If you’re in Edinburgh, I can recommend the Pickering’s Distillery tour. Well. By tour it’s standing in one room talking all about gin, then going next door and seeing their bottling room, then back to the first room to drink gin. It’s accessed through the Royal Dick Bar (tee hee hee) at Summerhall roundabout. I went during the festival and was joined by my father, who at the end very kindly got me a bottle of the limited edition 2017 Tattoo gin. Working with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo organisers, this year’s edition features indigenous Scottish heather, milk thistle, bog myrtle and Scots Pine added to their Bombay recipe gin wrapped in the official tartan of the Tattoo (not McLaren tartan though as my father pointed out…). Along with the Tattoo gin, their range features their original gin, a navy strength gin and the 1947 recipe (made precisely to their original recipe). They’re also the makers of the original gin baubles that are LITERALLY ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA. The bottle is lovely, they have paid real attention to the small details – the Pickering’s peacock wrapped around the bottle and a charming scale of how empty the bottle is on the side.
Note: I contacted Tyree Gin to see if they would send me a sample for the blog and they were kind enough to do so – as always, I’ll be honest about what I think
Tyree Gin hails from the Hebridean island of Tiree (go to Oban and go west past Mull and you reach it). Tiree is only 12 miles long but three miles wide, and very flat. They do however seem to have lots of local botanicals on this small, windy patch of land in the sea. The soil on Tiree is what is known as machair – a combination of soil and sand, unique to Scotland. From here they gather eyebright (a flower that can help eye infections), Ladies Bedstraw (yellow flowers that smell slightly of honey), Water Mint (a form of mint…that grows in water…) and Angelica, combined with local kelp from the Atlantic Ocean. Their kelp forests are the fourth largest in Scotland don’tcha know. So, you’ve probably noticed that Tyree Gin is not spelt the same as their island namesake. Well, Tyree is the original spelling of Tiree’s Post Office – dating back to 1802. But it was changed in 1889 to avoid confusion with Tyrie in Aberdeenshire. So that’s that.
Note: I contacted the Kelson Gin Company and kindly sent me THREE samples of their gins. As always, you’ll know if I don’t like them.
The Kelso Gin Company brings us the first gin from the Scottish Borders. Well, technically they make three gins. Because why start small? Oh, and as well as three gins they also have a vodka and reiver spirit too. Two of their gins are named after The Crow Man – a travelling medicine man who toured the Borders offering “little brighteners” to restore men and soothe women with his mix of secret ingredients. Using organic pure grain and distilled in Kelso, their exact ingredient list is a closely guarded secret (which should make tasting them fun) but the ones they’ll allow us to know include Love Parsely (aka Lovage), juniper and rowan. I have three gins: Crow Man’s Gin (classic juniper with cinnamon, angelica and more), The Kelso Elephant Gin (strong on flavour and using orient spices) and the Lovage Gin (intriguing and fresh).
Note: I contacted the Orkney Distillery and they kindly sent me a sample. As always, I’ll let you know if I don’t like it.
Kirkjuvagr gin comes from the Orkney Distillery – and FYI, is pronounced “kirk-u-vaar”. Kirkuvagr means “church bay” in Old Norse and evolved to be Kirkwall, the island’s capital. The gin is a reflection of the island’s history and the boldness of their ancestors, making a contemporary gin using old ingredients. Angelica grows wild on the island, which is blended with Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose and Borage and Orkney barley. Distilled in small batches in copper stills, they channel their Norse heritage into every bottle they make.
Note: I emailed Wild Island to see if they would send me a sample and they kindly did. I’ll let you know if I don’t like it.
Wild Island Botanic Gin is produced by Colonsay Beverages in the southern Hebrides on the Isle of Colonsay – home to just 120 inhabitants. Distilled with 100% British wheat, it is then infused with 16 botanicals – six of which are sourced locally including lemon balm, wild water mint, meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, heather flowers and the yummy sounding bog myrtle* (Moaning Myrtle spring to mind for anyone else?). The gin was launched in December and has already sold four batches of their gin – but I’m feeling like this is pretty special to have got some outside of Scotland. Wild Island Gin are another Scottish gin to use a beautifully designed label – it features an expressionist watercolour interpretation of the local Kiloran Bay (fun fact: you can buy Harris Tweed lampshades to match the bottles).
