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Scottish Gin News

Round-Up April 2019.

Published: 1st May 2019

Our end of month round-up captures some of the exciting news from the wonderful world of Scottish Gin. From new Scottish Gin expressions to distillery openings and more. If you’ve got a story you’d like us to consider for inclusion in next month’s Scottish Gin News Round-Up then email hello@thegincooperative.com.

New Scottish Gins

Highland Liqour Co.’s Seven Crofts Gin

Highland Liquor Co., who are based in Ullapool, released their signature gin Seven Crofts. Taking its name from the original seven crofts that made up the tiny community of Ullapool, the new gin is distilled and bottled in Ullapool. A classic London Dry gin that uses a number of traditional gin botanicals including juniper and citrus. The team behind the distillery have also created a unique bottle and packaging that’s sure to capture attention both on the shop shelf and behind the bar.

Learn more about Highland Liquor Co. here.

Smithies Honeycomb Old Tom Gin

The team at Smithies Gin release their second gin expression, Smithies Honeycomb Old Tom Gin. Distilled by Lewis Scothorn at Distillutions in Arbroath, the original Smithies Gin is left to macerate with sweet candy honeycomb. The resulting gin can be enjoyed neat over ice, served with tonic or ginger beer.

Learn more about Smithies Gin here.

Scottish Gin News

Tyree Gin comes home

After a few years in the planning, the distillation of Tyree Gin was officially brought back to the island of Tiree. Originally established by Ian Smith and Alain Campbell trading under the Tiree Whisky Company, the distillery is the first legal distillery on the island since 1801. The gin was originally distilled at Thames Distillers in London using a variety of botanicals foraged and sourced on the island and the long term goal of bringing the distillation back to the island has finally become a reality.

The challenges of setting up a business on a Scottish Island are many, and contract distilling at Thames Distillers provided the time and finances for Ian and Alain to both source a suitable site for the distillery plus undertake the work required to turn the former builders yard and building into a working distillery.

Learn more about Tyree Gin here.

Flying High with Pickering’s Gin

Created in partnership with British Airways as part of their Centenary, the new Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin was created to be enjoyed specifically at high altitude. Distilled at the Summerhall Distillery in the heart of Edinburgh, the new gin includes lemon myrtle as a botanical.

A leading flavour scientist, Professor Charles Spence from Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory said, “At 30,000 feet, low air pressure and lack of humidity suppress our taste receptors and alter our sense of smell. Our perception of sweet and salt are somewhat muted whereas our ability to identify spices and bitter flavours are seemingly left unchanged. Surprisingly, our ears play a part in how we perceive taste too. Background noise such as the hum of the engines can render many people unable to detect salty or sugary flavours effectively.”

Thanks to the lemon myrtle, the gin retains a good level of sweetness along with citrus bursts, something that is sometimes lost in commercial gins which use citrus botanicals. The gin is described as being carefully engineered to be enjoyed at 30,000 feet.

Head Distiller and Co-founder Matt Gammell said “To banish so-called airplane ‘taste blindness’, we have carefully designed a botanical flavour profile that enhances what you lack when you’re soaring in the sky.

“As a distiller, developing a gin on the ground and then trialling it in the sky at different altitudes was a fascinating process. We trialled multiple iterations of the recipe in the air until we were confident that it would taste as good in the sky as it did on the ground.”

Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin is available to drink on board all economy flights under 4 hours from 1st May. Served with a Schweppes 1783 and slice of lemon over ice, it will be offered as BA’s premium G&T serve on board for the remainder of their Centenary. Passengers will also be able to buy the Centenary Gin as part of a limited-edition triple ‘Gin Flight’ miniature gift pack, sold on board on all long haul and non-EU flights through the High Life Shop.

Learn more about Pickering’s Gin here.

The Gin Cooperative on the road

We invest a lot of time and resources capturing the real story of Scottish Gin. Each month we try and get out and about as much as we can by visiting Scotland’s gin makers and brands owners. Distillery visits play a big part in what we do and provide a fantastic insight into where a gin maker or brand owner is based plus it also gives us the chance to really understand the local landscape and see for ourselves how the gin makers products are shaped and influenced.

Our visits also allow us to shoot original photos and video adding a snap shot in time to our growing archive of Scottish Gin. Our visits are something we plan to undertake on a regular basis and where possible return to see gin makers and brand owners we’ve visited previously to see how their distillery or business is evolving.

Although we’ve quickly used up babysitting tokens with grandparents, we’ve been able to learn so much more about the businesses, production and snippets from behind the scenes that’s really enabled us to get to know the many talented people making gin and building brilliant Scottish Gin brands.

