A Recipe for Gin

Sutors Gin, Nautilus Gin Foundry.

Published: 10th March 2020

In ‘A Recipe for Gin’, we meet the people responsible for creating Scottish Gin recipes, providing a fascinating insight into the gin making process and the inspiration and challenges of bringing an idea for a gin to life.

Although launched in 2019, Stuart Wells and Ed Scaman, the co-founders of Sutors Gin, starting making plans for their distillery and gin over 4 years ago. It’s a dream they could have rushed to capitalise on the growing gin boom but instead they decided to follow their ambitions of making a Scottish Gin that reflected the local area. So much so, they set out to make a gin that exclusively used locally foraged Scottish botanicals and they took their gin production process one step further and decided they would make their own base alcohol from local crops. Both of these things are challenging but together they create an extremely labour intensive process, plus it’s much more expensive and complicated to create your own base alcohol. The end result was Sutors Gin, a gin made with 100% Scottish ingredients that uses a grain to glass process. We recently caught up with co-founder Stuart Wells to learn more about the inspiration behind their brand, how their gin recipe was developed and more.

What inspired you to create this gin?

Initially the inspiration was to create a birthday present for my partner, Clair. I got Ed involved and then the whole thing got away from us as we saw that the market was being flooded by rectifiers and contract distillers. We wanted to address that by creating something authentic that was firmly rooted in our local area. Together we defined what we wanted to do using the best local grains and highland botanicals.

What are some of the key botanicals in your gin?

Juniper is overwhelmingly the largest botanical by weight with Sea Buckthorn following on from that.

What’s the distillation process?

We follow the tried and tested process for creating our own base spirit. Not only do we use locally grown crops of wheat, it was actually Ed my co-founder who planted the crops and has nurtured them right up to the point of harvesting. Once harvested, the wheat is delivered to us where it’s malted in our malt house. By malt house, I mean malt shed, a space which must be the smallest malt house in the UK. From here we use our G-Still to create our base alcohol.

Once distilled and stripped of most of the flavours (we do leave a few notes from the crops just to give it a slight malty, cereal taste), we then distill our own base spirit with the inclusion of our locally foraged botanicals. We feel our process and ingredients adds an extra layer of complexity to the flavour profile but also makes for a smoother, creamier and richer mouthfeel.

From start to finish how much time has gone into the creation of your gin recipe?

From start to finish it’s take us over four years to get to where we are now with our own distillery and our Sutors Gin. We actually developed the recipe without many issues. We knew what type of gin we wanted to create using a variety of botanicals. We then removed the non local botanicals one by one, each time refining the recipe. We invested a lot of time researching the right grains from local farms for our base spirit, which we tested in a number of distillations until we found the right balance. We’re really proud of the gin we’ve created, a gin we feel is filled with flavour and provenance.

Although 4 years may seem like a long time, and although a luxury, the time was well spent trying out various distillations and looking at which local botanicals we wanted to use in our gin. It gave us the window to perfect the final recipe and although we had set some benchmarks in terms of getting our gin to market, the end result is a Scottish Gin we’re very proud to put our names to.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when creating your gin?

The biggest issues were finance and bureaucracy. We were grateful to have the support of gin drinkers who signed up to our Sutors 500 Club, which helped us generate some of the finance we needed for the distillery. In return, we gave our members some special rewards including a first batch bottle of Sutors Gin plus discounts on future releases and more.

We knew there was an abundance of locally available botanicals on our door step in Tain, where we’re based in the Scottish Highlands, but foraging and finding them was also a challenge. Knowing where to look in the right places and at the right time of year meant we brought in the expert advice and guidance from a local forager we know. He helped us locate specific botanicals and also provide advice on foraging sensibly and sustainably, something we think is important when you’re making a gin that uses locally foraged botanicals.

It’s been a great process and even now our forager keeps an eye out for other botanicals for future releases. We’re slowly building up a library of test distillates using local botanicals to see what works and what doesn’t. All these test distillates will be used to help us build up a bigger picture of our local botanicals and how they might potentially work in future products.

Can you describe the flavour profile?

Nose – Sweet, bitter citrus, juniper

Palate – Sweet and creamy, cereal notes, opening up to vegetal and herb flavours with rosemary, aniseed and an almost cucumber freshness, leading to big, bitter citrus, like burnt lemon and grapefruit peel, with a heavy juniper presence

Finish – long, with hits of slightly sour menthol and lingering peppery spice

You can learn more about Sutors Gin here.

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