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 launch of International Scottish Gin Day and the success of a number of gin festivals, as well as the fact that gin is expected to outstrip sales of Scotch by 2020, we thought we’d take a look at 30 of the best Scottish gins – including the Scottish Gin of the Year – we think you should try:

30 of the best Scottish Gins

ABERDEENSHIRE: TEASMITH GIN

This popular North-East gin hails from Udny in Aberdeenshire. The Team at Teasmith wanted to create a gin with flavours sourced from botanicals linked to their locality, and which celebrates their local history.

With Aberdeenshire having a rich heritage that links the area with the tea trade, The Teasmith reflects this by being the first gin to use hand-picked tea; a special black tea sourced by the team which provides a distinct minty sweetness when distilled and complements the traditional gin botanicals such as juniper, coriander, orange peel, perfectly.

ABERDEENSHIRE: LONE WOLF GIN

Scottish gins

The spirits arm of the immensely popular Brewdog brewery has a lot to live up to, but it seems the team behind Punk IPA and the like isn’t messing about. Well they are – but mostly with the status quo.

Expect all sorts of innovative new spirits in the future but for just now, just know that they’ve made an delightful gin that’s well worth a try.

Made using 100% malt barley spirit following a long series of experiments with different botanicals, the gin is refreshing with a heavy hit of citrus followed up by notes of Scottish pine and the spice of pink peppercorn.

ARBROATH: ARBIKIE KIRSTY’S GIN

Scottish gins

‘Kirsty’s Gin’ is named after Arbikie’s Master Distiller Kirsty Black and 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.

ARGYLL: KINTYRE GIN

This gin hails from the highest peak in Kintyre, Beinn An Turc (Gaelic for the Hill of the Black Boar) and a small sustainable distillery on the Torrisdale Castle Estate.

Their small German still is used to create Kintyre gin using 12 botanicals including the distinctive Icelandic moss and sheep sorrel to make a rich earthy and floral gin.

Beinn An Turc took home the best newcomer award at this year’s Scottish Gin Awards (2018).

AYRSHIRE: HENDRICK’S GIN

Scottish gins

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 purpose built gin distillery, the newly opened Gin Palace, 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.

CAITHNESS: ROCK ROSE GIN

Scottish gins

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 this highland 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.

CALLANDER: MCQUEEN GIN

Scottish gins

Picture: McQueens

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.

McQueen gin really push 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.

Their core range features five 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 Super Premium Dry Gin is a juniper-led cracker that won’t disappoint.

DORNOCH: THOMPSON BROS ORGANIC CERTIFIED GIN

Scottish gins

With a recipe perfected after a series of trials, this gin was released by the newly opened Dornoch distillery and is named after Philip and Simon, the two brothers who launched the production site in the grounds of their hotel.

Made using meadowsweet, elderflower, black peppercorn and freeze-dried raspberry, the brothers recommend enjoying it with fresh lemon peel and a pinch of cracked black pepper.

The brothers have been so successful with the launch of their distillery that they’ve already set up a crowdfunder in a bid to expand.

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY: HILLS AND HARBOUR

Scottish gins

Hailing from the idyllic region of Galloway, Hills and Harbours gin is designed to the reflect the area’s “forests and unspoilt coastlines”, with Noble Fir needles (forest) and Bladderwrack Seaweed (the sea) combined with 9 other botanicals to create a well balanced and versatile gin.

Described as “smooth and vibrant” it has a fruity and spicy nose and a deeply pleasing finish.

DUNDEE: VERDANT GIN

Scottish gins

The surprise recipient of last year’s Scottish Gin of the Year award (2017), this small batch gin from Dundee beat out contenders from more established producers such as Makar, Eden Mill and Edinburgh Gin to take the top award.