Note: I found Stirling Gin on Twitter and they kindly sent me a sample. As always, you’ll know if I don’t like it.
For those that don’t know, I’m half Scottish. I love Scotland – especially this year when McLaren pride will peak in August when our clan marches in the final night of the Tattoo. I also love gin. So Scottish gin is a winner for me. Introducing yet another new Scottish gin, Stirling Gin was first distilled on 28 October 2015. They use local nettles which are distilled with basil, lemon and orange peel, juniper and angelica root to create their gin in Annie – the 450 litre copper still. They place some botanicals directly in the pot, and the nettle and basil are placed in a basket at the top. They list a number of recommended serves, including some fruity cocktails.
Note: I emailed McQueen Gin for a sample for the blog and Dale McQueen kindly sent one. As always, if I don’t like it I will say so.
McQueen Gin is another new Scottish Gin (because I’m Scottish and hate whiskey much to my Dad’s disappointment so I’m drinking lots of Scottish gin to make up for it) made at Trossachs Distillery in Callander. The distillery opened in July 2015, with four gins launching in June 2016: Mint Chocolate Gin, Sweet Citrus Gin, Smokey Chilli and Dry Gin – the version I have today. They launched the new Spiced Chocolate Orange gin earlier this year. Now to be clear, these are not flavoured gin liqueurs, these are proper 42% clear gins. Each batch is hand made and bottled from their distillery – in beautiful bottles may I add, the full size bottles are hand poured cobalt blue ceramic bottles. Sadly my taster bottle isn’t quite as pretty.
Smelling it from the bottle it certainly smells dry and predominately juniper – we’re off to a good start. In the glass it smells a bit stronger, with a definite kick to it and mixed with water it tastes like a good strong gin. Juniper heavy with a hint of citrus, this feels like a classic gin. Slightly perfumed, the taste lingers for a while.
Mixing it into a G&T with Regency Tonic (which, coincidentally is produced three roads away from my flat and is utterly light and delicious), this surprised me (I admit, this might be the introduction of a new tonic or the gin or both). It is very light on the tongue, with the juniper toned down but still at the forefront of the flavour on the back of the tongue. The edges are laced with citrus and spice (and everything nice). This gin has surprised me. Imagine a classic gin and tonic, with a whole load of new surprises to it. Not cloying enough to not want another, and certainly surprising enough to come back for a second.
A 50cl bottle of the signature Dry Gin is currently £29.95 on Master of Malt. I think you should grab a bottle. And find some Regency Tonic while you’re at it. You can find McQueen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I emailed Persie Gin to ask for a sample for then blog and Tim kindly sent me a sample of their Herby and Aromatic Gin – as always you’ll know if I don’t like it. What I do really like are their postcards that come with their gin.
Persie Gin hails from Glenshee in the highlands of Perthshire (in the huge Cairngorms National Park right in the middle of Scotland). Persie’s leaflet that I received states that 70% of the gin consumed in the UK is made in Scotland – and I’m not surprised. More and more distilleries are opening in Scotland (I refer you once more to the WSTA gin trail of Scotland) with Persie opening just one year ago in March 2016. They already have three gins to their name: 42% Zesty Citrus full of limes and blood orange; 43% Sweet and Nutty with hints of vanilla, butterscotch and almonds; and the one I’m trying today, Herby and Aromatic (40%) with bay, rosemary and basil. I’m noticing a trend in gins towards a more savoury serve, many gins are now recommending rosemary as a garnish so I’m intrigued to see how this gin stands up. Persie focus on the aroma of the gin – with 75% of flavour coming from the smell they placed an emphasis on creating gins that smell and taste good. They say “a simple sniff of Persie Gin can cause a flood of warm and fuzzy feelings”. We’ll see about that. But then they do say “We nose our gin” and I bloody love a terrible pun so I’m on board.
