The Balmenach distillery where Caorunn gin is made. – Caorunn Gin
Although whisky is the drink most closely associated with Scotland, that tipple is getting stiff competition these days from gin. The drink originally known as Mother’s Ruin is booming once again in the United Kingdom, with an explosion of craft gins, gin bars and distilleries. The Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s recently unveiled its own bespoke gin using British botanicals, and Heston Blumenthal, the celebrity chef, has created a gin flavored with Earl Grey and lemon for the upscale Waitrose supermarket, which holds a Royal Warrant.
But the heart of the gin boom is in Scotland, which produces over 70 percent of the gin distilled in the U.K., including Tanqueray and Hendrick’s. Traditionally, gin is served with tonic — try a smaller batch brand such as Q, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. or British import Fever Tree — although some gin aficionados are now choosing to drink it neat with a garnish. Here’s a closer look at some of Scotland’s small-batch gins and how best to drink them.
Debuting in 2015, Lussa Gin is the creation of three women based on the remote Isle of Jura, off the west coast of Scotland. The gin’s botanicals are foraged locally in the hills and coastline of the island, or grown by the founders. The local community pitches in by growing lemon thyme in their own gardens. Honeysuckle and lime flower are also used to craft the gin, which is citrusy with warmth from coriander. Lussa’s distillers suggest serving it with a frozen lemon wedge in lieu of an ice cube, garnished with a sprig of lemon thyme.
Although most gin distilleries use dried juniper, that’s not the choice of Jonathan Engels, the owner of Crossbill Gin. He uses only fresh juniper, which he harvests in the Cairngorms National Park, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The gin is crafted from just two botanicals, juniper and rosehip, to create a smooth drink with a piney, citrusy taste. Try it neat to fully appreciate the flavors. The limited-edition Crossbill 200 uses juniper from a rare 200-year-old bush in the Cairngorms. Crossbill’s distillery recently moved to Glasgow, which is also home to a gin school.
GlenWyvis is the U.K.’s first 100 percent community-owned distillery, and its new facility aims to be 100 percent powered by green, renewable energy. Located in the small town of Dingwall in the Highlands, GlenWyvis gin is crafted from nine different botanicals, including locally picked hawthorn berries. The gin has citrus notes with touches of cinnamon and coriander. Serve it with a slice of orange and fresh cilantro to highlight the natural flavors in the gin. GlenWyvis plans to offer gin tastings and local whisky tours soon.
Caorunn is named for the Gaelic word for the Rowan berry, which is native to the Speyside area, known as the “single malt capital of the world.” Caorunn gin is made at the Balmenach distillery, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, and crafted from juniper berries, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and cassia bark. Local ingredients such as the Rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, Coul blush apple and dandelion are also used in the blend. The five-sided bottle represents the locally foraged botanicals; its best served with tonic and a slice of apple.
Eden Mill creates a few distinct styles of gin, all made by hand. The 2016 Golf Gin includes botanicals from Troon, where the Open golf tournament was held in 2016. It’s also flavored with hickory wood shavings in homage to the first golf clubs that were carved from hickory branches. Serve it with an aromatic tonic and a slice of green apple. The Love Gin is pale pink, thanks to rose petals and hibiscus. It is best sipped with rose-flavored lemonade and fresh red berries. The seasonal Botano Gin, named for the Greek word for “herb,” is infused with lemon and orange peel and is meant to invoke the sunshine of a Mediterranean holiday. Garnish it with fresh basil leaves and a slice of lemon. Three other gins, Traditional, Hop and Oak, are all worth a try as well and part of Eden Mill’s regular production.
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