A Taste Of Scotland’s Gins

PART OF THE The Second Spring ISSUE

‘Take a look at the botanicals and it’s clear how strong an influence Colonsay’s landscape has had on this gin.’

Did you know that most of Britain’s gin is in fact produced in Scotland? Let us take you on a mini tour – from major cities to Hebridean islands – to find out what exactly makes some of Scotland’s many distinctive gins so delicious, and so loved worldwide.

Extract from Gin: A Guide to the World’s Greatest Gins
By Dominic Roskrow
Published by Collins

  • Edinburgh Gin
    producer: Spencerfield Spirit Company
    abv: 43%
    region and country of origin: Edinburgh, Scotland
    botanicals: Thirteen botanicals, including juniper berries, angelica root, citrus peel, coriander seeds, orris root, heather, and milk thistle

There’s something very special about the Edinburgh Distillery, which is underground, right in the heart of Edinburgh. Its owners describe it as being in a rabbit hole. It’s in the heart of Scotland’s capital that a range of gins and gin liqueurs are put together, including a very special navy strength gin by the name of Cannonball. This is the more standard offering and is a solid and well-made gin. The distillery welcomes visitors and offers tours, and you can try your hand at making gin while visiting. Proof that Scottish gin can be every bit as classy as a single-malt whisky.

  • Pickering’s
    producer: Summerhall Distillery
    abv: 42%
    region and country of origin: Edinburgh,
    botanicals: Juniper berries, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime, cloves

Summerhall Distillery has been making gin since 2004, so it precedes the current craft distilling boom, but there’s nothing very conventional about it. It operates out of an old animal hospital, which was part of a veterinary school known locally as The Dick Vet. Now it’s an arts centre called Summerhall and there is a pub next door called The Royal Dick. Simple, really. The whole operation is done by hand and distillation
takes place on two stills called Gert and Emily, after the founders’ maternal grandmothers. This version has a red wax seal, and the navy strength one has a busby. Don’t ask. The gin itself is very good indeed and has picked up a number of awards.

  • Eden Mill Love Gin
    producer: Eden Mill Brewery
    abv: 42%
    region and country of origin: St Andrews, Scotland
    botanicals: Juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica, rhubarb root, rose petals, goji berries, elderberries, marshmallow root, raspberry leaves, hibiscus flowers

A glance through those botanicals explains how this gin comes to have a pink hue but, while the whole concept might seem a touch tacky and gimmicky, this is a serious offering from brewer turned distiller Eden Mill. The story goes that the team set themselves the task of creating an ideal Valentine’s gift for February 14, 2015, and this is what they came up with. There’s method to the pink-tinged madness, because the mix of fruit and flowers makes for a smooth, subtle, sophisticated gin with true élan.

  • Ginerosity
    producer: Ginerosity
    abv: 40%
    region and country of origin: Edinburgh, Scotland
    botanicals: Juniper berries, coriander, angelica, lemon, lime, orange, lemon myrtle, heather, cardamom, cloves

The name is a bit gimmicky and suggests that there’s more to this gin than a few botanicals. Let’s deal with the gin itself, first, though. Made by Pickering’s at Summerhall Distillery, this a well-made, stylish Scottish gin made with ten botanicals. But a clue to what makes this gin stand out is contained in the name. Purchase a bottle and all the profits from it are poured back into projects that will help deserving young adults to build themselves a better future. ‘That isn’t just a worthwhile cause, it’s a vital one,’ say the five-person team behind the idea. ‘And we’re exceptionally proud that we’re the first spirits company to do it.’ Ginerosity has linked up with the charity Challenges Worldwide to help young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds take part in International Citizenship Service (ICS) programmes.

  • Hendrick’s
    producer: William Grant & Sons
    abv: 41.4%
    region and country of origin: Girvan, Scotland
    botanicals: Juniper berries, yarrow, elderflower, angelica root, orange peel, caraway seeds, camomile, cubeb berries, coriander, orris root, lemon, rose, cucumber

While Bombay Sapphire can take much of the credit for bringing gin in from the cold, Hendrick’s played a key role in the drink’s rehabilitation. It’s owned by William Grant & Sons, a Scottish family-owned company that you’d expect to be stuff y and oldfashioned but that is anything but. With Monkey Shoulder blended malt whisky playing a similar role for Scotch whisky, Hendrick’s was targeted at the
trendy cocktail set and, backed by an ultracool website, it set about bringing a steampunk mentality to the drink. It’s flavoured with rose and cucumber post distillation and new drinkers were won over by a constant supply of new drink serves. Classy.

  • Wild Island Botanic Gin
    producer: Colonsay Beverages
    abv: 43.7%
    region and country of origin: Colonsay, Scotland
    botanicals: Juniper berries, coriander seeds, lemon peel, orange peel, liquorice, cinnamon bark, angelica root, orris root, cassia bark, nutmeg, lemon balm, wild water mint, meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, heather flowers, bog myrtle

Colonsay is a remote rocky Scottish island some two and a quarter hours from the mainland, and it is, indeed, a wild island, a mix of long sandy beaches, rocky outreaches, and stunning natural beauty. About one hundred people live here, and it’s known for its fresh oysters and honey from its native black bee. There is also a general store and a brewery. And it’s from the brewery that this gin comes. Take a look at the botanicals and it’s clear how strong an influence Colonsay’s landscape has had on this gin. The gin is produced in small batches on a copper still and only 750 bottles are released at a time. This is a gin of exceptional quality.

Gin: A Guide to the World’s Greatest Gins by Dominic Roskrow is out now published by Collins, part of the Little Books series, priced £6.99.

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