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Popular Edinburgh brewery switches from beer to spirits with release of new gin

A popular Edinburgh brewery known for its award-winning beers has turned its attentions to spirits with the release of an exciting new Scottish gin.

Published: March 9, 2020

Inspired by expert botanist and local legend George Forrest, Jo Stewart and the team at Stewart Brewing in Loanhead set out to create a new juniper spirit that would honour the plant hunter's adventures in southwestern China.

Speaking about the new gin, Jo, who set up the brewery with her husband Steve in 2004, explained that though she has always had a "taste and enthusiasm for gin", what really made it click was discovering George’s story.

"After that, this project that has always been at the back of my mind really came together."

The famous botanist, who became one of the first western explorers of China's then remote southwestern province of Yunnan, discovered his love for plants while working in the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Described as Scotland's "Indiana Jones of the plant world", the Falkirk-born scientist even escaped death at the hands of Buddhist lamas on one famous occasion in search of rare exotic plants.

Jo explained: "Inspired by the life of the great plant hunter and true pioneer of the 20th Century, the locality and history behind our brand story is something that really sets the gin apart.

"Over 28 years, Forrest led seven valiant expeditions to the exotics of Yunnan, China, to discover and collect new plants. Though these trips were fraught with danger, they became heroic tales of bravery and adventure. Our gin pays homage to Forrest’s legacy.

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"Forrest brought back over 30,000 specimens, hundreds of which are still in cultivation today. We carefully combined seven locally-grown botanicals, including two of Forrest’s own discoveries, and every batch is distilled just 1.5 miles from where his home cottage still stands in Loanhead, Scotland."

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Stewart's Brewing Collector's Gin

Dubbed The Collector Gin, the intriguing new spirit is created using the two aforementioned plants; the Hemerocallis Forresttii, a dwarf day lily and one of the botanists most famous discoveries, and the Sorbus Forresttii, a plant known for its bitter, fruity berries.

The resulting bottling is described as a dry gin, and is priced at £37.50 and is available from Stewart's own online shop.

Excited by the new launch and what it offers to the market, Jo explained that the spirits market provides its own unique challenge, she said: "In the beer market bars like to have a rotation of new beers and breweries so there is always a new opportunity on the horizon.

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Stewart's Brewing Collector's Gin

"We have found with gin that bars have their staple line up and it is a harder sell to convince them to add an extra product to that, that is where we have taken time to create a strong brand story and a local connection to help us stand out."

Created for Stewart's by fellow south Edinburgh brand The Old Curiosity distillery and herb garden and featuring a striking label featuring colourful renditions of the botanicals used, Jo believes their latest creation will quickly establish itself within a thriving Scottish gin market.

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-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 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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