As a birthday treat, I decided I would like some fancy martini glasses. So I instantly turned to the Isle of Harris distillery. And because I was already spending money on postage and I have zero restraint, I also treated myself to a bottle of their gin. Even if you don’t know much about the gin, I’m sure you recognise the beautiful glass bottle designed to reflect the ripples of the ocean. I met the team when I went to Edinburgh for International Scottish Gin Day in 2019 and they explained the irregularities in the curves are designed to fit perfectly in your hand. The Isle of Harris is in the Outer Hebrides, and the distillery is based in the small village of Tarbert. They are famous for their use of sugar kelp as their key botanical which is collected by hand from local sea lochs to ensure sustainability. The way they ensure this is by only picking the kelp if there is an ‘r’ in the name of the month – if not, then it is left to grow and recover. Alongside the sugar kelp are some more usual botanicals: juniper, cassia bark, coriander seed, angelica bark, cubeb pepper, liquorice root, orris root, and rounded off with bitter orange peel. These are distilled in a traditional copper pot before being bottled and labelled on site. They are unusual in that they don’t recycle the heads or tails of their gin – whilst a lot of distillers redistill this, the Isle of Harris team get rid of it completely. It is more expensive for them, but for them it means they are only bottling the best of their product. They also use all cardboard packaging, covered in information about the brand which makes it extra special to open. So, how does it taste?
Note: The tasting pack was gifted to me by Shetland Reel, but I will let you know what I really think.
Shetland Reel gin comes from Saxa Vord Distillery, the most northern distillery in the UK on Unst, which is the mort northern inhabited island. This is a remote distillery, accessible from the Shetland mainland by not one, but two ferry journeys – not including the ferry to get to Shetland in the first place! Fun fact – it’s actually closer to Norway than it is to most of Scotland. It is here that Frank and Debbie Strang regenerated the former RAF site into a tourist resort, and teamed up with Stuart and Wilma Nickerson who own The Malt Whisky Company. Their unique surrounding inspired them to make the most of their local botanicals used in their core range. Recently they have created tasting packs of their three main gins – the Original, Simmer, and Ocean Sent. If you’ve paid attention to my social media, you’ll see I’ve also recorded these tastings with Debbie, which was an absolute blast, and you can watch them here.
Debbie from Shetland Reel gin kindly sent me one of their tasting packs to try, and we decided it would be fun to do some virtual tastings together. I’ve collated the videos below for your viewing pleasure…
I was introduced to Shetland Reel by The Gin Cooperative as part of my support for International Scottish Gin Day, make sure you check them out and pour yourself a Scottish gin on 24 October to celebrate! Let me know your favourite Scottish gin on Twitter and Instagram.
As we lead up to International Scottish Gin Day, I’ve teamed up with Roehill Springs gin to find out a bit more about them. They kindly sent me a bottle of their Gin No.5 to try, and I chatted to Shirley, one half of the founding team, about their background, inspirations and future plans.
Note: The team at Roehill Springs kindly sent me a bottle of their gin to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I honestly think
Roehill Springs Distillery is one of the newer distilleries emerging in the Scottish gin scene. Established in 2019, they’re based near Keith – sort of between Aberdeen and Inverness – on their third-generation farm. They are also one of the few distilleries that actually make their own gin – all of their gin is distilled, bottled and labelled on site, nothing is contracted to established distilleries (FYI – there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but lots of people don’t admit it and that’s misleading). So, why is this called Gin No.5? Where are numbers 1-4? After plucking up the courage to have a go at making his own gin, Duncan experimented with different batches and recipes and after many tasting sessions at home with friends and family, they settled on the fifth recipe, and in turn the name. Duncan, alongside wife Shirley, distil their gin in a traditional 30l copper pot still using botanicals foraged from the local area before blending it with spring water from Roehill (an area named after the abundance of Roe deer), which, as you can probably guess, also helped them name their distillery. Using a mixture of the copper pot still, a column still and a vapour basket, they add juniper, coriander, angelica root, cassia bark, pink peppercorns, and then some secret ingredients which they won’t disclose.