As the only business focused on only supporting Scotland’s Gin makers who are based in Scotland, who make their products in Scotland and believe in the term Scottish Gin, it’s important to us that we make the time and effort to visit our members so we can learn and discover the real story of Scottish gin.

Kinrara Distillery

We caught up the team at Kinrara Distillery, which can be found on the Kinrara Estate on the outskirts of Aviemore. We visited the team almost a year to the day in 2018 where we learned more about the plans for the site and the distillery. This time round it was great to see most of the plans well underway and in some cases completed.

It was great to see the tasting room fully finished along with some of the additional production spaces. The Kinrara Distillery is very picturesque, in a beautiful setting and what most would imagine a small distillery in the heart of the highlands to be like. Small in stature but with big ambitions, it was great meeting David Wilson, head distiller, who showed us around the distillery and explained more about the development of the gin expressions made at the distillery.

Commercial Director, Luke Fenton, gave us an overview of the estate and plans for the future. We’d met Luke before at different gin events and always found his enthusiasm infectious. Passionate about the distillery and products, Luke explained that the distillery was focused on creating Scottish Gin and spirits with real provenance influenced by the local landscape of the Kinrara estate.

Learn more about Kinrara Distillery here.

Island Life

We’d always hoped that we could find the time to visit Orkney’s three gin producers, all of whom have been very supportive of The Gin Cooperative. A few months in the planning, we finally hopped on a plane at Aberdeen Airport and within a quick thirty minutes found ourselves touching down at Kirkwall Airport. We were greeted with a “fàilte gu Arcaibh” translated from Scots Gaelic, welcome to Orkney.

Kirkjuvagr Orkney Distillery

First stop on our three day tour was The Orkney Distillery, home to Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin. The newly opened distillery sits on the historic harbour front of Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. A modern looking building that sits surprisingly well in its surroundings, thanks to some subtle design features including the zig zag roof, designed to replicate the roof line of other warehouses on the harbour front, we were welcomed at the distillery by Stephen Kemp, co-founder and owner along with head distiller Louis Wright.

The distillery from the outside is modest in size yet once inside it encompasses an impressive footprint, it’s almost like stepping into Dr Who’s Tardis. Featuring a lovely shop and bar area, the shop stocks a variety of tonics, gifts, locally sourced gifts from the island and of course the full range of Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin.

The bar is in the shape of the bow of a boat, a nod to Orkney’s ties to the ocean as a busy fishing community. The bar and shop area also features a special window through to the distillery which at the flick of a switch allows visitors to see the distillation process and stills.

The tasting room upstairs features the frame of a boat, which has been incorporated to create a feature in the space used for the soon to be opened gin school, where visitors can distil their own gin, which is then bottled and finished with its own bespoke label.

We enjoyed a chat with Stephen about the background behind the brand, which originally started life as a contract distilled gin at Strathearn Distillery, just a few miles from Perth, and learnt more about the gin journey Stephen and his wife Aly had been on over the previous three years. Because of its location on the historic harbour front, plus throw in the fact the only way to reach Orkney is by boat or plane, Stephen and Aly knew that the new distillery should represent both the brand and spirit of Orkney.

Stephen said “It was always part of our plan to open our own distillery here in Kirkwall when the time was right. Not only does the distillery provide a home for our business and brand, we hope the distillery will also be a welcome source of employment on the island. We’ve had a lot of support from the local community and we’re proud to have added a new visitor experience that’s let visitors discover more about our range of Scottish Gins, learn more about the workings of a distillery plus enjoy Orcadian hospitality. As a business and distillery, we’re also looking at how we can incorporate innovation and technology into our distillery so we’ve got some really exciting ideas and projects the team are going to be looking at in the second half of this year”.

Louis Wright, head distiller said “We’ve got some exciting plans for the future in terms of production and ways of making the distillery even more green. Sustainability and innovation is key to where we’d like to see the distillery in the future especially as we look at ways of reducing waste and our carbon footprint. We’re proud Orcadians, we love our island and very much look forward to seeing our business continue to grow and see more people discover our range of Scottish Gins made here on the island. With our distillery tours, tasting room and soon to open gin school, plus our bar and shop area, we’ve created a space that we believe provides visitors with a memorable distillery experience.”

We made time to have a look around Kirkwall, which features lots of great local, independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. We were delighted when we discovered the plaque outside Kirkwall Cathedral that marked the spot where the annual Kirkwall Ba Game takes place. As Stephen had won the Ba for the Doonies (Google it) when he was younger, it was nice to see some of the places and retrace some of the things that had helped shape The Orkney Distillery. There’s lots of history to be discovered in Kirkwall and we’re sure The Orkney Distillery is destined to be a must visit experience for many generations to come and will undoubtedly have its own place in the history of Orkney yet to be written.

