A couple of weeks ago, one of my favourite boozy events of the year rolled round – the Scottish Juniper Festival. Back for the third year in its spiritual home (pun very much intended!) of Edinburgh’s Summerhall arts venue, the event was bigger and better than ever.
I counted 37 gin distillers present on the evening, alongside other food and drink producers. The entry price of just £21 is an absolute steal, but unfortunately, my level of inebriation means I didn’t have the time to get round all 37 distillers. Thankfully, I did manage to keep some notes, so here’s my three favourite gins from the evening.
The first product from the new-ish Glasgow Distillery Company, Makar Gin – named after the Gaelic for “poet” or “bard” – launched in 2014. Distilled in a cop pot still affectionately called Annie, the gin contains seven botanicals, including juniper, lemon peel, black peppercorn and cassia bark. This mix of botanicals gives it the big juniper hit I’m always after, with the black peppercorns along giving a bit of fire. Serving it as suggested with a slice of chilli in the glass adds a bit of heat, which the tonic ably cools off.
Arbikie Arbroath 36
Highland Distillers have been making waves in the Scottish spirits industry since their potato vodka landed around 18 months ago. Since then, the family run distillery has added a gin and chilli vodka to their range, however, the star for me on the evening was the Arbroath 36. The new gin has been distilled to celebrate the 130th anniversary of Arbroath FC’s record-breaking 36-0 win over Bon Accord in 1885. Head distiller Kirsty Black was keen to pay homage to the town’s famous smokies and so added peat smoked sea salt, which added a hint of smoke and salty minerality to the final gin.
Shetland Reel Simmer Gin
I first encountered Shetland Reel at last year’s Scottish Juniper Festival, so was delighted to see them back and going from strength to strength. After adding a seaweed-based Ocean Sent to the range last year, Simmer Gin is joining the range this summer. A play on the term Simmer Dim, which is given to the long days in summer when the sun barley dips below the horizon, the refreshing and aromatic gins packs a lot of sweet orange and liquorice.
Honourable mentions on the night also need to go to solid performers including Pickerings, Daffys, Rock Rose and Edinburgh Gin, who all continue to hit the ball out of the park. Funnily, a pattern seems to be developing which was reinforced at the Scottish Juniper Festival, with the established distillers solidifying their hard earned reputation, whilst the new players struggle to have cut through. Maybe my palate has just become accustomed to a certain type of gin but I’m already looking forward to next year to see what the gin world has up its sleeve.
You can read my write-up of last year’s festival, here.