Scottish gin is undergoing a massive revival at the moment, fuelled in part by the boom in small craft distilleries and by the arrival of whisky companies into the gin market.

The flexibility of the recipes and relative simplicity of its production makes gin the perfect spirit for those looking to create and sell their own brand.

Like an enlightened version of the gin craze era, craft gin distilleries are popping up all across the UK as well as globally. However, it’s those gin distilleries in our little corner of the world that are making some big waves.

With the recent success of World Gin Day and the Scottish Juniper Festival, as well as the fact that Brits spent £136 million on gin over the festive period, we thought we’d take a look at twenty six of the best Scottish gins we think you should try:

ABERDEEN: PORTER’S GIN

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The first gin to be distilled in Aberdeen city centre for 100 years, Porter’s Gin was the product of the passion of three friends for all things drink related. Founders Ben Iravani, Josh Rennie and bartender Alex Lawrence spent the past few years fine-tuning their recipe, undertaking hundreds of small-scale distillations in order to perfect their method.

Named after Professor Andrew Porter of Aberdeen University, who sourced cold-distillation equipment which allowed the team to extract “light refreshing flavours” from botanicals. The gin is a great example of a light style gin, made using traditional botanicals such as Juniper, orange and angelica sitting side-by-side with more unusual ingredients like buddha’s hand and pink peppercorn, to produce a wonderful citrus flavoured spirit that’s as easy to drink neat as it is with tonic.

Recommended Garnish: A slice of lime

ABERDEENSHIRE: TEASMITH GIN

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This is another North-East gin, more specifically from Udny in Aberdeenshire. The Team at Teasmith wanted to create a gin whose flavour is made from botanicals linked to their locality, and that celebrate local history.

Aberdeenshire has a rich heritage that links the area with the tea trade. The Newburgh estuary, was once a thriving market place with tea being one of its biggest imports. Aberdeen City gave rise to one of the most notable clippers to sail the seas. One of those ships, The Thermopylae was launched in 1868 and on its first trip set speed records on her way to Melbourne via Shanghai and Foochow.

This vessel played a fundamental role in opening up trade routes with the Far East – and one of the key items they returned with was tea. The Teasmith is a unique gin in that its the first gin to use hand-picked tea; a special black tea sourced by the team provides a distinct minty sweetness when distilled. This complemented the traditional gin botanicals perfectly. Also added to Teasmith is juniper, coriander, orange peel, grains of paradise, angelica, calamus and orris root.

Recommended Garnish: a sprig of mint

ARBROATH: ARBIKIE KIRSTY’S GIN

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‘Kirsty’s Gin’ is named after Arbikie’s Master Distiller Kirsty Black who has been developing the gin for over two years. The gin embodies elements of the ocean, rock and land, reflecting the estate’s environment – a 2000-acre farm, stretching out to Lunan Bay on the east coast of Scotland.

Kirsty’s Gin sticks to a traditional juniper base, with three traditional Scottish botanics, Kelp, Carline Thistle and Blaeberrys (all of which grow wild in the Angus area).

Unlike the majority of gin, which is made from a neutral base spirit, Kirsty’s Gin is distilled from Arbikie’s potato vodka giving the gin an extra smooth and distinctive taste. Also, Arbikie controls the whole process from farm to bottle and does not buy neutral spirit for its botanics to be added to.

Bonus: check out their newest release AK’s Gin

Recommended garnish: several blueberries and lemon twist

AVIEMORE: CROSSBILL GIN

Van

Producing their first small batch of just 200 bottles in 2013, Crossbill are now running at full production, and a good thing too, as demand for their highly acclaimed gin is now taking off. Named after the indigenous bird that can only be found in the ancient forests of Scotland, Crossbill gin is one of the only gin distilleries to use 100 per cent Scottish juniper and rosehip.

Indeed the distillers claim to have revived Scotland’s fragrant juniper production. Most of the reviewers describe Crossbill as a real ‘gin lover’s gin’, definitely one to check out now it’s becoming more available.

Recommended garnish: Orange zest and thin twist of peel

AYRSHIRE: HENDRICK’S GIN

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William S Grant & Sons pretty much provided the spark that started the Scottish craft gin ball rolling by introducing Hendricks in 1998.

Created in a specially built gin distillery housed within the walls of the Girvan grain distillery, Hendricks uses a unique system combining two different styles of production. First, the gin is distilled using two different methods – pot still and infusion – the two distillates are then combined and finally the cucumber and rose oils are added.

Recommended garnish: Cucumber

CAITHNESS: ROCK ROSE GIN

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Named after one of their rare botanicals the “Rhodiola rosea” which is very difficult to find but grows on the cliffs of Caithness, Rock Rose Gin is one of the fastest selling craft gin in the UK.

