Nestled among the purple hills and mossy trees of Scotland, whisky distilleries have quietly been turning their attention to that most colonial of spirits: gin.
Many independent distilleries across the country have been investing their time and energy into ”mother’s ruin” as a reaction to the very slow timeline that is whisky production. Gin, on the other hand, is a much quicker process, meaning that a profit can be turned in a matter of weeks rather than the years that whisky takes. Gin also allows for more experimentation, with many of these new brands using local botanicals harvested from the beautiful Scottish countryside. The result is this eclectic and curious range of Scottish gins now flooding the market.
Arguably the most famous of Scottish gins, Hendrick’s has been producing small batch gin from Girvan on the West coast since 1999. Their distinctive floral tipple, distilled with flowers, roots, fruits and seeds collected worldwide and then infused with Bulgarian rose and cucumber, is found in bars all over the world. Served with crisp tonic (and a slice of cucumber by those in the know) this blossomy gin, with its dandyish apothecary bottle, is the perfect gateway drug into the world of interesting gins.
Gaining quickly in popularity is the beautiful Botanist Gin. Distilled on the remote Isle of Islay with twenty-two hand-foraged botanicals plucked from the peat bogs, wild shores and windswept hills of the island, this artisanal potion is beautifully fresh and lightly floral. Created at Bruichladdich, a brewery better known for their scotch, Botanist’s complex combination of ingredients take you straight to the spring woodlands and wild meadows of the beautiful Hebridean Isles.
Caorunn derives its name from the Celtic word for the Rowan berry; the piquant, medicinal berry local to the rugged Speyside area where it is distilled into its namesake gin. Created at a distillery born in 1824, Caorunn combines that bright red berry with local bog myrtle, heather, and dandelion to create a crisp, aromatic taste which delivers an intriguing spin on a classic London dry. Serve with a slice of red apple to bring out the local Coul Blush apple which is added to the brew.
The classic botanicals used in gin have long been used as medicinal herbs and Rock Rose, a gorgeously thoughtful gin from Dunnet Bay Distillers, gives us new reason to reach for a healing G&T. Their handcrafted spirits, whose ingredients are not dissimilar to those a herbalist might prescribe, are distilled in Caithness in the North of the country. Launching in 2014 after 55 recipe experiments, Rock Rose collects local botanicals, the most interesting of which is surely Rhodiola Rosa. An adaptogenic herb which grows only in very cold climates, it’s root is known to enhance energy and improve brain power; the Vikings would harvest the plant from these same cliffs to improve their strength. In addition, there is local sea buckthorn (a vibrant coastline shrub rich in Vitamin C) and the more classic Juniper and Rowan berry. With their seasonal editions and beautiful ceramic bottles, this gin is the perfect prescription for what ails you
As well as their gin selection, Eden Mill in St Andrews creates whisky and beer on site, which began distilling whisky in 1810. Their original gin is a dry London variety with hints of local sea buckthorn, lemon balm and citrus. Their Oak Gin is finished in oak beer barrels which creates an interesting gin/whisky hybrid, a sipping drink with hints of caramel, vanilla and fudge. They even have a Golf Gin to honor that other famous Scottish export; using botanicals found around the historic local golf course to capture the ”spirit of golf” with a fresh and earthy bottle.
When juniper, the predominant ingredient in all gins, faced an impending shortage recently, Jonathon Engels of Crossbill distillery decided that something must be done. Working closely with the Forestry Commission to cultivate and restore the Juniper plant, he then created the only gin using 100% Scottish Juniper, collected in harmony with how it grows. The result is a vegetal, exotic and juniper-dominant gin which you can feel good about supporting.
Blackwoods harvests the hardy plants that grow on the cliff edges and damp meadows of Shetland, the wild and rugged northern island where this gin is distilled. With each vintage, the botanicals used change according to local harvests, but you can look out for magical sounding ingredients like Sea Pink, Angelica, Meadowsweet and Marsh Marigold in this balanced spirit.
Founded in the Leith area of Edinburgh in 2015, Firkin is an experiment in London style gin aged in American oak whisky casks. Combining a respect for heritage with a progressive attitude, this handcrafted gin is made with traditional juniper, coriander, anjelica and orris and then changes to a golden hue as it sits in the casks. The result is closer to whisky than gin, and its woody, caramel notes are best enjoyed on the rocks by a roaring fire.