Scottish Gin is undergoing a renaissance just now, some are calling it a ‘ginaissance’!
The industry is buzzing as entrepreneurs explore the possibilities of small batch gins, which reflect their local area by the flavours they contain. The growth in the industry is on a scale never seen before.
Exploring Scotland’s regions guided by gin is a wonderful sensory experience which until now has never been possible. Be the first – be Ginspired!
In addition to the mandatory juniper berries, the range of botanical flavours is seemingly endless. We’re seeing a variety of different seaweeds and kelps, which contribute briny characters as well as smooth and silky textures to the spirit. Some are added fresh from the sea or shoreline, others are first dried and crumbled in. Berries of all types from rowans and sea buckthorn to brambles and blaeberries (Scottish blueberries). Some are almost indigestible to humans but give wonderful nuances when they encounter spirit vapours.
Most of the botanicals are seasonal of course, which in itself can limit the volume of gin produced. Some Ginneries have developed seasonal expressions to take account of this, and just as food eaten in season always tastes better, perhaps we should think about having spring, summer, autumn and winter gins in our cocktail cabinets!
It shouldn’t surprise us that Scotland is leading this revolution, as after all we have the expertise of hundreds of years of Scotch Whisky production in our genes. Gin in it’s simplest form (pre-juniper) is whisky before it’s been stored in oak casks for 3 years or more. Scotland is the only place in the world that offers a University Degree in Brewing and Distilling, and scholars come from around the globe to study here. In the days when uisge beathe (‘uisge’ became ‘whisky’ when anglicised) was produced by crofters from surplus barley, it was stored in oak casks as they were readily available and used to store many perishables including fish! The casks’ influence was found to remove the rough edges from the spirit, and if stored for lengthy periods the finished whisky could achieve better prices. However, we might assume that much of the spirit was consumed a little earlier and flavoured with locally available herbs and berries, almost certainly including juniper which grew wild in the highlands. These days thankfully the skills of the distillers have evolved and the botanicals are used to add flavour rather than cover any rough edges!