Scottish gin needs your attention. No, not whisky, though you’re not wrong if you thought that was a typo. Whisky and Scotland are practically synonymous, with over 120 active distilleries in the country.
But Scotland produces some of the world’s best-known gins including Hendrick’s, Tanqueray and Gordon’s, even though gin is more likely to be associated as an English drink. In fact, 70 percent of gin produced in the UK is made in Scotland. And as more whisky distillers try their hand at making some finely crafted gin, the industry is seeing a boom, with new options popping up and sales increasing.
It’s easy to understand why gin production would thrive in Scotland, with natural botanicals like Scottish juniper and pure water readily available to create the spirit. It might not put hair on your chest like a dram of whisky, but it will certainly go down smoothly after a long day at work.
Since there’s an increase of varieties coming out of the country, you can start your foray into craft Scottish gin. If you can’t make it to Scotland to try some at one of the many bars that offer a wide selection, there are some options to look out for in your local liquor shop or order online. Here are some recommendations to add to your liquor cabinet:
Rock Rose Gin
Coming from the Highlands, Rock Rose Gin makes good use of the local botanicals in the area. The gin gets its name from the Rhodiola Rosea that grows in the area, once harvested by the Vikings to give them extra strength on their journeys. While this gin won’t give you extra strength or protect you from “ghosts and ghoulies” as it says on the website, it will introduce you to a full-bodied, fresh and zesty liquor.
Dunnet Bay Distillers is a family affair, owned and operated by Martin and Claire Murray. They’ve been making gin since 2014 and have since added more varieties and vodka. Scottish pride must be one of their ingredients too, since they list Caithness, the county in which they live, as part of the team.
This brand happens to be a personal favorite, aka the one that spurred interest in Scottish gin in the first place. A visiting friend brought over a bottle of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin, and I was hooked. It’s sweet and aromatic, and then you get a spiciness from the ginger that warms you up. You could certainly sip it over some ice if you like, though a little bit of good tonic water gives your traditional gin and tonic a nice twist.
Edinburgh Gin also offers flavored liqueurs and other varieties of gin including the standard classic, Seaside (getting inspiration from the East Coast beaches near Edinburgh) and a Christmas gin, invoking flavors and feelings of the holiday season.
Eden Mill is brewed and distilled in St. Andrews, a city better-known for golf rather than top-notch gin. But the gin coming out of this distillery is not to be ignored, as the distillery combines its passion for the area with its commitment to producing a fine gin. Eden Mill even makes a variety called Golf Gin, an homage to the coastal golf courses around Scotland, using the botanicals that grow around them. It’s described as “a perfect summer tipple but like golf, can be enjoyed all year round.” So, there’s your permission to break out this “botanically rich” spirit whenever you want.
But other innovative creations are worthy of your attention as well, such as the aptly named Love Gin, pink from berries and florals, and the bourbon-aged Oak Gin. The creativity that comes out of Eden Mill will satiate any desire for something different, unique craft products made with care. Plus, their beer and whisky offerings aren’t half bad either.
Wild Island Botanic Gin
The bottle alone is enough to make you want to have Wild Island Botanic Gin in your liquor cabinet displayed proudly for everyone to see. Watercolors are beautifully splashed to form a logo that uses the colors of nearby Kiloran Bay as inspiration. Earthy greens, deep blues, warm oranges and yellows adorn the front of the bottle — you’ll be enamored before you even take a sip. Be right back, swooning and rushing to book a trip to Kiloran Bay immediately.
What’s inside the bottle is just as good as what’s on it, of course. At the heart of Wild Island Botanic Gin are six botanicals native to the Isle of Colonsay where the gin is made. Imagine gathering Heather flowers, lemon balm, wild water mint and more on a sunny summer day surrounded by coastal bounty and crafting the best Scottish gin you can muster. This gin is truly for the romantic at heart, and perhaps anyone else who dreams of giving it all up for simpler beach lifestyle.
Hills & Harbour Gin
It’s a gin for everybody, not just “Victorian Gents” or “Soho Sipsters.” Hills & Harbour Gin, made by Crafty Distillery, is accessible, unique and tasty, promising ingredients that you know how to pronounce and quality that won’t break the bank. You won’t find “trendy nonsense” in this gin. Instead, the distillery gives you innovation and a bolt of inspiration, which is why their logo is a lightning bolt. Just like the other gins listed, Hills & Harbour is made with local botanicals, using Noble Fir needles and Bladderwrack seaweed found in Galloway.
Hills & Harbour Gin is a grain-to-glass distillery, meaning that they make their own wheat-based spirit from local grain. It’s the kind of dedication that Crafty Distillery thrives on. If you’re lucky enough to make your way to Scotland, you can also become a crafter yourself, with the option to go on a Galloway Gin Escape. You get to explore the coastlines while foraging for gin botanicals and learn how to make it. Whether you choose to visit the distillery or go on an escape, you’ll still come to understand the pride in this gin.
Scottish gin isn’t a new concept and is definitely worth the respect it’s already received. There are many more brands out there with all sorts of mixtures of botanicals, but the shared main ingredient is not just juniper or alcohol — it’s the country itself. The essence of Scotland is in these bottles, each sip a tribute to Caledonia.
Here is a simple and fresh recipe using Wild Island Botanic Gin