The Great Scottish Gin Wave

The Wine And Spirit Trade Association recently launched the Scotland Gin Trail, a tour focused on some of our most exciting locations for gin manufacturing and consumption. To follow the whole trail would lead you from Edinburgh and across the sea to Shetland, taking in over a dozen distilleries along the way. These include the North Berwick Distillery (home to the “uncompromised” NB Gin), Crossbill Highland Distilling in Aviemore (“100% Scottish Juniper”) and the warm and welcoming Isle Of Harris Distillery. The WSTA’s hope is that the tour – following hot off the heels of the successful London Gin Trail – will highlight the revival taking place with British gin and also educate people about the different methods of gin making.

Scotland can feel particularly proud of its contribution as 70% of UK gin production takes place here. Of course there’s Gordon’s Gin, which has been produced in Fife since 1998, but what really got the Scottish gin revival going was Hendrick’s Gin. Launched in 1999 it went on to be named “Best Gin In The World” by The Wall Street Journal, obtaining several more awards over the next decade. People were inspired. Established distilleries started making gin and new craft brands have been appearing every year since. Even the idea of what constitutes a great gin has become more complex with people using all kinds of unexplored botanicals to make their gin unique. Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, which is produced by the Wemyss family in Fife, utilises Nutmeg, Cloves and Cinnamon to make a comforting antidote to cold winter nights. As for Rock Rose Gin in Caithness it’s very name comes from the rare botanical Rhodiola Rosea, believed by many to possess significant health benefits. We can only speak for its contribution to getting us drunk. Hick!

This new wave of Scottish gin has struck a pretty good balance then, marked as much by quality as the sheer quantity suddenly out there. Clearly many have been driven by the desire to experiment. In cases like these you can’t stray too far from the original idea though can you? You wouldn’t call it gin if it didn’t taste like gin! No, the approach has been to either refine the old ways or to build on them, giving you the core of what’s always been with some twists around the edge. Take the Strathearn Distillery. Their Heather Rose Gin, which at first looks more like whisky, turns a soft pink colour when you add tonic. This is thanks to the rose petals and purple heather flowers added after the initial distillation process. A sweet gin but with a kick. Another distillery doing very interesting things to gin is Eden Mill in St Andrews. As Eden Mill is also a brewery they decided to make a hopped gin. Looking to the past they ended up with one matured in oak aged beer casks – harking back to the 19th century – and their Golf Gin is, as their website says, “flavoured with retired clubs from the local courses”. Both of these distilleries are small batch operations.

We’ve already written about Caorunn Ginn and the man behind it, Simon Buley. He’s not the only one who likes to work in small batches then; who appreciates the time you get to perfect each bottle. The small batch has become a defining feature of this movement in the gin world. NB Gin have stated their intention to stick to small batches even if demand skyrockets. Makar Glasgow Gin is made at the Glasgow Distillery, also producers of whisky, and it’s a tradition in the whisky world to focus on small but exceptional orders. Firkin Gin, Boë Superior Gin, Shetland Reel Gin and Gin Bothy are just a few more examples. The more we look the more we find. This is encouraging as it shows how much people care about making a fine product. It shows there’s a reason to pay attention to what they’re doing. We’re not allergic to profit here at Thirst.Scot but we like to know the people we’re buying from actually have something to give. It’s got to be inspiring too for those hoping to make it in the industry. Success may not mean so many compromises after all.

There are so many gins and distilleries we haven’t written about but that really would take too long. With more popping up all the time we’ll probably be following up this article in the future. In the meantime get searching. See what’s out there and what’s on the way. If you fancy checking out all 17 destinations on the Scotland Gin Trail for yourself there’s a map with more information here:

To Scottish gin!

Leave a Reply