Note: Darnley’s sent me a sample of their new gin to try, but as always, I’ll let you know what I really think.
For today’s tasting we are travelling back up north to Scotland, specifically the east coast of Fife to a town called Kingsbarn to try the newest in the Cottage Series released by Darnley’s. At the 13th-century Wemyss Castle, Mary Queen of Scots met her future husband Lord Darnley – an occasion that later inspired the Wemyss family (who already run an established whisky distillery) to renovate a cottage and try their hand at gin distilling. They plumped for a London Dry gin style, first steeping their botanicals in a four times distilled neutral grain spirit, before distilling it in their 300l pot still for a fifth time. Their core range of gins started with their Original gin, inspired by the wild elderflower growing on their estate, which creates a light, floral gin. They then went on to make their Spiced gin which brings flavours of pine needles, peppercorns, cloves, rosemary and cardamom. They then created a Navy Strength edition of their Spiced gin, bringing it up to 57% and adding in more juniper to allow the flavours to shine even at this higher ABV. Because having three spirits isn’t enough, Darnley’s are now creating limited edition gins, known as the Cottage Series. These releases are inspired by the botanicals growing on their estate and beyond. The first, launched in July 2018, featured sloe berries, rosehip and elderberry and was originally named the Very Berry edition. Today we try their second release, the Smoke and Zest. For this, their distiller Scott Gowans has taken the home grown barley that is used in their single malt whisky and smoked it in his family’s smoker with pine wood chips. They balance the smoke out with rowanberry and coriander (grown at the distillery) for a touch of sweetness and Turkish orange peel for that tang. The inspiration for this really comes from rowanberries, also known as Mountain Ash and it was this name that inspired Scott to look for something smokey to add to the citrus. The idea to smoke the barley over pine chips came from the production of Lapsang Souchong tea, to create what they call an unusual gin with juniper at its heart. So, how does it taste?
Note: The Garden Shed Distillery team sent me a bottle to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think
Who are The Garden Shed Drinks Company?
Based in Glasgow, the team have a strong ethical baseline. They donate a portion of their profits to environmental charities and they aim to raise awareness about some of the issues that exist due to climate change. With the classic tale of four friends that got together and after a few drinks decided to make a gin, they started this in their garden shed. They are inspired by the botanicals that grow around them – blackberries from their garden, dandelions that are usually disposed of and some bee friendly lavender. They bottle their gin at 45% and say it is filled with floral and spiced notes. So, how does it taste?
Note: Jim at Mackintosh Gin kindly sent me bottle to try, as always I’ll let you know what I think.
The team at Mackintosh Gin come from Angus, the area just north of Dundee on the east coast of Scotland – affectionately known as “the birthplace of Scotland”. James and Deborah met and fell in love at a young age, after travelling aroujnd they settled in Angus and like all gin lovers, started attending gin festivals and building their gin collection. Around bottle 50, they joked that they should make their own gin – a joke that became reality two years later. They use nine botanicals in their gin – juniper, angelica, coriander and elderflower, which is picked a few minutes from their door. Each morning when they start a distillation, they go and buy fresh grapefruits from their local shop. They import their base spirit from the West Midlands, before the gin is distilled and bottled in Arbroath. Once off the still, it is combined with pure local water from Glen Isla.
Note: The team at the Ice & Fire Distillery sent me a sample to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
You might have read my review of Caithness Highland gin, and today’s gin also comes from the Ice & Fire Distillery. Crofter’s Tears uses purple heather as the signature botanical, alongside fresh orange and lime peel. The (full size) bottle reflects the contents with purple heather flowers snaking around the bottom of the bottle and on the neck stands tall a Highland stag. They suggest serving this with Mediterranean tonic and a twist of lime.
Note: The team at the Ice & Fire Distillery kindly sent me a sample to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
When you hear Ice and Fire, I don’t blame you for thinking about that little show Game of Thrones. But in this case, I’m referring to the Ice & Fire Distillery, a family of Crofters from the Scottish Highlands. Making the most of the beautiful land, they use local water and use purple heather as their signature ingredient in the Crofters Tears gin (review to come). The heather carries through to their branding, their bottles are surrounded by heather and embossed with a highland stag. The Caithness Highland gin that we try today uses rhubarb – a staple in a traditional crofting garden – along with salmonberries. No, not the fish, they are similar to raspberries and so called as traditionally they were eaten with salmon or salmon roe. They combine these with their other botanicals (lots of which are home grown) and put them in their pot stills in the shed, before hand bottling and labelling them.
