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Scots distillery becomes first UK company to win gold medal at Absinthe Festival in France

A Scottish distillery has become the first company in the UK to win a medal at a prestigious absinthe festival in France.

Published: November 13, 2018
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Loch Ness Spirits, founded by Highland GP Lorien Cameron-Ross and former detective and husband Kevin clinched gold at the Absinthiades Festival in Pontarlier for their Absinthe Blanche.

The Absinthe is distilled using homegrown botanicals, including wormwood, on the banks of Loch Ness by Lorien, who is also the first-ever female distiller to win a medal in the history of the competition.

Lorien, who first visited Pontarlier in August 2017 with two female friends, one a distiller and the other a fluent French speaker as part of her research on absinthe, has always enjoyed the drink and recognised a gap in the market for one made in Scotland.

• READ MORE: Loch Ness doctor and retired detective launch first Scottish ‘blanche’ absinthe

Met with a mixed response, not only due to the drink being predominantly a French or Swiss staple but also as she was a woman, however never one to shy from a challenge Lorien became even more determined to create something special using fresh pure water that flows into Loch Ness.

Loch Ness Absinthe was up against 25 entries in the competition, split into Verte and Blanche categories, with three panels of judge’s blind tasting each one; professional jury, public jury and VIP jury, over a three-day period.

Lorien said: “I am absolutely delighted to be the first company in the UK and first ever woman in the world to win a medal, never mind a Gold one, at the Absinthiades festival.”

“It’s such a great feeling that all my research and time spent, especially in the early days, has paid off.

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“I really do love a challenge so when some distillers cast doubt over my ability to make it in Scotland especially being a woman, I was determined to prove them wrong.”

Loch Ness Absinthe, available online and at a few select retailers, has been an overnight success following the launch of the first batch in August with all bottles sold within two weeks.

Lorien continued: “What made winning the competition even better for me was that it was a blind tasting, meaning even if I didn’t win I knew I would get some constructive feedback by experts in the field which I could work on to improve it but of course that didn’t happen which I couldn’t be any happier about.

“I have worked really hard to develop and perfect this recipe, training myself on everything I needed to know about it at the very early stages in a distillery, which is a converted church, owned by my friend Patrick Grand in Fleurier.

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“We trialled three different recipes combining traditional and Scottish botanicals. I then brought them home to develop further and scale up into our own stills on Loch Ness.

“I was determined that our first batch would be the very best absinthe I could distil.”

Lorien added that the feedback they got from visitors at the Absinthiades was "incredibly positive", she added:  “I felt very proud, and still do, to have discerning absinthe drinkers rate my product among the best they have ever tasted. Receiving the Gold medal was really the icing on the cake for me.”

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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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