Scottish Gin NewsRound-Up August 2019.
Published: 1st September 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin – HySpirits Project
The team at Orkney Distilling, makers of the range of Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin products, recently revealed the details of their groundbreaking collaborative HySpirits project with EMEC and Edinburgh Napier University. The revolutionary project explores the use of hydrogen as a fuel to decarbonise the distilling process which would be a world first. Having discussed the possibility of this alternative source of energy during our visit to Orkney earlier this year, we’re genuinely ecstatic to see this project come to life, a truly innovative source of energy for the Kirkwall based distillery and another positive example of innovation in Scotland’s distilling sector.
Learn more about Kirkjuvagr Orkney Distilling here.
New Scottish Gins
Edinburgh Gin Lemon & Jasmine
Carefully combining both citrus and floral botanicals, Edinburgh Gin Lemon & Jasmine Gin is a palate-pleasing gin that showcases the contrasting characteristics of each botanical. Bright and zesty citrus lemon alongside the light and floral scent of jasmine flowers delivers the scent of summer on the nose. By contrast the flavour profile delivers a juniper note with layers of lemon and citrus oils and a lingering, sweet finish.
Learn more about Edinburgh Gin here.
Smithies Spearmint Gin
The team at Smithies Gin release their third gin expression, a super limited edition of only 30 50cl bottles to mark their 1 year gin anniversary. Smithies Spearmint Gin, which is distilled using wild spearmint that’s been handpicked from the owner’s garden. The gin is available exclusively from Smithies Deli & Gin Emporium.
Learn more about Smithies Gin here.
Rock Rose Reserve – Sauternes Cask Edition Gin
The cask was filled with Rock Rose Original and left to blend with the flavours that were embedded in cask. The result is a slightly sweet gin with delicious notes of honey, apricot and butterscotch. Only 380 bottles will be available with specially created packaging to reflect the Sauternes cask that was used to age the gin.
Learn more about Rock Rose Gin here.
Events & Scottish Gin Experiences
International Scottish Gin Day 2019
After close to a year in development and planning, the first ever International Scottish Gin Day took place on Saturday the 3rd of August. This has been a labour of love, countless hours, co-ordinating activations and events around the world with some of the world’s best bars and so much more.
Many of our stakeholders saw the day as an opportunity to open the doors to their distilleries and welcome the public to come and discover their Scottish Gins and learn more about their brand. Some used the day to provide exclusive offers and discounts through their web shop. With bar takeovers, festivals and more, it was great for us to see the day embraced.
The term Scottish Gin and how it’s shared, cared for and represented is a responsibility we’ve always understood and always made a priority. From photography to editorial and more, we want a global audience’s first impression of Scottish Gin to be one that inspires, excites and leaves them engaged.
With events happening at ATLAS Bar in Singapore, Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Merchant House in London, Gin Palace in Melbourne, The Clumsies in Athens, Bobby Gin in Barcelona, Whitechapel in San Francisco plus other amazing bars offering Scottish Gin including The Dead Rabbit in New York and Dry Martini in Barcelona, we’re excited to see ISGD grow year on year.
With ISGD, we believe we’ve created a unique platform for sharing and showcasing the story of Scottish Gin. We’re currently working on our highlights feature that we’ll be publishing later this month but a massive thank you once again to all the Scottish Gin makers and brands who organised an event and got involved, to all our official sponsors who helped us make the day happen and all our official supporters from across the gin community who created their own content and helped us celebrate ISGD 2019.
Learn more about International Scottish Gin Day here.
The Scottish Gin Awards 2019
We’ve always been aware that working with like minded people, building working relationships with others directly and indirectly in the world of Scottish Gin is important. It not only makes business more fun but it’s always great to collaborate, share ideas and discuss ideas about Scottish Gin and how the category can be supported.
Early on in our own business journey we met up with the team at KD Media, the business behind a number of Scotland’s awards events, including the Scottish Gin Awards, along with a number of PR and media services, just to say hello and introduce ourselves. Over the last 18 months or so we’ve come to know the team from attending various events and following their activities on social media.
We count the team at KD Media as some of our gin chums in Scottish Gin community, always happy to have a chat and they share many of our goals for Scottish Gin. We’re delighted to say that in 2019 we are an official sponsor of the The Scottish Gin Awards 2019 and category sponsor of High Strength Gin of The Year.
Although we appreciate that awards are not for everyone and some gin makers and brands don’t enter their products for review, having spoken with the KD Media team, both as part of editorial features and over the last 18 months, we’ve been really impressed with how the awards are conducted under a strict judging process. The Scottish Gin awards evening is truly a night of celebrating Scotland’s growing reputation for producing diverse and brilliant gins that are tied to Scotland’s landscape, the people, local folklore and more and we’re delighted to be officially involved in 2019.