Note: Please note if you join Craft Gin Club using the links in this post, you will receive money off your first box and I will receive money off a future box via the referral link.
I’m going to be straight with you. I was considering cancelling my [affiliate] Craft Gin Club subscription this month, mostly because the pictures teasing this month’s gin featured coconuts and mangoes and tropical fruits and I was really worried it was going to be a fruity/flavoured gin which is just not my thing. But I decided to give it a chance and make a decision after this box. Boy am I glad I didn’t cancel. This month’s gin is Stranger & Sons hailing from India – this was actually part of the 2019 Ginvent calendar and you can read a fairly in depth review of it here. Whilst a part of me it is sad that it is a gin I’ve already tried, I’m excited to have more than 30ml of it to play with. Continue reading
Stonecutter Spirits are based in rural Vermont, in a 12,000 sq foot distillery overlooked by mountains. Situated as it is, their weather frequently changes humidity, temperature and pressure, and here they set up their distillery where they create whiskey and barrel aged gin. The gin is not only gluten free, but also certified Kosher, made with cardamom, orange peel, juniper, liquorice root and coriander, plus unusual botanicals rose petals and green tea. The botanicals were picked to complement the Kentucky bourbon barrels and enhance the caramel notes; they say that the barrels help bring the flavours together and blend the cardamom, orange and green tea. In 2019 their gin won a Double Gold at the San Francisco International Spirit Awards, so let’s see how it holds up.
Vanagandr gin is the product of Enrique Pena, who left his career in business to set up and build his own distillery from scratch. Made in the autonomous community Galicia in northern Spain, he distils his gin in super small batches of 440 bottles at a time. Alongside the usual suspects juniper and angelica root, he also adds in sweet orange and lemon peel, green cardamom, nutmeg, cassia and ceylon cinnamon. The gin is then blended with fresh water sourced just 100m from the distillery. As well as handpicking his botanicals, Vanagandr gin uses a base spirit which is 100% wheat which, combined with the 14 hour slow distillation process, produces a rich gin with a soft finish.
So you might have seen my previous posts about the City of London Distillery – I’ve already tried their Six Bells gin, Square Mile gin and Authentic London dry gin, and today I’m drinking the Christopher Wren edition. Now, you might know that the City of London Distillery was the first gin distillery within the City of London for nearly 200 years, and you might know that Christopher Wren is very famous for designing, amongst other things, St. Paul’s Cathedral. But, fun fact, when I went to visit the distillery and bar (which I recommend doing after lockdown as it’s lovely) there was a poster in the toilet advertising that it takes less steps to walk to St. Paul’s from the distillery than it does to climb to the top of St. Paul’s. Now, I haven’t fact checked this, but it just shows how close the two are. This gin was created in collaboration with Tom Nichol (who, at the time, was the master distiller at Tanqueray) and this is made to be a classic London dry gin. In this expression, they use only one type of citrus (dried orange peel) alongside juniper, coriander, liquroice and angelica root. The tasting notes on their website say the candied orange flavour carries throughout, and as someone that isn’t massively keen on orange, this might have been a poorly thought out purchase on my part. But, here we go.
Anyone that follows me on social media might have seen that I basically stalk the Mackintosh gin family. I’m worming my way in to be an adopted daughter even though my hair isn’t nearly long enough or bright enough. They kindly sent me a bottle of their original gin back in May 2019, then I loved them so much I bought a bottle of their newly-launched navy strength gin in April. Due to lockdown my lack of commuting has given my bank balance a boost and I’ve been bored and FOMO kicked in so I just got myself a bottle of their Old Tom gin. Launched at the same time as the navy strength, I was unsure of the Old Tom – which is a style we all know I love – because it’s pineapple and grapefruit. I worry about pineapple in gin. It shouldn’t be on pizza and I don’t think it should be in my gin. Obviously Old Tom style gins are usually sweeter, and they add candy syrup between distillation and bottling along with the fresh pineapple. They say this is still juniper led with locally foraged elderflower, like their other gins, with a strong citrus burst.