Note: I contacted the team at Gael gin and they kindly sent me a bottle to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
The Gael is an internationally acclaimed Scottish fiddle song that was originally composed for the Loch Ness visitor centre by Dougie MacLean, and since featured in the movie “The Last of the Mohicans”. When his son Jamie and his partner Tanya got together with gin lovers Nigel and Beverley, they wanted to find a way to combine their passions for gin and music. The Gael Gin team differ from the majority of gins as they distil their own base spirit (which in itself is fairly rare) with malted barley which gives the gin a deep, rich base note. Wanting to keep the Scottish connection strong, they use Scottish heather as one of their botanicals alongside juniper, lemon and orange peel, cardamom and coriander. Looking through the bottle shows you the sheet music for The Gael, and the yellow hue is instantly noticeable. So, how does it taste?
Note: The team at Orkney Distilling kindly sent me a bottle of Aurora gin to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I think.
Back in May 2017, I tried Kirkjuvagr gin (pronounced kirk-u-vaar) and since then, the Orkney Distilling team have grown their range with a navy strength gin and two seasonal editions. Today we are trying their winter Aurora gin. Named after the Aurora Borialis, a phenomenon that appears in the sky over Orkney as winter draws in, this gin is inspired by cosying up by the fire – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves bring a warmth alongside pink and black peppercorns. They recommend pairing this with ginger ale to amp up the spice. So, how does it taste?
Note: I contacted the Beinn an Tuirc distillery team and they kindly sent me some to try. As always, I’ll let you know what I really think.
I think I speak for all of us when I say “what the hell does Beinn an Tuirc mean?” Well it’s the highest point in Kintyre that the Beinn an Tuirc distillery team sources their water from; it translates from gaelic as “the hill of the wild boar”. Kintyre gin features a (presumably) wild boar on top of a hill on their bottle and uses 12 botanicals – all of which are sustainably sourced. They combine macerating botanicals with vapor infusion and mix common botanicals orris root, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper and cubeb amongst others, with more unique ingredients Icelandic moss (which, confusingly, grows in Scotland and isn’t actually moss) and sheep sorrel (not made of sheep, adds a hint of floral notes). They power their 230 litre still with their own hydro-electric scheme and each batch is named, rather than numbers, using the Gaelic alphabet. They recommend serving this with Mediterranean Fever Tree and garnished with basil, or light tonic with mint.
Note: I contacted the Gin Bothy team about International Scottish Gin Day and they kindly sent me a sample to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
You might have seen my post about the original Gin Bothy, but today we try their Gunshot infused gin. This is proper small batch gin, they make just 38 bottles of this at a time which is distilled and infused for up to four months. They call this the “gin for whisky lovers”. Which is interesting for a country so steeped in whisky history – although the advantage being that this is rested for four months, not a minimum of three years. It opens an interesting debate around interchangeable spirits, but this is a debate that this blog doesn’t have the space for right now (or, frankly, the brain capacity or knowledge). The ‘gunshot’ they infuse their gin with is actually cinnamon, cloves and mixed spices (and it is worth noting this is bottled at 37.5% rather than the 41% of their original gin), they recommend filling your hip flask with this for a day’s hiking, or mixing it with ginger ale. I’m all about mixing gin with ginger, but how does it taste with classic tonic?
Note: I contacted the Gin Bothy team and they sent me a sample to try, but as always I’ll let you know what I really think.
What’s a bothy you ask? The Cambridge Dictionary says “(in Scotland) a small, simple building on a hill for walkers to shelter in, or one that is used on a farm for workers to live in”. The Gin Bothy team reflect on this history and heritage and pledged to keep this at the core of their work. They use traditional methods to make their gin, using local produce such as pine needles and heather – they also have a range of fruit gins that use Scottish berries and rhubarb as botanicals. The respect for the land around them doesn’t end there, £1 from every bottle sold is donated to the Woodland Trust to regenerate the local forests that supply them with their botanicals. Starting life by infusing gin with leftover fruit jams, their range is extensive but today we try their original gin. Here is where they use their pine needles and heather alongside milk thistle, hawthorn root and rosemary which they say invokes the memory of Scottish forests. So, how does it taste?