Learn more about the Scottish Gin Awards here.
The Gin Cooperative on the road
August was our busiest month to date with 13 distillery visits in total. As the only business of its kind in the world that’s focused solely on supporting Scotland’s Gin makers and brands owners, we know to really understand Scottish Gin, to experience and see the places that have shaped the Scottish Gins, influenced the gin makers and brand owners, means seeing everything first-hand. It’s enabled us to see some truly amazing parts of Scotland, meet inspiring, creative and talented people making brilliant Scottish Gins and try local food and experience the hospitality Scotland is renowned for.
Tarbraxus Distillery (Pentland Hills Gin), Tarbraxus
South Lanarkshire is a relatively large council area but an area that’s renowned for its farming and now its gin producers, with four gin brands all calling the area home. One such gin maker is the Tarbraxus Distillery, situated in the North Western edge of the Pentland Hills, where founders Phil, Tabatha and Panza distil their Pentland Hills Gin. Using a traditional 30 litre Alembic copper pot still named ‘Douglas’, we spent a morning learning about the trials and tribulations they went through developing their gin recipe. Panza the chocolate brown Lab, the face of the business was on hand for cuddles and just a little bit of mischief. It was great hearing about the plans for the future of the distillery and finally getting round to visiting, something that had been in our plans since last year.
Phil and Tabatha’s distilling ethos reflects their life of living within the countryside and sustaining the environment. They grow some of their own botanicals and are seeking to establish more. They also generate power through solar and other renewable sources. The couple, working with Scottish Woodlands, have invested in replanting juniper alongside a broader programme of woodland regeneration. As part of their commitment to reducing waste, they also offer a gin refill service; the etched bottles and packing are all designed to be returned, refilled and sent back.
Learn more about the Pentland Hills Gin here.
Holyrood Distillery, Edinburgh
We caught up with some of the team at the brand new Holyrood Distillery for a private tour around their new distillery and visitor experience. The team behind the project have lovingly and sympathetically restored the 180 year old building to create not only a working distillery in the heart of Edinburgh but also a fully immersive visitor experience, with a variety of tours available for both gin and whisky lovers, a tasting room and shop.
The sensory experience elements of the distillery looked (and smelt) amazing. Designed with the help of The Aroma Academy, the leading provider of aroma sensory recognition services, this part of the distillery is set-up to give visitors the opportunity to use their senses to identify different botanical aromas.
The gin tasting room was a visual treat for the eyes with its botanical rainbow inspired interior and both the tasting room and gin distillery. The still itself is named ‘Ginnie Deans’ and was designed by Jack Mayo, Head Distiller at the distillery. The still is also the first of its kind in Scotland and possibly the world. It features a unique chamber that can be used to hold both botanicals for vapour infusion and also liquid so during distillation a second liquid could be used as part of the distillation process.
Learn more about the Holyrood Distillery here.
The Chain Pier Distillery, Leith
Most famous for his involvement in the world of Whisky and his ginger wine, Miller Crabbie was a merchant in Edinburgh before his son John Crabbie inherited the business. John Crabbie was a pioneer of spirits whose involvement with business began in Leith when he inherited his father’s business. Working in Leith, which at the time had one of Scotland’s busiest ports, John soon found a market for some of the exotic botanicals and drinks that were being shipped to Leith from all four corners of the world.
The business was soon involved in various areas of drinks production including gin rectifying, production of fruit based cordials, bonded warehousing for whisky merchants and more. Throughout most of his business dealings, John Crabbie kept a number of ledgers and notebooks where he would scribble his ideas and thoughts for new spirits, new botanical drinks and more.
Currently under construction in Leith is the John Crabbie whisky and gin distillery but whilst work is underway, their range of spirits including their gins are being distilled at The Chain Pier Distillery in Leith. It was during the removal of some of the old paperwork from one of the John Crabbie offices that by chance the team discovered a box filled with ledgers and notebooks. To some this might sound like little more than a romantic tale that’s been dreamt up by a PR team. It isn’t.
When we visited the temporary distillery and got chatting to some of the team we were blown away when they laid out John Crabbie’s personal notebooks and ledgers. We had a careful look through them and saw for ourselves various recipes and formulas for a variety of drinks. It was really cool to see these for ourselves and then see how they had inspired both the gin expressions and other products.
