Think gin and you immediately think England, or be more specific, London. It was first brought to the UK from Holland by William of Orange when he took the British throne in 1689. The tipple remained popular right through to the early 20th century, hitting its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, when it was the drink of choice for many mandarins in far flung corners of the Empire.
However, despite the association with England and the Empire, it could be argued that Scotland is now the true home of gin. Seventy per cent of the gin consumed in the UK comes from Scotland, thanks to the fact that both Gordon’s and Tanqueray are produced in Fife. Owned by Diageo, these may be called London Dry Gins but this simply refers to their specific production processes. It was also a Scottish producer, William Grant & Sons, who kick started the current gin revolution at the turn of the millennium with the introduction of Hendrick’s, which brought something completely new to the UK gin market.
Some of the big whisky producers, including Bruichladdich and Balmenach distilleries, now produce their own gins, with Scotland’s newer distilleries producing it as part of a wider spirits portfolio. In contrast to vodka, the vast number of gins on the market have succeeded by carving out their own niche and identity. And here, are a few of my favourites:
The Botanist (46%, £27.50)
The Botantist is what got me hooked on gin. Originating from Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay, it uses a whopping 31 botanicals – nine classical gin aromatics and a further 22 (!) which are picked on Islay. Produced using a slow distillation in one of the last Lomond Stills in existence, The Botanist is bursting with flavour, whilst also being clean and pure. A nose is overtly floral, but the palate gives way to citrusy flavours and a distinct hint of mint. Unsurprisingly, The Botanist is now said to sell more than any of the individual whiskies produced by the distillery.
Edinburgh Cannonball Gin (57.2%, £39.95)
Introduced in 2010, Edinburgh Gin has become a firm favourite with bartenders across the city, with the spirit nodding to the city’s distilling history. However, Edinburgh Gin couldn’t quite call the Scottish capital home until the summer of 2014, when its operations finally entered the city boundaries. The company’s new Naval Strength Cannonball gin certainly packs a punch at 57.2%. This, along with the vibrant selection of botanicals which include double strength juniper and Szechaun pepper, means it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the range. The nose and palate are full of big, spicy flavours, making Cannonball perfect either with tonic or in a cocktail – just don’t drink too much of it straight!
Pickerings (42%, £29.50)
Although not able to claim the Capital’s name, Pickerings can claim to be Edinburgh’s first gin distillery more than 150 years. Located in former vet school Summerhall, the new-ish gin is made using a secret recipe which was written on a scrap of paper in 1947, but has since been tweaked and polished to appeal to modern tastes. This result is a gin which is big on juniper, along with more earthy and herbal notes, before a full-flavoured finish.
And the way things are looking, Rose Rock Gin will be joining this list as well – be sure to check back on Thursday for my review of one of Scotland’s newest gins.