Learn more about Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin here.

Deerness Distillery

Next up we made the drive to the most easterly part of the main island – Deerness. We met up with the team from Deerness Distillery, which is home to Sea Glass Gin and Sea Glass Vodka. The distillery was designed by Stuart Brown, co-founder and distiller along with the help of the other co-founder and Stuart’s wife, Adelle Brown. With the help of friends and family, the distillery foundations were laid and construction began. Situated close to the family home, the walk to work is literally only a few meters but once inside the distillery feels like a home from home.

Warm, welcoming and lots to see, we were really impressed with the variety of craft gifts available from the shop plus the shop boasts one of the biggest and more diverse range of tonics and mixers available anywhere on the island. The distillery is open plan, which could easily have made the distillery feel large and industrial but thanks to Adelle’s tasteful decoration and dividing the distillery into distinct zones, the distillery feels very warm and friendly.

Adelle Brown, co-founder said “With the size of our distillery it would have been easy for us to create a warehouse with a distillery in it. We didn’t want it to feel like the distillery was an add on to the space. Thanks in part to some lighting features and the clever use of the floor space, we’ve created a distillery space that incorporates both our working stills and production space and our shop area. With tours, tastings and special events throughout the year, we wanted to have a distillery space that could accommodate both production and visitors”.

Stuart showed us around the distillery and gave us some fascinating insight about the local area and how its shaped and influenced the products, brand and business. “It’s said that Deerness got its name from some red deer bones that were found on the Borough of Deerness, a 30 metre-high sea stack, which is part of the Mull Head Nature Reserve, a few miles from where we are. Not only did this inspire the name of the parish where the distillery and our home is, we incorporated the name and idea of the Red Deer into our brand and logo. Although we moved from Australia to the UK and finally relocated to Orkney, which has been our home for a number of years now, we love the history and heritage of the islands. We’re very proud that our business, distillery tours and experiences, are helping highlight the local area. Deerness is an area that visitors to the island should come experience and explore.”

We loved Stuart, Adelle and the team’s drive and passion for the area and their products. Not content to rest on their laurels, Stuart explained future plans for the distillery; to create even more of a destination with some additions to the distillery that are under wraps for now. Along with the distillery, Stuart showed us around the exterior and explained that there was a lot scope for the distillery to produce a number of new Scottish Gin expressions along with other Scottish spirits..

Island life has additional challenges that only some in remote parts of mainland Scotland face, including additional charges for deliveries and logistic headaches when exhibiting at events on the mainland and more. Everything has to be planned in advance even though the weather can play havoc with the best laid plans, shutting down travel via plane and boat. To make a success of any business and overcoming business challenges is tough. Throw in the extra layer of highs and lows of island life and business, it takes a special type of person to embrace these additional challenges of island life. Stuart and Adelle have overcome them and revel in them and thrive. 

With some experimental projects currently underway, it’s an exciting time for the Deerness Distillery team as they continue to develop their visitor experience and range of Scottish Gin and spirit expressions. It seems like the Deerness Distillery team are more than ready for their next big Scottish Gin adventure.

Learn more about Deerness Distillery here.

Orkney Gin Company

Next we took a short drive to the island of Burray to meet probably the most well known of the Orkney based gin makers – the Orkney Gin Company. On the way, we stopped past the world famous Scapa Flow, the site where the German Navy scuttled their fleet. Most of the naval wrecks are hidden from view under the sea apart from a few parts of the naval fleet which sit above the water level. Both Deerness Distillery and The Orkney Gin Company released gins to mark the Scapa Flow centenary, both completely different gins but both created to signify and pay respect to just one of Orkney’s many ties to the past.

Burray is one of the smaller chain of islands that’s connected to the main island by the Churchill Barriers. The barriers were originally constructed as a naval defence during World War Two and took a labour force of over 2,000 people to complete, many of whom were Italian Prisoners of War (POW) housed on the island. Along with the Churchill Barriers, the Italian POW’s also built the Italian Chapel on the island of Lambholm, another island connected by the barriers. There’s literally history around every corner on Orkney.

Established in 2016 by husband and wife Gary and Andrea Watt, the Orkney Gin Company make a range of cold compound gins, sometimes referred to as bathtub gin, where botanicals are carefully macerated and blended with the spirit to create the final gin. Their Scottish Gins including Johnsmas Gin, Mikkelmas Gin, Rhubarb Old Tom Gin and Johannistag, a navy strength old tom gin.