Opening the bottle it certainly smells savoury, my amateur gin nose can certainly sense that it uses herbs as a botanical – a smell that opens up in the glass. Mixed with a touch of water, the aromatic-ness of the gin comes to life. That is a MIGHTY smell to it. The smell is stronger than the taste when you first get it on your tongue, but once you’ve swallowed it and taken a breath your mouth comes alive. It tastes slightly like when you aren’t paying attention when cooking and throw in a lot more herbs than intended. Not unpleasant, but something is a little out of balance. At 40% it has a fair bit of bite to it as well.
Mixed with some light Fever Tree (having just been for a 5k run I’m being healthy and all that…) the overpowering herbyness tones down and mixes well with the dry tonic. They suggest garnishing it with some basil leaves. I obviously do not have this in my kitchen as I am an underprepared gin blogger. However, I do have (dried) bay leaves, and as this is a botanical I gave it a google and am being experimental. I will not hold this against the gin if this doesn’t work. As it turns out, a dried bay leaf doesn’t make much difference.
A bottle of the Herby and Aromatic gin is currently on sale for £26.65 on Master of Malt. This is not my favourite gin, but I should have guessed this as I know I like dry, citrusy gins. Whilst I don’t hate it, I’m not certain I’d want more than one of them, so I’m glad it’s not up in the £40 price bracket. It does definitely deliver on their promise of a big smell – the smell, particularly when straight, really emphasises the herbs and adds another dimension to the taste. You can find Persie on Facebook and Twitter.
Note: I emailed Esker gin asking for a sample for the blog and they were kind enough to send me some. As always, you’ll know if I don’t like it
Scotland might well be best known for its whisky, but the Scottish craft gin scene is booming (WSTA conveniently put together a tasting map of Scotland for anyone looking to visit some of their distilleries). Esker Spirits is one of these new distilleries set up in October 2015 and is the first in Scotland to use silver birch sap as a botanical. Esker takes it name from “a long ridge, typically having a winding course, created by a glacier” – a sight reflected in their local geography in Royal Deeside, home to Balmoral Castle nonetheless. Developed over a two year period (with lots of experimentation) Esker settled on a recipe of over a dozen botanicals – including their silver birch sap tapped from the Kincardine Castle Estate which adds a touch of sweetness to the gin.
I’m in love with the label of this gin – simple, clean and elegant. Designed to reflect their local area, its a modern look with a nod to tradition and heritage and including mountains, rivers, castle and juniper berries. Popping the cork, it’s a lovely smell that comes out. Reminiscent of the outdoors – not in a heavy, oaky way, but in a fresh meadow kind of way. The juniper leads the way once it is opened up in the glass. Mixed with a spash of water (tap, not fresh Scottish mountain water unfortunately) it is well balanced with flavours – a slight peppery taste at the front of the tongue and a very smooth finish. A savoury, floral note reaches the back of the nose (can floral be savoury?). Either way, it’s good.
Pouring out a proper measure and mixing it with tonic (sadly all I have in the house is Tesco), this caused me to say “ooh?” and look at the glass I had just put down. It is full of flavour without being over the top. You can certainly get hints of juniper and a certain freshness – and a sweet tinge to it which comes from the silver birch sap. I was worried it would be one of those gins where they add a wacky botanical and it ends up a bit grim, but I like this a lot.
Steve from Esker saw how much I hate orange and said that whilst garnished with orange zest is nice, he also recommends grapefruit or rosemary – but more importantly also says that they don’t enforce a certain serve and it’s up to the consumer to decide how they like it. YES! A real bugbear is a brand trying to enforce their way of serving your gin to you. So, having gone and bought a grapefruit especially for this moment, I add a small piece of zest and this highlights the citrus notes – plus the smell from it adds another dimension to the tasting experience. I also can see rosemary working well if you prefer a more savoury finish.
Esker Gin seems to be tricky to find outside of Scotland at the moment, but you can get it online from The Good Spirits Co for £36 a bottle (although out of stock at the time of writing – don’t worry, they’re in the process of moving to larger facilities to keep up with demand). I like this, I would definitely pay £36 for it. Plus the bottle will look beautiful on your shelf. You can also get in touch with Esker on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.