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Is gin overtaking whisky as Scotland’s national drink? Too bold a claim, maybe. But when you consider 70% of all UK gin is now produced north of the border, Scottish gin deserves to be recognised as a serious industry.
Scottish craft gin
The 70% figure can mostly be attributed to industry giant Diageo relocating production of Gordon’s and Tanquery to Fife in 1998, although both these brands are considered London gins.
However, there are also a number of smaller, craft gin brands, from the remote Shetland Isles (Shetland Reel gin) to the rugged Scottish Highlands (Caorunn gin) to The Botanist gin from Bruichladdich distillery on the Isle of Islay.
History of distilling
Perhaps Scotland’s gin resurgence is not too surprising. In recent years the spirit has experienced a huge rise in popularity, evolving from your granny’s favourite tipple to a staple in every stylish bar. In a country with a rich history of distilling, the rise of Scottish gins may be a natural progression.
James Sutherland, owner of 56 North Bar & Restaurant in Edinburgh, which has one of the largest gin collections in the country, seems to think so.
“The beauty of what we’ve got with Scottish gin is that there’s not one style of Scottish gin,” James says. “We don’t produce one flavour, we produce loads.”
“The lovely thing about Scottish gins is that I can say, hand on my heart, they are all superb, we are very lucky. We’ve got a rich background of distilling and brewing malt whisky and beer and that experience relates beautifully to our gins. 70% of all gin made in the UK is made in Scotland so it is a huge industry and we have a hell of a lot to be proud of.”
Many of Scotland’s craft gin distillers use botanicals from their local environment to influence the gin; for example the botanicals of Rock Rose Gin from Dunnet Bay, Caithness, are dependent on climate so will subtly change year on year, and Hop Gin from St Andrews releases seasonal gins based on what botanicals are available from St Andrew’s Botanical Gardens.
With an increase in recent years on eating seasonally and with many restaurants keen to emphasis their use of local produce, it makes sense the focus on locality and foraging for ingredients has translated to the drinks industry.
Forget grabbing a tonic and chucking it in your gin with a slice of lemon. Each Scottish craft distiller recommends a garnish that complements the gin’s notes, such as kiwi fruit served with Shetland Reel, lemongrass or pink grapefruit with Pickering’s or, most famously, cucumber with Hendrick’s gin.
In the infographic above, you can explore Scottish gins by location, botanicals and recommended garnish.
Use it as your go to guide and ginspiration. How many have you ticked off?
Get a printable version of this Gin Infographic here.