Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a Fruit Salad.
Continual Personal Development or Lifelong Learning? Call it what you will, but it’s clearly A THING.
From ‘celebrities’ making Tangoed flat footed fools of themselves in front of millions of toe tapping viewers on Strictly as they journey from comic clodhoppers to graceful gyrators. Or the rush for the home baking aisles at Waitrose after an episode of Bake Off. It is all around us.
Experts tell us that Self Improvement also helps with overall wellness. It may even help to stave off dementia and definitely helps the brain to create more neural pathways and faster progress of the electrical impulses jetting through them, which I consider to be generally A GOOD THING.
For those of us with neural pathway envy, for whom a lobe is what an earring hangs from, I also hear it will make us a more interesting person. Winner, winner, chicken dinner, what are we waiting for?
Of course, the first question is ‘What do I need to know’?
Someone clever once said that ‘it’s not about how much you know, but about how much you know you still have to learn’. I think that’s what we’re doing here. Bear with me.
Second question ‘Will I be interested enough to see it through?’ Well that’s right where Ginspired Scotland can help!
Imagine if you will a new skill which will make you the envy of your friends, the goto for everything on the topic, a source of constant inspiration for Christmas presents, birthday presents AND gives you a new hobby to be enjoyed every day of the week (well Thursdays to Sundays mostly).
SCOTTISH GIN SCHOOLS! Is the answer. ‘How?’ I hear you demand breathlessly.
Read on dear friend, read on…..
Scotland now has a range of Gin Schools across the country offering something for everyone. Don’t worry if you’re a complete novice and know nothing of the seductive alchemy of the botanicals, or equally if you passed every single chemistry exam your teachers could concoct, you too can be challenged and educated in the wondrous world of Scottish Gin.
West Highland Gin Schools
Pixel Spirits Gin School is situated in the Old Byre on the shores of Loch Leven between Glen Coe and Fort William.
Around 3 hours from Edinburgh, and not much more than 2 hours from Glasgow, this really is one of the most beautiful parts of the Highlands with dramatic mountain scenery, skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, and oh yes, gin making!
The Gin School is led by founder and master distiller Craig who takes small groups through the key botanicals used to create favourite gin flavours, before making a batch of your very own bespoke gin and a bottle each to take away complete with personalised label as proof of your efforts. Now that’s my kind of homework!
The course lasts around 4 hours and costs £89 per person. Accommodation at the adjoining Loch Leven Hotel is the obvious choice.
Whilst you’re in the area, make a proper break of it and explore the region. You’re right next door to Glen Coe here, so don’t leave without soaking up that spectacle. The Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe has it’s own gin too. Just slightly to the north is Ben Nevis and the ski areas of Nevis Range and Aonach Mor. The world class downhill mountain bike track runs underneath the chairlift which will take you up to the plateau at 650 metres where even the unadventurous can enjoy stunning views of the Great Glen, Ben Nevis, and sometimes as far as the islands of the Inner Hebrides. Aonach Mor now also produces it’s own Gin, bottles of which can be purchased or nips enjoyed in the Pine Marten Café and the Snow Goose Restaurant. Aonach Mor Gin
The Crannog Restaurant in Fort William is exactly as its name describes – built out on stilts over the water of Loch Linnhe. Whilst specialising in seafood as you might expect, they offer a delicious menu to suit everyone, as well as a great range of Scottish Gins and knowledgeable staff to guide you through them.
Right next door is Crannog Cruises offering 90 minute cruises on Loch Linnhe between April and October. So you can enjoy a leisurely lunch and then take to the water to feast your eyes on the scenery and wildlife too – positively indulgent!
The Moorings Hotel is another local landmark, and makes a great base to head into the mountains, or follow the Road to the Isles to the west. Situated beside the flight of locks on the Caledonian Canal known as Neptune’s Staircase (also the name of Pixel Spirits’ gin), it is five minutes west of Fort William and enjoys spectacular views of Nevis Range and the Loch. Over fifteen Scottish Gins are stocked in the bar, including those of the two local producers, Pixel Spirits & Lochaber Gin.