It was great to see what the team at The Chain Pier Distillery have been up to whilst their new home is being built. With great historical links to drink production and a wealth of archival material, we’re excited to see what the future holds for the team, new gin expressions and more. It’s inspiring to see a business that was built and established in Leith returning home back to its roots.
Learn more about The Chain Pier Distillery here.
Stirling Distillery, Stirling
Co-founders June and Cameron McCann had been on this journey since they distilled their first experimental Stirling Gin in 2015 on a small 2.4 litre copper still called Jinty. The gin proved so popular they ended up having to bring in a bigger still before eventually demand far outgrew their production capacity. Having a distillery to call their own in Stirling, which could be used for distillation, tours and a chance to create employment in the local area was always part of their plan.
With their distillery finally open to the public, we headed to the historic city of Stirling to see the newly opened Stirling Distillery. Housed in the historic building locally known as The Old Smiddy and within short walking distance of the world famous Stirling Castle.
The new distillery has been sympathetically fitted out to accommodate some of the modern workings of a distillery without compromising on the character of the old building. It’s amazing to see what they’ve managed to fit inside the footprint of the building. We were shown the distillery and had a good chat with distiller Jordan Reynaud, a former graduate of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) at Herriot Watt.
We met with Distillery Manager Lara Williams and Co-founder Cameron McCann who both explained some of the challenges and hurdles the business had to overcome to get to where it was today, along with some of the many highlights and plans for the distillery. With a shop area and beautiful tasting area for gin tours and tastings along with other drinks functions including a few planned whisky tastings. it’s nice to see a Scottish Gin business following through on their plans to open their own distillery.
Learn more about Stirling Distillery here.
Ice & Fire Distillery, Caithness
Having met half the Ice & Fire Distillery team by coincidence in Orkney we finally made it to their own distillery in heart of Caithness. We followed their social media accounts with tears and laughter following their efforts to get their gin bottles into the UK from abroad. For a while it seemed like the Ice & Fire Distillery team were destined to have great Scottish Gins but no bottles!
Fast forward to the present day and we found ourselves driving up an old single file farm track to meet Iain Black, their head distiller. We were given a tour of the production facilities and distillery, which really is situated in rural Caithness with some amazing views over the local landscape, what a place to call home!
We had a great chat with Iain about his own background and love for the local area, apart from when it snows and the road leading to the distillery is accessible by 4×4 only. We learnt what it means for him and the rest of the team in the business to be making their gin in the place they call home.
It never fails to amaze us when we visit rural based distilleries the challenges and extra hurdles they have to jump through to make a distillery in a rural location a viable business, especially some of the highland locations. From extra delivery costs due to the Highland postcode to access and operational challenges, making gin at the best of times has its challenges but even more so when you’re making it up a single track road with limited access.
Iain mentioned it’s all part of the fun and that’s what makes Scottish Gin special to us. Meeting the people and seeing their distilleries, learning of their hardships and struggles, both personal and related to their businesses, but also seeing their enthusiasm and passion for creating something great from scratch.
Learn more about Ice & Fire Distillery here.
Dunnet Bay Distillers, Dunnet Bay
We guess you could say the distillery and team behind one of the brands and distillery we visited in August were one of the gin makers at the forefront of Scotland’s gin category back in 2014 – Rock Rose Gin.
We loved chatting to the members of the team and sitting down for a chat with Martin & Claire Murray, the co-founders. To see what they’ve achieved and hear their story was fantastic. Their hard work and passion for their business and gins was lovely to hear and see first hand. We also loved meeting Mr Mackintosh, the Miniature Schnauzer.
Sometimes it can be lost in a growing gin market – there are real people behind the bottle. Passionate people who are creating employment, people who are building brands and businesses for the right reasons because they want to produce brilliant Scottish Gins and spirits, because they want to create something real, something that captures them as people and their local landscape, something that captures the imagination.
Learn more about Dunnet Bay Distillers here.
Although we don’t work with Porters as their gin is a collaboration between a distillery in England and their cold distillation facilities in Scotland, we felt it would be worthwhile for us to visit and learn more about their products and story as they are based in our hometown of Aberdeen. As one of their founders has said, Porters sit in a bit of a grey area when it comes to being able to define their production to one region hence they don’t feature in our directory as a Scottish Gin even though they do undertake part of the distillation process in Scotland and are a business based in Scotland.
It was interesting to hear that their backgrounds in the on-trade and hospitality inspired them to create a gin that would work well in a G&T but could also be the bartender’s friend when it came to mixing cocktails. Building their own DIY rotary evap for cold distillation, with help from Professor Porter from a local University, it gave them a chance to experiment with different botanicals and cold distil botanicals that simply don’t survive being distilled in a traditional copper pot still. The heat used in traditional distillation can end up cooking delicate botanicals, vastly changing the flavours and in some cases eliminating flavour compounds.
