Isle of Harris gin

Isle of Harris ginAs 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. Isle of Harris packagingThey 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?

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Shetland Reel tasting pack

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.

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Shetland reel gin video tastings

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…

You can find the Shetland Reel team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can get your hands on a tasting pack for £39.50 from their website (at time of writing).

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.

Meet the makers…Roehill Springs

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.

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Roehill Springs Gin No.5

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 No5 ginRoehill 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.

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Edinburgh Seaside gin

Seaside Edinburgh ginOne of the top tourist attractions in Edinburgh is the Edinburgh Gin distillery; launched in 2010, they take inspiration from the city’s boozy history – Leith was a key port in the 1700s, importing genever from The Netherlands. Despite the long history, they are very forward thinking. They teamed up with Heriot-Watt University to access the students of the Brewing and Distilling MSc which was a world first. Since launch, they’ve built up quite the repertoire under head distiller David Watkinson. Their flagship gin features fourteen botanicals, including some slightly more unusual ingredients like pine buds, cobnuts and lemongrass, and is juniper forward with hints of citrus. There is also a large range of flavoured gins – both real gins and properly labelled liqueurs. Today though we are trying their Seaside edition. This was the first collaboration with the students on Heriot-Watt’s MSc course and features coastal botanicals scurvy grass, ground ivy and bladderwrack. They balance the salinity with spice, using coriander, grains of paradise and cardamom. They recommend this as a bright G&T, or in a martini where they ramp up the saltiness to garnish with olive and anchovy.

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Craft Gin Club – September 2020

Stranger & Sons ginNote: 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 Single Barrel gin

Stonecutter Spirits Single Barrel ginStonecutter 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.

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Vanagandr gin

Vanagandr ginVanagandr 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.

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Sculte gin

Sculte ginFor today’s blog we raid the shelves of the random bottles given to me by an old housemate, and with this head to the Netherlands with Sculte gin. Based in a former monastery near the German border, founder Gerard Velthuis set up his distillery and now makes whisky, gin and brandy capturing the spirit of the Twente region. Using barley as a base, they make their gin with juniper, herbs and onions. Now, that sounds a tad strange (and it is), but the town they are based in, Ootmarsum, is also called the Siepelstad (Onion town) which is their main tourist draw. I’m confused, hesitant and slightly curious about how this will taste – but having just learnt to make a Gibson martini, if it tastes of onions then at least I have a starting point…

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