Lochaber Gin is also available in Deli-Craft and also Blas, it’s restaurant base and home, both on the High Street of Fort William. Blas (Gaelic for taste or flavour) is also newly offering pre-dinner gin tastings, which for a miserly £12 aim to help you to discover your favourite gin! What’s not to like about that? Blas is fast becoming a destination in it’s own right, so why not be the first of your friends to discover it?
For those in need of a special treat or with deeper pockets, Inverlochy Castle offers all the luxury and service of a historic five star hotel. It was once visited by Queen Victoria who held it in great affection, and the views of Ben Nevis across the manicured gardens are something very special.
City Gin Schools
If for you the ‘outdoors type’ means enjoying your Scottish Gin & Tonic on the patio, something more urban might be your choice. Eden Mill only started their Blendworks at Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews around a year ago, but have already expanded Blendworks to Glasgow’s Princes Square, alongside Jax bar eatery.
Eden Mill Gin School comprises two and a half hours of learning and experimenting in the hands of the experts, and results in 3 x 20cl bottles of your gin, nosing glasses, pencil and notebook, a gift box and a certificate as well as several drinks. Priced at £95, they also offer gift certificates, which may solve many Christmas present problems. So, St Andrews or central Glasgow, the choice is (gin) clearly yours.
Staying in Glasgow, Crossbill Gins Hatchery Gin School in the heart of the city’s east end, where, under the eye of founder Jonathan Engels, you’ll construct your own basket of botanicals and distil your own gin in a miniature pot still. Adorned with your bespoke label, this experience costs £90 and for a limited period a friend can come along for free! Build in some Christmas shopping and it sounds as though a plan is well and truly hatching! Various dates in November and December are available. For 2019, courses will be happening on the first and last Saturday of every month, all of them hosted by Jonathan himself, and if you can make up a party, he may run a special course on your own choice of date.
Deeside and Cairngorms Gin Schools
For a complete contrast, Still River Gin has linked up with the lovely Tor na Coille Hotel in gracious Banchory. The hotel has recently renovated a garden Bothy which lends itself perfectly to a private Gin School experience, and benefiting from the award winning kitchens of the main hotel. The Gin Experience is hosted by spirits expert Peter Sim, in conjunction with the Still River team, and can morph seamlessly into a multi-course gin tasting menu in the Bothy, with its underfloor heating and wood burning stove. It makes perfect sense to stay overnight afterwards and to enjoy more of what Royal Deeside has to offer, and as a pre or post-Christmas treat or voucher would make a lovely gift for a gin-loving friend. The Twin River Gin School experience, followed by a private eight course tasting menu for dinner and overnight for two in a deluxe room would come in at around £500 per couple, but my oh my, wouldn’t you be popular!
Heading back west to the Cairngorms and the source of the River Spey, to Strathmashie, and the spiritual home of Daffy’s Gin. An established favourite, Daffy’s now have a small still set up at Strathmashie House and owner/founder Chris Molyneaux will take you through the gin making process in detail. You can choose to combine a foraging trip with your gin experience, in which case you’ll also discover the wide range of locally growing botanicals which combine to bring Daffy’s flavours to life. The price for a Daffys Gin School Experience lasting around 3 hours and including your own bottle to take home, costs £90. Accommodation is also available on the estate, which allows you to explore more of this lovely area which is often driven through rather than enjoyed to its fullest.
Space and time doesn’t allow me to cover every gin school I’m afraid. The Wilson brothers at Misty Isle and Tommy’s Gin in Portree will also share their knowledge with students, and Porters Gin in Aberdeen run educational experiences. Lost Loch Distillery, home of Eenoo Gin can run bespoke sessions for groups, and the guys at Crafty Distillery’s Hills and Harbour Gin in Newton Stewart offer a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how their gin is created, and I could go on, and on.
So, you now have no excuse. Go out there and broaden your mind, your palate, and your circle of gin friends – what’s stopping you? Scottish Gin and Tourism – a refreshing combination!