Andrea Watt, co-founder said “We wanted our gins to be expressions of Orkney. Both myself and Gary are from Orcadian families, we’ve grown up here and the island is part of us so wanted our gins to reflect the island. For example, our Johnsmas Gin, which in old Orcadian means ‘mid summer’ is fragrant and floral and uses a variety of hand picked and seasonal botanicals that we feel capture our Orcadian summer. All our gins have in one way or another been influenced by Orkney.”

The family recently completed work on their new purpose built distillery after outgrowing their old facilities due to continued growth in orders. Based next to the family home and overlooking an aqua blue stretch of water, the distillery from the outside looks like any other timber clad building on the island. But once you step inside you’re immediately met with the aroma of botanicals.

With plenty of room to grow and expand, it was fantastic getting to see, smell and learn more about the Orkney Gin Company process. We were shown the different vats where their core gin products are compounded along with other parts of the production process. It was also exciting to see the new gin still, which had been recently purchased and installed.

“Our gins are packed with flavour thanks to our process where the botanicals are left to blend with our base spirit. Our process allows the oils and flavours to be slowly extracted and blend with the alcohol, creating flavoursome and balanced gins. Our process creates the right flavour profiles for our core gins, which have proved extremely popular since launch and is part of the reason we’ve had to build a larger distillery, to cope with demand. We have recently invested in a new gin still, which we will be using to create some exciting new products in the near future. Products that reflect Orkney and incorporate some of the stories that help shape island life. We’re really happy to have built a dedicated customer base that supports our business and enjoys our products. Andrea and I still get excited when we see our gins on the shelves of a shop or we get a message from a new customer to say how much they’ve enjoyed our gin.”

Gary and Andrea along with their daughter Erin, welcomed us into their home a for a brew and chat about business, life, family and of course, gin. It was interesting to hear how many businesses on the island have had to change and diversify with changes to the way of life on Orkney and looking to tackle depopulation. Traditionally Orkney was known for its agriculture and fishing industries, both of which still exist to varying degrees, but fishing vessels have been dwindling in numbers compared to a few years ago.

Learn more about Orkney Gin Company here.

Although Gary still works as a captain on one of the local ferries, it’s always inspiring to see good people doing great things for their local area and the world of Scottish Gin. This can be said about all the gin makers we met on our visit. With a rich heritage of producing world class food including whisky, cheese, seafood and more, what the three island gin makers are doing with their brands and products adds yet another tick to Orkney’s reputation as being an island of innovation, of quality food and drink, of places that should be experienced.

Although this was a work trip as part of The Gin Cooperative, we made time to explore other parts of the islands including a trip to Yesnaby, the famous costal cliffs, one of the most photographed areas on the island and featured in countless articles about Orkney. We also found ourselves waking the beautiful streets of Stromness, another small fishing village which featured a number of small independent shops, restaurants and a great art gallery.

We are extremely grateful to all the island gin makers who helped make our visit a memorable experience and gave us the opportunity to chat and learn more about their stories. Stephen and Ally Kemp were kind enough to let us stay in their house, which Stephen built on his Granny’s land and next to her old house, one of the few remaining homes that still featured a salt shelf. A traditional shelf that was used to store salted goods. Overlooking the Loch of Harray, we used the house as our base for our stay and we’re extremely grateful to Stephen and Ally for their generosity.

Gary and Andrea along with Stuart and Adele kindly invited us out for a meal on our last night. We love that The Gin Cooperative has afforded us the opportunity to not only meet some brilliantly diverse and creative gin makers and brands owners, but more than that it’s given us the chance to get to know the real people behind Scottish Gin. Learn more about their stories, their backgrounds, meet their families, make friends and create lots of memorable moments. A big thanks to both couples for their hospitality and welcoming us into their distilleries and homes.

It’s safe to say, and yes it’s cheesy, we left a little bit of our hearts in Orkney. We loved the island. We loved the people. It’s most definitely somewhere we plan to return to one day with our family for holiday and it should be on the must visit list for anyone who’s serious about fantastic food and drink, history and amazing scenery.

The Gin Cooperative Features April 2019

Here’s a look back at the editorial features we published in April 2019.

Scottish Gin News Round-Up March 2019 – read it here.

A Taste of the Glen, Badvo Gin, Badvo Distillery – find out how to make it here.

Voices of Gin, Caroline Childerley, The Gin Queen – read it here.

A milestone for Scottish Gin – read it here.

Women of Gin, Kim Cameron, Gin Bothy – read it here.

G is for Gin (and Good), Isle of Harris Distillers – read it here.

The True Story of Scottish Gin – read it here.

The Scottish Gin Awards – read it here.

Growing with Gin, Iain Black, Ice & Fire Distillery – read it here.

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