Everyone knows about the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen, but did you know you could visit Copenhagen Distillery? Well this is where I had to visit on the Friday afternoon after arriving to Copenhagen for my weekend of gin.
Copenhagen Distillery Visit
The distillery is open to the public between 1- 4pm on Friday afternoons, so you can turn up and have a look and a taste and buy bottles to take with you. Which is basically what I did!
Sune from the distillery took me around and explained how everything worked.
Copenhagen distillery has been selling their products since 2015, but only moved to their current industrial premises in 2016. They have big plans to expand the distillation area, storage and aging space and even focus on their bar area to develop it into a music venue.
How it all works – aka how Copenhagen distillery make their spirits
Sune referred to the stills as Big Bertha and Little Bertha, sized at 300l and 100l respectively. They also make their coffee liqueur in a 200l still and have a baby Bertha for experiments. The stills aren’t traditional copper pot stills. They use a high temperature via a chamber of steam created around a steel rod, to heat the liquid inside them. They get a higher temperature this way – up to 120 degrees, not limited to 105 like the pot still. The advantage of this is that the sugars caramelise, adding new flavours into the spirits.
They macerate their botanicals for the normal gin up to one week. For the specialty gins they can macerate the botanicals 30-60 days e.g. bone shards for their bacon gin (it’s definitely a specialists choice!). For the specialist botanicals they make an essence and cut this with water and clean alcohol.
Gin isn’t normally aged. So their Dry gin isn’t, however as a introduction to whiskey Copenhagen Distillery have created their Oak Aged gin. The distillery also ages some of their other spirits, like the sugar beet brandy and the special Christmas Snaps and mead.
They age the barrels with wine themselves, but also swap gin casks for rum ones (for those Christmas flavours!). As they will be making a whiskey mash themselves going forward, they will obviously need barrels to age the whiskey in.
Copenhagen Distillery is a certified organic producer. Every single ingredient in the distillery needs to be traceable to organic growers. This can be a struggle sometimes as the procedure for keeping the organic certification is difficult when your supplier has issues (e.g. with extreme weather impacting the harvest). But this makes for quality ingredients and the security of mind in knowing exactly where the botanicals have come from.
Now on to the best bit: THE GIN
This is supercharged with orange flavours from the whole oranges that they grate into it (one batch has 2 boxes of oranges). They also use dried Seville orange peel and prunes for the fructose i.e. sweetness.
This makes a gin that is still definitely a gin, but more like a ginny cointreaux. Adding tonic opens up the fruity flavor. It’s absolutely made for lemony cocktails as the flavours will complement each other and balance out the sweet and sour. I took a bottle of this one home with me!
The Dry gin has a distinct personality. The base alcohol is made from 2 year old mead distilled after allowing 1 week for juniper maceration. They also vapour distill through a basket of juniper (i.e. there is less heating than the Orange gin to preserve the flavours). The maltiness of the gin works well when served with ginger beer, Sune recommends a garnish of a sprig of thyme too.
This is a combination of the Orange and Dry gins aged in Pedro Ximinez casks for 4 months. This is not like a whiskey, however as I mentioned earlier it could be a gateway to getting gin drinkers into the aging process that produces whiskey.
Not gin (or cheating on gin?):
Snaps – this is very smooth, made with the Indonesian long pepper, it was made to accompany food – especially cold cuts of meat and heavier flavoured fish.
Aquavit – this has dill and anise as extra botanicals. I thought this was divine. Made to go with traditional Danish dishes such as smoked salmon and pickled herring, the lemon notes work really well with the fish and my family was impressed at how smooth it was to drink (aka easy to drink!)
Continuing the theme of celebrating women: . Need some inspiration for Mother’s Day? (Sunday 11th March in the UK) – well you could take a leaf out of my book and give your mum some Danish Aquavit – here’s some I picked up on my recent visit to @copenhagendistillery . Their dill & anise flavoured aquavit also has a generous citrus flavour and is superbly smooth. Made to go with seafood it was perfect with smoked salmon, gravad lax, prawns and pickled herring. It went down well with my mum! 🍸🍸🍤🍤🍣🍣🦐🦐🐠🐠🐟🐟 . #copenhagenbreak #copenhagendistillery #danishcoldtable #aquavit #drinksforfood #mothersday #presentideas #giftidea #imbibegram #imbibe #instacocktail #happyhour #instadrinks #drinkstagram #womenwhodrink #spirits #spiritsblogger #drinkup #booze #feedfeed
Taffel Aquavit – this is a very traditional aquavit, made with caraway as the main flavor. Sune said that for most Danes the smell or taste of caraway brings back instant memories of regret or bad decisions! They use the sugar beet as the base for this and it adds a sweetness. One to serve with heavier meat like roast pork or duck.
Single cask – cask strength at 75%. Whilst it has orange and sweetness on the nose, the taste will blow your head off! This is whiskey strength on the palate at first and softness comes at the end with the beet flavor. Things start getting hazy after this….
Bacon gin – bacon, smoked apples and the bone extract go into this. It has a very savoury taste – not one for the squeamish at all. To me it smelt like walking into a butchers shop – which is apt as they made it for the butchers opposite (and with their products). I’ve included it here as I’m not sure it technically counts as a gin, more of an experiment.
Mexican Coffee liqueur – this is smooth and sweet. It was developed as Sune wanted to be able to make a premixed Black Russian when he worked at Ruby cocktail bar.
Then Sune made me my favoourite: an awesome bottle aged negroni (but I think the best bit was the hand carved ice – see the insta video below!)
Turn the sound on to hear my cute ‘woohoo’ on the sped up part when the ice fits the glass . This was Sune from @copenhagendistillery showing us that he is the expert in ice cutting whilst serving up a smashing bottle aged Negroni at the distillery. . My first stop on the Copenhagen Gin weekend! . #copenhagenbreak #copenhagendistillery #visitcopenhagen #copenhagenginfest2018 #gin #negroni #lookatthatice #bartendersobsessedwithice #howthedanesdrink #bottleagednegroni #copenhagendrygin #ginclubouting
Sune described the how the bottle aging process impacts the flavours of the negroni. Unlike barrel aging, this process can be studied and the University of Copehagen has studied it! The study found that over time the different strengths of the alcohols combine and exchange molecules. This process develops different flavours. The fruit disappears and a camphor flavour emerges – i.e. the flavour is darker and more rounded and more medicinal.
The finished thing of beauty
Look what made it home with me:
The one good thing about the snow last week was that it made for the perfect drinks chiller! . Here are my goodies from my visit to @copenhagendistillery – we enjoyed tasting their orange gin as a g&t and the aquavit was an early Mother’s Day present to my mum, who was brought up with Danish food and traditions. . I’d highly recommend the Copenhagen Orange Gin – made with both sweet and bitter orange peels to really bring out that flavour, perfect with a lighter flavoured tonic and I can’t wait to try it out in some cocktails (Negroni anyone?! 🥃 or would you prefer a martini 🍸❓) . #copenhagendistillery #copenhagenbreak #snowmageddon #beatfromtheeast #naturalfreezer #aquavit #orangegin #ginandtonic #gintonic #Danishgin🇩🇰 #denmark🇩🇰
For more information, including how to get your hands on their products, check out the Copenhagen Distillery website.
The distillery is open to visitors every Friday afternoon 1-4pm
How to get there
As I was running late I got a taxi to the industrial estate where the distillery is located. If you are walking to/from the center then you can detour through Christiania, a vibrant ‘hippie’ neighbourhood and great for people watching. You can also get buses that run on the main road nearby.
Map so you can find Copenhagen Distillery. (I love google maps!)