Having visited a number of distilleries, the team chose a distillery in England and worked with the head distiller to create a suitable gin base that could be blended with their cold distillates to create a gin they could be proud of.
Fairytale Distillery, Ardelve
The last thing you would expect to find in the Highlands of Scotland is a distillery that looks like it’s straight out of a Brother’s Grimm story. Ardelve is a tiny hamlet on the road to Skye and home to a number of small buildings that collectively make up what would best be described as a Fairytale village. Featuring the Fairytale Distillery along with a bakery and pizza shop, the site has been built up over the last seven years by Thomas Gottwald and his family.
With a number of gin expressions distilled on-site by Thomas using a still named Tinkerbelle that was originally designed for distilling schnapps, Thomas learnt the art of distillation in his native Germany. Along with the help of two Botanists who helped Thomas explore and develop his understanding of botanicals and develop the recipes, the distillery came to life earlier this year and proved a hit across social media with The Scotsman Food & Drink running a feature about what must be Scotland’s quirkiest commercial distillery.
We enjoyed our chat with Thomas and his daughter Joline, also the Distillery Manager and responsible for the day to day running of the various businesses. It was inspiring to see how the family have taken parts of their own history and heritage from their native Germany and blended these with their home in Scotland to create a unique setting for the Fairytale Distillery.
Learn more about Fairytale Distillery here.
Isle of Harris Distillers, Tarbert
At just over an hour and thirty minutes on the ferry from Skye, we stepped onto the wet harbour front of Tarbert. It might have been wet but as soon as we saw the Isle of Harris Distillery just a short walk away, we were both grinning from ear to ear. When you get to know people over a period of time, even just the odd email here and there and the occasional phone call, you get an idea of what you can expect from engaging with a distillery and business. The team at the Isle of Harris Distillery have been warm, friendly and fun from day one.
Although we’ve seen plenty of photos and snippets from the distillery, it really doesn’t prepare you for the atmosphere and experience. We had the pleasure of a private tour with Shona Maclennan who explained the story behind the distillery including the unique slab that’s been incorporated into the tasing room. Everything about the distillery showcases the links to the island and proud heritage of island life. With depopulation of Scotland’s islands playing a role in slow decline of island communities the fact the distillery has created 40 jobs for the island is something that should be celebrated.
We also had a good chat with Mike Donald, the resident storyteller. Mike told us about how the distillery, known as the community distillery, has proved a popular attraction on the island with tours selling out online consistently. Although a business and distillery that’s proud of the islands heritage, including the use of the world famous Harris Tweed, which you’ll find dotted around the distillery in some ingenious ways, the distillery has one eye on the future with its whisky currently ageing, which when ready will be another part of the island’s history.
For us as gin drinkers, it was cool getting to see ‘Dottach’ up close, the gin still used to distil Isle of Harris Gin. It was great learning more about the nine key botanicals that go into the Isle of Harris Gin plus getting to try the Sugar Kelp seaweed, a key maritime botanical that goes into the gin. It’s difficult not to gush when you have a great team of people who clearly care about the distillery and island, who have been very supportive of us from early on and who love what they do, it’s a pleasure to finally meet the real people behind the business. The Isle of Harris team have a lot to be proud of given what they’ve achieved in a relatively short period of time. It shows that despite geographical restrictions, with the right support, bold vision and good people, a business can overcome almost anything. Besides the gin, the people at the distillery imbue the true spirit of Harris.
Learn more about Isle of Harris Distillers here.
Isle of Skye Distillers, Portree
We finally made it to the mysterious and mystical Isle of Skye. An island that’s famous for its landscape and untamed beauty. Brothers Thomas and Alistair Wilson, both natives of Skye, set out in 2016 to establish a distillery that would capture Skye in a bottle. Over the last 18 months we’ve met and talked with Thomas and Alistair on a number of occasions but never made the trip west.
Based in their purpose built distillery building in Skye’s capital Portree, it was interesting to learn how they developed 13 recipes for their Misty Isle Gin before finally deciding to go with recipe number one. Proud of their Island and provenance of being form Skye, making their gins and vodka on Skye and building their homes, businesses and lives on Skye, it’s impossible to not feel enthusiastic and excited about what the future holds for Isle of Skye Distillers.
