By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 2 June 2018
The Scottish gin boom continues apace. Now with over 100 Scottish gin brands, 200 expressions and 50 distilleries making their own gins, there is now too much to choose from.
I have written in the past about some of Scotland’s best gins: NB, Caorunn, Edinburgh Gin, Arbikie’s Kirstys and Rock Rose – but this week we look at the best ‘new’ Scottish gins on the market:
£32 (50cl) www.biggargin.com
With a label too big for the bottle, this stands out from the crowd. An exciting new small batch gin from brothers Euan and Stuart McVicar, who spent a year experimenting with botanicals grown at their old mill by Lanimer Burn near Biggar. They focus on rowan berry, nettle and rose hip as their main botanicals to compliment predominant juniper, made in a 100 litre traditional copper still. Light citric aroma with hints of herbs and hedgerows, initially sweet on the palate, clean flavour and a smooth texture. Their first batch is quite gentle flavourwise – needs a little more pronounced citrus and herbiness coming through.
£36-£37.50 (70cl) Royal Mile Whiskies, Drinkmonger, Edinburgh; Master of Malt, Inverurie Whisky Shop; www.eskerspirits.com
Scotland’s first gin distilled with silver birch sap tapped from trees of the Kincardine estate, made by an enterprising gin-hobbyist couple Steven and Lynne Duthie at a tiny artisan distillery on Royal Deeside. Using 12 other botanicals such as thistle and heather, the result is sappy and smooth. Enjoyed its lemony, angelica sweet honey and peppercorn notes, herby mid-palate, creamy and rounded, but with medium length.
VERDANT (43%) ***STAR BUY***
£34.95 (70cl) Royal Mile Whiskies, Drinkmonger, Master of Malt; www.verdantspirits.co.uk
This new high quality Dundee gin won very high praise with our tasters for its ‘clarity’ and ‘purity’. Inspired by Dundee’s rich trading history, distiller Andrew Mackenzie has painstakingly crafted one of the best new Scottish gins on the market. Distilled in small batches in Little Eddie, their 500 litre pot still, the gin tastes quite classic – but there is nothing wrong with that. An attractive aromatic juniper, lemon peel undertones, hints of pepper on the palate – so precise, clean, focused and well-made. Well done Verdant team.
£40 (70cl) Cranachan & Crowdie; Gloagburn Farm Shop; Exel Wines; Good Spirits Co Glasgow; Inverurie Whisky; www.lussagin.com
Grown, gathered and distilled is the Lussa motto. This zesty newcomer is made by three enterprising ‘women in gin’, Claire Fletcher, Georgina Kitching and Alicia MacInnes who grow or forage their own botanicals at Ardlussa at the northern end of the wild island of Jura. What is distinctive here is that they actually make the gin themselves on the island. Using 15 local botanicals, they have cleverly recreated this unforgiving wilderness in the gin’s taste. Enjoyed the nutty malty aroma with its hint of salty seabreeze, rosepetal and coriander notes and earthy finish.
ISLE OF HARRIS (45%) ***OUTSTANDING***
£37 (70cl) only available direct from www.harrisdistillery.com
The clear winner of our tasting which won an ‘outstanding’ rating from our panel for its superb taste. This is the gin that everyone is talking about – for its supremely stylish packaging, its quirky selling technique (not sold through retail shops, only from the distillery website) and its distinctive maritime taste. The key is the locally harvested and dried sugar kelp botanical which adds complexity and balanced sweet sour notes. Loved its creamy honeyed, soft approachable texture, spicy peppery palate, sweet end palate – just superb.
WILD ISLAND SACRED TREE (43.4%)
£38.95- £43.66 (70cl) Drinkmonger; Royal Mile Whiskies; Ellies Cellar; Master of Malt
An impressive botanic gin from Isle of Colonsay (but bottled on the mainland at Langley Distillery). Smooth, spicy and fruity with ripe autumnal and hedgerow notes and a distinctive citric and apple tang – made from 22 botanicals including brambles, redcurrants, crab apple and elderberries in the mix, with a dominant nutmeg and winter spice note – at its best served with slice of apple and blackberry.
ARBIKIE AK’S (43%)
£35.45-£37.95 (70cl) Royal Mile Whiskies; Master of Malt
Another new Arbikie bottling – this time named after the father of the distillery owner. They use their own wheat for the distillation, flavouring it with local fresh honey, black pepper and cardamom. Lemony, sweet, very mellow with butterscotch notes – and an earthy finish. Suit those who like a sweeter caramelised style of gin to serve with orange zest and a sprig of thyme. Personally I prefer their Kirsty’s Gin.
KIRKJUVAGR (43%) ***STAR BUY***
£45.95 (70cl) Valvona & Crolla; £34.95 Master of Malt; £35.99 www.orkneydistilling.com
A very pure vibrant gin from Orkney, pronounced Kirk-u-vaar which means Church Bay in old Norse. It appealed to our tasters with its fresh seabreezy quality, hints of pine trees and forest floor on the nose with classic juniper undertones. Clean, sweet, v light spice with hints of sweetness from angelica – serve with a twist of orange peel to bring out the citrus notes. They also make a Storm Strength Gin (57%) which tasters found just too intense and strong.
£37-£38.95 (70cl) Oddbins; Royal Mile Whiskies
Aberdeen’s first gin in the last hundred years created by Professor Andrew Porter of Aberdeen University who sourced a rotary evaporator to help him distill at cool temperatures. Focusing on light fresh flavours with citrus and juniper predominant, this is a fruity gin with pears, lychees and orange aromas and a grassy herbaceous undertone. Quite classic and elegant in style – and gentle enough to sip neat on the rocks.
Tonic Water – the best mixers
WALTER GREGOR PREMIUM TONIC
Loved the salty notes of this Aberdeenshire tonic – ideal for serving with Harris Gin.
FENTIMAN’S BOTANICAL TONIC
For those who like a floral note with its limeflower and myrtle leaf undertones – ideal for serving with Verdant Gin.
FEVER TREE PREMIUM INDIAN TONIC
An outstanding classic tonic with a distinctive lemony zip and high fizz – ideal for serving with Kirkjuvagr, Wild Island or Biggar Gin.
Join Rose’s Croatia, Slovenia & Natural Wine Tasting in Edinburgh Thursday 7 June £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com