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.

Here’s fifteen of the best Scottish gins we think you should try:

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

EDINBURGH: EDINBURGH GIN

Picture: Edinburgh Gin

Picture: Edinburgh Gin

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).

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

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.

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 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.

Recommended garnish: Orange zest and thin twist of peel

The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture: 5pm.co.uk

The Scottish Ginfographic. Picture: 5pm.co.uk

SPEYSIDE: CAORUNN GIN

bottle

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.

Recommended garnish: Sliced red apple

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 Bruicladdich 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

CAITHNESS: ROCK ROSE GIN

rock rose 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.

Recommended garnish: Either a sprig of rosemary or orange peel

ARBROATH: ARBIKIE KIRSTY’S GIN

Mix

‘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.

Recommended garnish: several blueberries and lemon twist

 

PERTHSHIRE: STRATHEARN GIN

Van

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

Recommended garnish: A wedge of grapefruit

AYRSHIRE: HENDRICK’S GIN

hendricks-gin-1

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

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

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.

 

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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