Juniper led on the nose, it is described as having “fresh notes of citrus on the nose and palate with warm, earthy undertones of spice”. Included in the carefully curated blend of botanicals, which was inspired by Dundee’s rich trading history and reflects the routes once sailed by traders to and from the city, are Grains of Paradise, Bitter orange and Liquorice.

EAST LOTHIAN: NB GIN

Scottish gins

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. Having been part of the Brit awards after party for several years, it’s clear that it’s that not only gin lovers taking notice but also music royalty are too.

EDINBURGH: EDINBURGH GIN

Scottish gins

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 original gin distillery, while their second is housed in the Biscuit Factory in Leith.

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.

EDINBURGH: PICKERING’S GIN

Scottish gins

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.

EDINBURGH: GINEROSITY GIN 

Scottish gins

Drink gin, feel good about yourself – and not just from enjoying the gin but also from the fact that when you do so you’ll be helping a bundle of charities into the bargain.

The “world’s first social enterprise gin” was launched by Pickering’s Gin founders Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell, who have teamed up with social enterprise experts to create a gin that would see profits from the sales invested into projects that will help and support under-privileged or disadvantaged young people.

On top of that it’s a great gin, with orange, myrtle, heather, cardamom and cloves all being used as botanicals to create a gin that’s big on flavour but highly accessible.

FIFE: DARNLEY’S GIN AND SPICED GIN

Scottish gins

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 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.

They’ve recently returned home to St Andrew’s and added a ‘Distil Your Own’ experience to their tour offering, inviting visitors to create their own recipe from a selection of botanicals and distil a 70cl bottle of gin to take home.

GLASGOW: CROSSBILL GIN

Scottish gins

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.

Having recently moved to Glasgow, they even have their own gin school now that is perfect for gin lovers to learn the art of making this exciting juniper spirit.

ISLAY: THE BOTANIST

Scottish gins

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.

INVERNESS: LOCH NESS GIN

Scottish gins

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.

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.

Not content to settle for just gin, they’ve also just released Scotland’s first Absinthe Blanche.

ISLE OF HARRIS: ISLE OF HARRIS GIN

Scottish gins

When Scotland’s Gin Distillery of the Year 2018 first launched announcing that there would soon be whisky from Harris, most were entirely unprepared for them to go on 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.

GLASGOW: MAKAR GIN

Scottish gins

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.

JURA: LUSSA GIN

Scottish gins

 

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.

ORKNEY: KIRKJUVAGR GIN 

Scottish gins

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; they’ve just opened an artisan distillery, visitor centre and shop in Kirkwall.

PERTHSHIRE: STRATHEARN GIN

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.

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.

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.

 

• READ MORE: Scottish business set-up to promote Scottish Gin establishes International Scottish Gin Day 2019

 

SKYE: MISTY ISLE GIN

Built in the back garden of their home on the island, Isle of Skye Distillers is a company that places the island’s community at their heart.

Using spring waters from the Storr Lochs and a secret Skye botanical (as well as some more classic ones) Brothers Thomas and Alistair Wilson create Misty Isle Gin and have been so successful with their original launch they’ve even opened a gin school to teach others how to do it.

Misty Isle is a refreshing gin with earthy undertones and a hint of spice, as well as subtle flavours of citrus, like the island it calls home it’s well worth coming back to time and again.

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 three gins with three 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.

Their newly launched Simmer gin is inspired by the Shetland skies and summer twilight and features punchy notes of orange and liquorice.

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

SPEYSIDE: CAORUNN GIN

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 just 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.

• READ MORE: New library of Scottish botanicals aims to help Scottish gin distillers and boost exports

ST ANDREWS: EDEN MILL ORIGINAL GIN

Picture: The Whisky Exchange

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.

However it’s their Original Gin which is the star of the show, recently being crowned Scotland’s Gin of the Year for 2018 – a classic London Dry Style gin, the inclusion of super food and botanical seabuckthorn berries adds a playful sweetness.

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.

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.

• READ MORE: In pictures: The Scottish Gin Awards winners

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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