The Rock Rose is famed for its confirmed health benefits and was once sought after by the Vikings for its strength and vitality. It seems that this fame has not gone unnoticed, the first batch of the gin sold out in less than 48 hours – an industry record.

Britain’s most northerly mainland distillery, Rock Rose use an increasingly unique distilling process which infuses 18 botanicals, of which five are grown locally.

Perhaps most interestingly, they use both traditional Italian and Bulgarian junipers which are blended together to create a unique juniper taste for their gin.

They also make a range of seasonal gins that are well worth checking out.

Recommended garnish: Either a sprig of rosemary or orange peel

CALLANDER: MCQUEEN GIN

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The wildcard on this list has to be McQueen Gin, the Callander produced spirit that offers some of the strangest flavoured gins we have come across. new on the scene, McQueen gin pushes the boundaries of what you expect from a Scottish gin with flavours like chocolate mint, mocha and smokey chilli.

These are no flash-in-the-pan fad spirits though, Dale McQueen and wife Vicky – the team behind the gin – have gone all out to create this unique, hand-crafted spirit using such diverse botanicals as Kaffir Lime, coffee and chipotle chilli, all distilled and bottled in Perthshire. Four gins that have to be tried to be believed, perfect for someone looking for something that truly stands out from the crowd.

For the more conservative among you, their newly released Dry Gin is a juniper-led cracker that won’t disappoint.

Recommended garnishes: Mocha – Orange twist, Sweet citrus – strawberry and lime, Mint Chocolate – mint chocolate stick, smokey chilli – slice of lime.

COLONSAY: WILD ISLAND BOTANIC  GIN

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Wild Island Botanic Gin is produced on the Island of Colonsay and crafted from a complex base of Mediterranean lemon peel, orange peel, juniper, coriander, Angelica, Orris root, liquorice, nutmeg, cassia and cinnamon bark, infused with a delicate array of wild island botanicals including lemon balm, meadowsweet, wild water mint, heather flowers, bog myrtle and sea buckthorn.

In total, it uses 16 distinct botanicals. Adding to the quality and character of the gin, the base spirit is distilled five times in a traditional single copper pot still and is made from 100 per cent British wheat to deliver “exceptional smoothness”.

Recommended Garnish: slice of lime

EAST LOTHIAN: NB GIN

Picture: NB Gin

Picture: NB Gin

Made using only eight botanicals, NB claims that it only needs those eight to create a classic gin. Judging by the response they’ve received since their creation – they won a silver medal at the Gin masters awards at the first time of asking – it certainly looks they are doing something right.

NB claim that no matter the demand for their product they will only ever produce in small batches to ensure their gin is as perfect as they can make it and remains hand-crafted. They recently hosted the Brit awards after party so it’s clear that it’s that not only gin lovers taking notice but also music royalty are too.

Recommended garnish: No garnish needed

EAST LOTHIAN: FIRKIN GIN

Firkin Gin. Picture: Firkin Gin

Firkin Gin. Picture: Firkin Gin

Gleann Mor Whisky Company, which is better known for its excellent range of independently bottled whiskies has decided to create its own spirit, the wonderfully rich Firkin Gin.

Combining their London style gin – created using several botanicals including Macedonian juniper, coriander seed and Italian orris root – with whisky style maturation, the gin is ‘rested’ in American oak casks to gives it that wonderful golden colour and rich, creamy vanilla tones.

Recommended garnish: A wedge of lime.

EDINBURGH: EDINBURGH GIN

Picture: Edinburgh Gin

Picture: Edinburgh Gin

Edinburgh gin is another small batch gin distillery that is aiming to put Edinburgh back on the gin producing map.

Nestled below the stairs of Rutland Place in the capital, sits their gin distillery. Priding themselves on creating a taste of Edinburgh, the company’s myriad gins are as varied as they are excellent (we recommend the Edinburgh Cannonball bottled at 57.2% abv).

You can book a tour of the distillery itself and even make your own gin should you wish to.

Recommended Garnish: Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

EDINBURGH: PICKERING’S GIN

The award winning Pickering's gin. Picture: PG

The award winning Pickering’s gin. Picture: PG

Edinburgh’s first gin distillery in 150 years has a lot to live up to, but with a great location – Summerhall distillery – it already looks well on its way to  making its mark.

Perhaps the best weapon in Pickering’s arsenal is their 60 year-old original Bombay recipe which has been tweaked and perfected for the modern palate.

Should you be interested you can visit the distillery in Edinburgh with guided tours and tastings also available on certain days. To find out more you can email the team at tours@pickeringsgin.com

Recommended garnish: Pink grapefruit

EDINBURGH: DAFFY’S GIN

Daffy's Gin. Picture: DG

Daffy’s Gin. Picture: DG

Daffy’s is named for the Goddess of gin and is created using the finest French grain spirit, distilled on an ancient copper pot whisky still.

