food

Scottish Gin is Having a Moment

Geranium Mallow Old Curiosity. Photo by Laura Meek

Photo by Laura Meek

There’s a good chance you’ve sampled a Scottish gin but may not have realized it. Three of the world’s best-selling gins are produced in Scotland, including Tanqueray, Gordon’s, and Hendrick’s. But Scotland’s gin scene has exploded beyond the major brands, thanks to a recent boom in craft gin. Scotland is home to about 50 gin distilleries and accounts for 70% of the UK’s gin production.

Why is Scotland, best known for its whisky, becoming the epicenter of British gin? Scotland has deep historical ties to gin; the country has been drinking (and distilling) gin since the 1700s. Many of Scotland’s whisky distilleries have also produced gin to help boost revenue. Whisky production has a long lead time, as it needs to be aged anywhere from five to 20 years, while a bottle of gin can be distilled in about three days.

Gin’s core ingredient, the juniper berry, is native to Scotland, and many distilleries use locally-sourced botanicals and herbs to flavor the drink.

Beyond the financial reasons, Scotland’s wild and rugged landscape is also ideal for crafting gin with unique flavor. Gin’s core ingredient, the juniper berry, is native to Scotland, and many distilleries use locally-sourced botanicals and herbs to flavor the drink. One distillery even uses the waters from Loch Ness in its gin.

Whether you like your gin garnished with cucumber, lemon, or served with tonic, here’s a look at five craft distilleries in Scotland. It’s gin o-clock somewhere in the world, so enjoy this favorite summer drink.

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THE BOTANIST
Although the island of Islay in the Hebrides is better known for its whisky, it’s also home to the small-batch The Botanist. The gin is crafted from a blend of nine classic botanicals, including the all-important juniper berry, along with lemon peel, coriander seed, and cinnamon bark. These ingredients are then blended with 22 wild botanicals hand-foraged on Islay, including the hardy yellow bedstraw.

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EDINBURGH GIN DISTILLERY
Located in the heart of Scotland’s capital, the Edinburgh Gin Distillery offers tours as well as tastings. The company offers a wide selection of gins, spanning a classic London-style tipple to the Navy Strength Cannonball, an homage to Edinburgh’s seafaring past. Perfect for the summer is the pink-hued Valentine’s Gin, which contains rose and hibiscus flowers. Or add a splash of the company’s Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur to a tonic.

Photo by Laura Meek

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OLD CURIOSITY
The Secret Herb Garden is a hidden gem located on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It’s a combination nursery, café and vintage shop, and the owners have recently started distilling their own brand of gin, Old Curiosity, using herbs and botanicals from their garden. Old Curiosity comes in three garden-inspired flavors: Apothecary Rose, Lavender and Echinacea, and Chamomile and Cornflower. The drinks are 100%-naturally distilled, and are free from sugars and chemicals.

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HOUSE OF ELRICK
Based in Aberdeen, the House of Elrick creates small-batch gin using filtered water from Loch Ness. The core flavors of the drink are from hand-picked heather, pink peppercorns, sweet fennel, and rose. Rounding out the flavors are classic botanicals including coriander, citrus, and angelica. The result is a bold, earthy flavor. Only 600 bottles are distilled in each batch run.

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NB GIN
Today, NB’s gin has been named the “World’s Best London Dry Gin” at the 2015 World’s Best Awards and was also the gin of choice for society British event planner Johnny Roxburgh, who has worked with the Royal Family. The gin was featured in Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations as well as the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. For a stronger drink, try the Navy Strength gin at 57% proof.

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