A Tour of Scotland, in Gin Botanicals

Posted on: Aug. 19, 2015 | | By: Karen Gardiner

With 70 percent of the United Kingdom’s gin produced there, ginrnis booming in Scotland right now. That number includes not only the big names likernTanqueray, Gordon’s and Hendrick’s, but also a growing number of craft gins.rnInspired by a renewed countrywide focus on celebrating local and artisanalrningredients, Scotland’s producers are experimenting with the bounty of therncountry’s natural larder. The result is that each distillery, from Speyside tornthe Shetlands, creates a hyper-regional product with a flavor profile thatrncarries with it something of the area from which it came.


The fresh air and pristine water of the Scottish Highlandsrnundoubtedly affect the clean, crisp gins it produces. Adding their ownrninfluence are botanicals sourced throughout the region. For Caorunn, arnhandcrafted gin launched in 2009, five wild, local botanicals are hand-pickedrnwithin a 10 minutes’ walk of the distillery, in the traditionally whisky-producing Speyside region. Highlanders traditionally foraged these botanicals –rnrowan berry (“caorunn” in Gaelic), bog myrtle, dandelion, heather and coulrnblush apple – for their healing properties, and the subtle aroma can’t help butrnconjure up images of the wild, heather-strewn Highlands. “With Caorunn, we haverndistilled the Scottish Highlands into a glass,” says master distiller SimonrnBuley.

Rock Rose Gin comes from Caithness in the very far north of Scotland. Searnbuckthorn comes from the distillery gardens, and rowan berries, hawthornrnberries and water mint from Dunnet forest, a mile away. While these botanicalsrnare common across the Highlands, it is the addition of a more difficult tornsource botanical, the rhodiola rosea (rose root), hand-foraged from the northrncoast cliffs overlooking the Pentland Firth, that adds something unique, givingrnthe gin a distinctly floral nose with a light earthy taste.


Inextricably linked to whisky production, the Scottish islandsrnare now also making a name for themselves in the gin world. On the island ofrnIslay, Bruichladdich whisky distillery turned heads in 2010 when it launchedrnthe island’s first gin, The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, made with 22 localrnbotanicals foraged from across Islay. More recently, and further north, thernShetland Isles got their first legal distillery in 2014. Shetland Reel Gin is produced in the U.K’s most northerly distillery on Unst – thernU.K.’s most northerly inhabited island. The gin is marketed as having a “uniquernShetland twist” thanks to the inclusion of apple-mint, which is grown on thernisland and adds a fruity note.

And it doesn’t stop there. The remote Western Isles, on thernvery edge of Scotland, are set to have their first gin, too. While waiting forrntheir single malt whisky, Hearach, to mature, Isle of Harris distillers willrnsoon release Isle of Harris Gin, infused with hand-dived sugarrnkelp. Traditionally used by the island’s crofters to fertilize the soil, thernseaweed will bring a saltiness to the gin, evoking some of the maritimerninfluence of the Outer Hebrides.

Edinburgh and thernLothians

Launched in 2010, Edinburgh Gin opened arndistillery, complete with visitor center and gin bar, in the city center inrn2014. This summer they released a limited edition Seaside Gin, featuring bladderwrack seaweed,rnscurvy grass and ground ivy, all sourced from the beaches near North Berwick,rnaround half an hour east of Edinburgh. “We collected a lot of weird, local,rnedible things,” says brand ambassador Ewan Angus, “and then brought them backrnto distill.” The bladderwrack adds a mineralistic salinity that sweetens withrnthe addition of tonic. It’s the seaweed that really transports the drinker tornthe wild and windy East Lothian seaside, Angus says: “It’s got a reallyrnevocative taste.”


In Fife — where both Tanqueray and Gordon’s are produced — Eden Millrndistillery, just outside St. Andrews, uses local botanicals grown by the St.rnAndrews University Botanical Gardens (among others). The producers forage forrnadditional botanicals, “which allows us to reflect the different seasons of St.rnAndrews in our gins” says Shona Gillespie, brand ambassador. “The sea buckthornrnberries for our classic Eden Gin are grown right on our doorstep in the EdenrnEstuary. We tend to do seasonal gins, which work well for the time of year andrnalso mirror the type of season St Andrews has had: our first batch of Love Ginrnused elderberries which were less sweet in flavor than the current batch, as wernare now using berries picked at a warmer time of year.”


Somewhat off the usual tourist path, Angus, in the northeastrnof Scotland, has recently been making a name for itself through its craft gins.rnDeep in the misty Angus Glens, The Gin Bothy creates handmade gins infused withrnthe fresh local berries the region more traditionally uses for jams and marmalades.rn

Arbikie Distillery, on the coast,rnhave just launched Kirsty’s Gin, named after the master distiller Kirsty Black,rnwho says she “spent quite a while researching plants that grow naturally inrnScotland that could also potentially lend a positive flavor or aroma to a gin.”rnKirsty’s Gin features three botanicals that grow wild locally and are addedrnwith the intention of capturing three elements surrounding the distillery: thernsea, the rock and the land. “Kelp is everywhere on this wild coastline,” saysrnBlack who notes an almost sherbet character to the flavor, “so it had to be anrnimportant botanical. The sea is a presence that envelops our distillery.”rnRepresenting the rock, the bitter, earthy Carline thistle is arnshoreline plant with a distinctive daisy-like flower, it grows close by in thernrocky areas surrounding the spectacular bay the distillery overlooks.rnBlaeberries, which represent the land, are abundant around the distillery.

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