in clean, neat and a very clear products. But also very classic products,” Jakob says. “We are not the people who age gin in Swedish oak. We might do it for fun, and you can come and taste it. But commercially, especially in the future when the gin category begins to stabilise, all those other (non-classic style) brands will start to disappear, and the ones that will stay on the store shelves will be the London Dry gins.
“I might be wrong, but I think that for a gin and tonic, when you are mixing that classic cocktail, the gin has to be a classic style – that’s how you identify a gin. Then you can give it some gold dust on top, which is what we are doing with the pine and licorice root and lingonberry in our Nordic Gin House products. But the soul of the gins are London Dry – the juniper is the identity of the spirit. That’s what is going to survive in the future.”
To help capture the flavour of Denmark, Jakob and Patrik worked with a number of botanical specialists to craft the ultimate sensory experience. Spend a moment sipping your København Klassisk neat and try to pick out the main botanicals: juniper, licorice root, Nordic spruce (pine) and citrus.
Get your hands on this sensational gin, along with the accompanying Gin Journal magazine and free gifts at www.ginsociety.com
København Klassisk Gin Global Awards (just to name a few!)
IF Design Award 2021
Innovation Award SIP Awards (International Spirits Competition 2022
Gold Swiss Spirits Review 2021
Bronze - International Consumer Tasting SIP Awards 2022
Bronze for Design at the Bartender Brand Awards 2022
Bronze for Taste at the Bartender Brand Awards 2022
Gold for Gin Of the Year, London 2021
Silver International Spirits Challenge 2021
Best Value at CWSA 2021 (China Wine and Spirits Awards)
Gold at Nordic Spirits Awards, 2021
Gold, Catavinum World Wine and Spirits Competition, Spain 2021
Score of 92 at the International Drinks Specialists Wards
Gold at World Gin Awards, 2019
Gold at World Spirits Awards 2020
Silver at International Wine and Spirit Competition, Cathay Pacific Hong Kong
Bronze at the London Spirits Competition 2020
Bronze at IWSC 2019
Silver at IWSC 2020
Silver at Europe Wine and Spirits 2020
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