Here is everything you need to know about the new Scottish gin trail.

What is the Scottish Gin Trail?

The Scottish Gin Trail is a new tourist attraction designed to highlight the wonders of Scotland’s burgeoning gin production scene.

The map showcases 12 of Scotland’s best craft distilleries, bars and landmarks, and was recently launched to coincide with Burns Night, with tourists and Scots alike encouraged to mark the occasion with gin rather than the traditional whisky.

Why has Scottish gin become so popular?

About 70 per cent of the UK’s gin is now produced in Scotland and international exports are booming, up 37 per cent in the past five years with sales to 139 countries.

More than two-thirds of the gin distilled in the UK now goes to overseas drinkers, with gin bringing £1.76 billion to the economy.

The number of UK gin brands has also more than doubled since 2010 from 31 to 73, with new brands often using locally-sourced ingredients and natural botanicals.

Who created the trail?

The new Scottish trail has been put together by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), with the support of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and was launched at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery in the heart of the capital.

Where is the trail?

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The trail stretches from the tip of the UK’s most northerly inhabited island of Unst, winds its way to the north coast of Caithness, and then it heads down through Speyside and the Highlands, south to craft distilleries in Fife and the central belt.

What places are part of the trail?

The Scotland Gin Trail:

Gordon Castle, Fochabers, Moray [1]

Gordon Castle sporting estate on the River Spey, which is home to luxury holiday accommodation and function suites, plus a shop, cafe, walled garden and salmon fishing. Their small-batch, hand-crafted gin features botanicals grown in the estate’s walled garden and has a fresh, floral palate.

Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery, Inverkeilor, Angus [2]

The creators of ‘Kirsty’s Gin’, which 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.

Shetland Reel Gin, Unst [3]

Shetland’s only distillery, located in Unst, the most northerly island in the UK. Their traditional-style gin has a unique twist with the inclusion of apple mint – grown and harvested on Unst by Unst Market Garden.

Balmenach Distillery, Cromdale, Moray [4]

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 1920’s. 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.

Crossbill Highland Distilling, Aviemore [5]

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 claims to be the only gin distillery 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.

Eden Mill, St Andrews [6]

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.

Edinburgh Gin Distillery [7]

Made by an enterprising family business, the Nicols of Spencerfield Spirits company, 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).

Glasgow Distillery [8]

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.

• Dunnet Bay Distillery, Caithness [9]

Producing a gin 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 5 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.

Gin71, Glasgow [10]

Glasgow’s Gin 71, formerly a bank in its day, is also home to the Cup Tea Lounge venue on 71 Renfield Street. With offerings of their home­brewed tonics and gin flights, Gin 71 is a must for lovers of all things gin. Until 6pm every night the venue simply serves tea and cakes. Furthermore it then moonlights as Gin 71 with a quick change of décor and a variety of eclectic serves and cocktails on offer.

Equipped with 71 gins as the name insinuates, the venue also showcases beautifully decorated features including its impressive ceiling. It is the perfect hot spot to enjoy sipping on your choice of gin as it is guaranteed that they will have it.

The Jolly Botanist, Edinburgh [11]

Owned by Gordon Gilhooley and Iain Pert, Edinburgh’s latest gin bar to add to its collection is “The Jolly Botanist” on Morrison Street, Haymarket. This recent addition to the gin scene boasts an elegant Victorian interior with a contemporary and quirky steampunk touch and happens to have over 70 gins stocked from all over the world. The Jolly Botanist’s menu showcases an extensive drinks list which helpfully suggests which tonic and garnish would suit which brand best. It also tells you exactly the region where the brand is from. Perfect for all gin enthusiasts!

Strathearn Distillery, Methven, Perth. [12]

Strathearn distillery is making waves not only in the world of gin but also the world of whisky. Scotland’s newest micro-distillery and probably also the smallest commercial distillery, Strathearn produce three main gins currently; the Classic, 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

The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture: 5pm.com

The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture: 5pm.com

What they say

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “From premium brands, such as Hendricks, to craft distillers such as Crossbill, this new trail captures the variety and diversity of UK gin-making, providing visitors from all over the world the opportunity to celebrate Burns Night by experiencing the best of British gin from all across Scotland.

“I want to harness the ambition of our Scottish gin-trepreneurs, helping them to grow the UK’s reputation for quality gin both here and abroad.

“I want to see it up there with Scotch whisky in terms of global sales.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “Our distillers are creating some really unique gins through experimenting with techniques from the whisky industry and using new blends of local botanicals – it’s exciting to see such innovation within the great British tradition of gin distilling.”

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “This is a hugely exciting time for everyone involved in the UK gin industry and our gin trail is the start of a fascinating venture to share the origins, art and innovations involved in producing this Great British spirit.”

Alex Nicol, owner of Edinburgh Gin, said: “Edinburgh Gin is very pleased to support the Scotland Gin Trail, hopefully the trail will assist the work the industry is doing to educate and inspire new and old gin drinkers alike.

“Scotland has a plethora of fresh natural products, and a rich history of using them in craft gin distilling. Just as the more traditional whisky distilleries are a draw for tourists, we have found gin has the same potential.”

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About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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