With a strong history in brewing and distilling, it no surprise that Scotland is producing some of the best gins in the world, but what has brought about the dramatic increase in the numbers of small craft gin distilleries in recent years?
Several of the most famous gins are produced in Scotland; Tanquery, Gordons and Hendricks to name a few. But in 2009, the landscape changed dramatically when London gin distillers Sipsmith challenged a 250 year old law that classed gin producers with stills smaller than 1,000 litres as bootleg operations.
The Sipsmith license being granted paved the way for craft producers all over the UK; like husband and wife team Martin and Claire Murray from Caithness. Martin had been interested in distilling since university but followed a career in the oil and gas industry. The prospect of an unwelcome move abroad was the catalyst he needed to bite the bullet and pursue his dream in distilling. Fast forward to August 2014 and the first batch of Rock Rose gin, in its distinctive ceramic bottle, sold out within days. “It’s a product we’re immensely proud of,” Martin said, “we’re delighted with the reaction to it.”
So what makes Scottish gin so special? Whilst there’s not one definitive style amongst Scottish gins, what they do have in common is quality. Each distiller is passionate about making an excellent product and pushing the boundaries of innovation. For example, Perthshire distillery Strathearn have produced an unusual oaked gin whilst Eden Mill of St Andrews launched the UK’s first ever hopped gin.
Gin is an accessible luxury where even the most premium brands are likely to set you back less than £10 for a G&T. Edinburgh bar, 56 North, has the biggest collection of gins in Scotland with an average of 170 available at any one time. James Sutherland, owner and Director of the bar, has noticed the public have become more discerning when it comes to gin. “People are interested in quality and want to know where their spirits are made. Provenance is more important than ever before.”
There are lots of opportunities to sample the delights of Scottish craft gin for yourself in 2015. What better way to celebrate World Gin Day than with like-minded people at the Scottish Juniper Festival? Held at Summerhall in Edinburgh between 12th and 14th June, the festival will offer demonstrations and gin cocktails a-plenty. Alternatively, Inverness will host North Hop, a craft beer and artisan gin festival on August 21st and 22nd. Or how about a Scottish Gin and cheese tasting class at 56 North in Edinburgh? You can even see gin being produced first-hand by visiting a distillery like Eden Mill in St Andrews.