Interestingly, Daffy’s mixes classic ingredients such as juniper, coriander seeds, cassia bark with newer botanicals like Lebanese mint and rare varieties of lemon, so it’s perfect for those who like their classics with a modern twist.

Recommended garnish: fresh mint and a wedge of lime

FIFE: DARNLEY’S VIEW GIN AND SPICED GIN

Picture: Darnley's View

Named in celebration of the moment that Mary Queen of Scots first spied her husband-to-be Lord Darnley at Wemyss Castle in 1565, Darnley’s view is produced by the Wemyss (that’s weems not weemiss or weemees) family in Fife.

This traditionally-made spirit is a London gin made with six carefully selected botanicals to a recipe held by the family. However, it is the unusual spiced gin made with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves that really stands out.

Recommended garnish: Regular gin – sliced lime, Spiced gin – orange slice

ISLAY: THE BOTANIST

Van

What can be said about Jim McEwan that hasn’t already been said? The man is a legend in whisky circles and now he’s trying his hand at gin.

Made at Bruichladdich distillery on Islay, the Botanist claims to be made with 22 foraged island botanicals, hand-picked locally, including gorse and wild mint. This is one of the bigger names out there and is vying with Hendricks for shelf space in most Scottish bars.

Recommended garnish: Thyme & Lemon

INVERNESS: LOCH NESS GIN

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Loch Ness Gin are one of a few fortunate gin producers who are able to hand-pick their own crops of Juniper berries from their land.

Their company has got off to a great start, having won a Gold award in the Global Gin Masters following a blind tasting competition judged by spirit experts.

Husband and wife team Kevin and Lorien Cameron-Ross gather by hand their premium ‘black gold’ juniper before creating their gin to fill their unique bottles which feature a hot foiled copper front and back – apparently a world first – and that distinctive ‘Nessie’ logo.

Recommend garnish: a slice of kiwi fruit

ISLE OF HARRIS: ISLE OF HARRIS GIN

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We were already excited about the announcement that there would soon be whisky from Harris, that we were entirely unprepared for the new distillery to produce this absolute cracker of a gin. Made using nine botanicals including locally-sourced sugar kelp, which gives the gin its wonderful coastal flavour, and produced using their small copper still – affectionately known as ‘The Dottach’ – this a distinctly interesting gin unlike many you will have tried before.

Not only that but it comes in one of the most fantastic spirit bottles we’ve seen. Designed by the team at Stranger & Stranger, the bottle reflects the rolling waves of the Harris coast and carries deliberate imperfections to reflect the rugged nature of the island itself.

So popular they once even had to ration their gin due to having such high demand.

Recommended garnish: pink or red grapefruit

GLASGOW: MAKAR GIN

Van

Glasgow’s first whisky distillery in over a hundred years is making its mark not just in the world of whisky but also in the world of gin. Carrying on the tradition of whisky distilleries creating great small batch gins.

Makar is produced in small batches in ‘Annie’  the distillery’s own copper pot still.

Seven botanicals – lemon peel, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cassia bark, rosemary, angelica root and liquorice – are added to compliment the Juniper and help to make a classic refreshing gin.

Recommended garnish: A wedge of lime

JURA: LUSSA GIN

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On the Isle of Jura, Claire Fletcher, Alicia MacInnes and Georgina Kitching came up with the idea during a brain-storming session on how to create interesting jobs for women on the Hebridean island.

Now they venture out into the wilds of the Hebridean island to collect ingredients for their unique home brew.

The adventurous trio board a rowing boat to harvest sea lettuce and climb trees to collect pine needles – we love the field notes on their website – to create their Lussa Gin.

The first batch of 471 bottles was massively popular and was snapped up in just ten days.

They are currently involved in a regeneration programme of the island’s home-grown juniper.

Jura honeysuckle, rose petals, water mint, ground elderflower, lime flowers, rosehips, lemon balm, orris and coriander are all used in the gin, along with spring water from Lussa glen.

Recommended garnish: A slice of lemon

ORKNEY: KIRKJUVAGR GIN 

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The team at Kirkjuvagr worked closely with the Agronomy Institute of the UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands) to create a blend of local botanicals.

Featuring a host of unusual botanicals including Angelica, Bere Barley, Borage, Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, as well as Calamondin citrus fruits grown in their green house, Kirkjuvagr is a wonderfully unique kick of flavour that does credit to the already hugely successful Orkney distilling and brewing scene.

What’s more they are investing a lot in Orkney; with plans to open an artisan distillery, visitor centre and shop on Kirkwall’s Ayre Road, hopefully due this spring.