With their bottle shop in the town centre, which is also home to their Gin School, the Wilson brothers understand the value of not only producing premium spirits but also creating a truly memorable Scottish Gin experience for the visitors to Portree. A small rural business doing great things with lots of great ideas for the future whilst remaining true to their own ethos – it’s both impressive and inspiring.
We also found time to visit the Commando Memorial at Lochaber. With their family ties to the Armed Forces, including both Thomas and their late Father, also Thomas, it’s this memorial that features on their Tommy’s Gin label. It’s yet again a shining example of how the Wilson brothers have sympathetically and carefully managed to incorporate their own family ties into their business and the Scottish spirits they produce.
Learn more about Isle of Skye Distillers here.
Isle of Raasay Distillery, Raasay
Just a 15 minute journey from Sconsor on the Isle of Skye, a ferry takes you to the Isle of Raasay, a small island situated between Skye and mainland Scotland. We met some of team behind the Isle of Raasay Distillery, the first legal distillery on the island which produces whisky and their very own Isle of Raasay Hebridean Gin.
It was great to see the finished distillery and chat with the head distiller about the challenges of island life and establishing a distillery that involved bringing all of the materials over by boat. Plus having to bring over a combine harvester to help them harvest the barley they’ve grown in a nearby field, the first to be grown on the island for nearly 40 years! We were also impressed with the distillation system Italian still makers Frilli had designed and installed, that means the distillation team can run their gin through the whisky still thanks to an ingenious botanicals chamber.
Although we couldn’t see much of the views from the distillery, thanks to the changing weather, we really loved seeing what the team had achieved in a short period of time including a visit to the bonded warehouse to see the number and variety of casks that have been filled so far. The team’s enthusiasm for the island and distillery was clear to see and we loved all the details in the distillery including the glass bottles featured in the wall in the Gathering Room… we won’t spoil it but if you do visit be sure to ask what the story behind this lovely little detail in the distillery is about.
Learn more about Isle of Raasay Distillery here.
Pixel Spirits, North Ballachulish
From the first time we saw the labels for their gins, we were impressed with the creativity and originality, so it was nice for us to finally catch up with Craig and Noru Innes at the distillery and Gin School in North Ballachulish. Operating what must be the smallest sized iStill in Scottish Gin, Craig and Noru have managed to create gins that are flavoursome and represent what Pixel Spirits is about – true small batch hand crafted gins full of character and heart.
Alongside their distillery, they also established the first Gin School in Scotland where you can use a mini copper still to distil your own gin. With a range of botanicals to choose from under the guidance of Craig or Noru, you can develop your own gin recipe before distilling and bottling your own gin to take home.
The Pixel Spirits team also provide contract distillation services mostly aimed at small batch gins for hotels, shops and other small independent businesses. It was great to hear that the Pixel Spirits team have certain conditions and criteria that have to be met before they would consider making a contract gin. It would be easy to open the door and make gins for anyone who wanted one but making sure there is a framework based around transparency and integrity is an indicator that they’re mindful of the ups and downs of offering this service.
It goes without saying like every other distillery we’ve visited, it doesn’t matter what size of still you operate, the distillery footprint or how many products you have, the gin makers we’ve met and work with all share very similar values – they care about their products, they work extremely hard, have taken great risks to establish their businesses. Their passion, care, creativity and enthusiasm for making great gin cannot be measured.
Learn more about Pixel Spirits here.
Lost Loch Spirits, Aboyne
Although our recent research showed Aberdeenshire produces the third highest number of gin expressions in Scotland, up until very recently there wasn’t anywhere to try your hand at making your own gin. Lost Loch Spirits, the team behind eeNoo Scottish Gin and Murmichan, the first Scottish Absinthe, have just finished work on their new gin and spirits school.
We’ve visited the team at Lost Loch Spirits a few times in the last 18 months, the distillery is situated 30 minutes in the car from where we’re based, and with every visit their distillery has been transformed and evolved in one way or another. Like many of Scotland’s gin makers and brand owners, the co-founders Richard and Peter both have young families and full-time jobs alongside running the distillery.
Learn more about Lost Loch Spirits here.
The Gin Cooperative Features August 2019
Here’s a look back at the editorial features we published in August 2019.
Scottish Gin News Round-Up July 2019 – read it here.
What’s New Pussycat? – read it here.
The Wonderful World of Scottish Gin, David Hughes, The Gin School Scotland – read it here.
Our People, Kinrara Distillery – read it here.
Time for Gin, Claire & Martin Murray, Dunnet Bay Distillers – watch it here.
Meet the Maker, Alex Christou, Eight Lands – read it here.
Growing with Gin, Calum & Rebecca Napier, Wee Hemp Spirits – read it here.