Recommended garnish: Orange Peel

PERTHSHIRE: STRATHEARN GIN

Van

Strathearn distillery is making waves not only in the world of gin but also the world of whisky. One of Scotland’s smallest commercial distilleries, Strathearn produce four main gins currently; the Classic, the Citrus, the Heather Rose gin and the Oaked Highland gin.

Strathearn Distillery offers a whole range of tours including a simple tour of the farm based distillery, a day spent distilling or most interesting for gin lovers – an afternoon making and drinking gin. To book a tour contact them here: info@strathearndistillery.com

Recommended garnish: A wedge of grapefruit

PERTHSHIRE: PERSIE GIN

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Persie Gin is made by the hard-working partners Chrissie and Simon who also run the long-established Gin Club Scotland.

Simon has been using his expert knowledge to host gin nights all over the country, and he knows what goes into a truly great gin. According to their site, smell is the sense that has the strongest ability to invigorate emotions.

The pair have focused their gin production on the adage that 75 per cent to 95 per cent of a gin’s flavour profile is based on smell, creating a Zesty Citrus Gin, a Herby & Aromatic one and their Sweety and Nutty Old Tom Gin.

Recommended garnish: Zesty Citrus – Mint and lime, Herby & Aromatic – basil leaves, Sweety and Nutty Old Tom Gin – root ginger

ROYAL DEESIDE: ESKER GIN

 

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Esker Gin is another brand new contribution to the North-East of Scotland gin scene. Husband and wife team Lynne and Steve Duthie have set up a gin still in their back garden.

After buying the copper still from Portugal, what was once a hobby soon evolved into a commercial venture, with their recent debut at the Taste of Grampian Food and Drink Exhibition being a breakthrough into the local Gin market.

The pair use Juniper, Heather, Rosehip, Peppercorn and Citrus alongside Silver Birch Tree sap from trees in the local Kincardine Castle Estate. Esker will be the first Scottish Gin we know of to use Birch Tree sap in its recipe, with the distinctive ingredient giving the new gin a refreshing sweetness; Birch Tree sap is also renowned for its health-boosting properties.

Recommended garnish: Orange zest

SHETLAND: SHETLAND REEL

It’s fair to say that you can’t get much further north than Unst in Shetland and their gin Shetland Reel, really reflects the rugged spirit and beautiful landscape of where the drink is made.

Offering two gins with two very distinct flavours; their original gin uses locally grown apple mint to create a juniper based gin with punchy hits of citrus and spice, while their Ocean Sent Gin uses specially harvested bladderwrack seaweed from the Shetland coastline to create a complex and flavoursome gin perfect for cocktails.

They’ve also recently created some excellent limited edition gins including one for the Up Helly Aa festival.

Recommended garnish: (for the original gin) grapefruit – it also goes great with a slice of kiwi

SPEYSIDE: CAORUNN GIN

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Caorunn gin, created at Balmenach distillery in Speyside, is another of the big whisky distillery gins although its reputation has been built on the back of its excellent taste not its provenance.

Using small batches of pure grain spirit which are triple distilled for smoothness, the gin is created using the distillery’s unique Copper Berry Chamber, which was made in the 1920s.

It is infused with five Celtic botanicals (including Coul Blush Apple and Bog Myrtle), six traditional botanicals and Scottish spring water. Caorunn gin is hand crafted by Balmenach’s Gin master who personally oversees every step of the process.

Recommended garnish: Sliced red apple

ST ANDREWS: EDEN MILL

Van

Eden Mill has perhaps one of the most individual stories of the gin companies mentioned here, beginning life as primarily a brewery, it has now progressed to encompass distillation of both gin and whisky. Not afraid to experiment, Eden Mill have produced some very interesting gins; most recently the Golf gin, which incorporated Hickory wood shavings and the Hop gin, created using Hops sourced from their beer production.

Eden Mill try to source most of their botanicals locally from places such as St Andrews gardens and they are keen to create seasonal small batch gins, using different botanicals. So watch this space.

Video: sampling Eden Mill’s gin 

Recommended garnish: Pink grapefruit or lime.

STIRLINGSHIRE: STIRLING GIN

Chivas Brothers

Beginning life in October 2015, Stirling Gin is making steady progress in the sea of Scottish gin competitors and gaining recognition as one of the best new examples of the spirit around at the minute.

Created by June and Cameron McCann, the gin contains a recipe tweaked until the couple settled upon a blend of locally-sourced botanicals that they say offers a clean, citrus taste with just the right amount of heat provided by hand-picked, crushed local nettle leaves.

Currently their spirit is distilled at Glasgow distillery (home of Makar) but they have plans afoot to move their whole processing back to the town that gives the gin its name. Rumour has it that Paolo Nutini is a fan.

Recommended garnish: A pinch of basil

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