This is the second part of our story of 10 awesome independent Scottish gin manufacturers. For this post, we head down into Central Scotland and start our journey in Perthshire before going across into Fife. We then find the next 2 gins in and around Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh before we finish our Scottish gin trip in the wonderful city of Glasgow. You can find the first part of the story here.
In that last post, the 5 Gins featured were all from the Highlands and Islands in the Northern Part of Scotland. The feedback from that post was amazing. Most people associate Scotland with Whisky rather than Gin, so it was good to take a few people by surprise. It was also great to have the chance to showcase some great independent businesses that people might not have heard of. When you go shopping, it’s easy to grab familiar brands from the usual big faceless corporations, but one of the main reasons for this blog is to challenge you to seek out new stuff where you get to support people, families and communities. So without further ado, lets start the final leg of our Scottish Gin Tour.
Strathearn Scottish Gin – From Whisky to Gin
We start the 2nd part of our Scottish Gin tour in the village of Methven, which sits in beautiful countryside on the A85 west of Perth. Here we find what is probably one of the smallest Gin distillers in the whole of Scotland. The Distillery was founded in 2013 by Tony Reeman-Clark. Initially, he started out adding to the growing number of Whisky makers in Scotland.
In common with many other new Distilleries, the need to age Whisky for quite a long time left a cash flow gap that needed to be filled with something else. It was at this point that Tony turned his hand to Gin and having tasted most of their varied range I am very glad he did. So will you, if you try some of his amazing Gin flavours. You can read more about Tony and the other members of the Strathearn Distillery team on their website here. It’s great to feature another local business that sits at the heart of their small village community.
Learn the Art of Gin Making
The wide range of Gin that Tony and the team make is a huge passion for all of them. They share this passion through a number of different tasting experiences. If you have ever fancied the idea of being a distiller yourself, they are even happy to share a few of their secrets at their Distillers Experience where you can spend up to 5 days with them learning all about the art of distilling.
Four Different Types of Gin
Their different varieties of Gin start with their famous Juniper Gin. As the name suggests this has wonderful Juniper flavours at its heart. It has a light peppery taste and a gentle sherbet finish as the citrus develops later on in the mouth.
There is also the Heather Rose Gin, which is an amazing Whisky colour in the bottle. When you add tonic to it there is a transformation to a delicate pink colour. It is made by compounding a base gin with additional delicate botanicals such as rose petals and purple heather flowers. This add both extra flavour and colour to it.
Next is the Oaked Highland Gin, where Whisky and Gin meet in a smooth oaky flavour. With notes of juniper, citrus and vanilla it is finished off with a subtle smokiness.
Finally, there is Citrus Gin that is designed for use in cocktails and long-drinks. This is made with elements of zest, herbs and spices that includes a hint of Italian lemons and Spanish grapefruit with kaffir lime leaves and star anise. At Strathearn they have an amazing selection of Gin made by a dedicated and passionate group of people.
Eden Mill Gin – Guardbridge
Gin Right Next to RAF Leuchars
The Eden Mill Distillery holds a very special place in my heart. I spent a memorable couple of years stationed at RAF Leuchars, which is right next to their distillery in the village of Guardbridge near St Andrews. This was about 15 years ago and back then the distillery was a working paper mill. Sadly, the mill closed in 2008 with the loss of 180 jobs. It was a terrible blow to a small village like Guardbridge, so it is fantastic that the site is back in action. The location of the distillery at the site brings history back full circle. Originally, the site was first used in 1810 by the Haig family for their Seggie Whisky Distillery. It was turned into a Mill in 1874 in an attempt by the family to find a most profitable business.
From An Idea to A Great Distillery
The Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery began in 2012. It was founded by Paul Miller, who has an enviable reputation in the brewing industry. He previously worked for the huge brewery company Molson Coors as well as Diageo and Glenmorangie. Back in 2006 after a day looking after the former company’s CEO, Pete Coors, on a golfing trip to St Andrews he was asked to arrange a tour of the nearest brewery or distillery later that day. Being unable to think of any distilleries or breweries in the St Andrews area, the idea for Eden Mill was conceived.
Having discovered that the a Guardbridge Paper Mill might be available, the company was formed with some private investors. The goal was to establish a sustainable business at the heart of it’s local community. In just a few years, Eden Mill has gone from strength to strength. Today it employs around 40 people making not just Gin, but also Whisky and some wonderful Beer as well.
Eden Mill Gin – 3 Different Varieties
Eden Mill make 3 different types of gin. The Original Gin is a classic London Dry that is made using local Fife seabuckthorn berries. It’s tart berry flavour is balanced with citrus elements drawn from other botanicals such as lemon balm and citrus peel. Next up, they have Love Gin which is a light blush Pink Gin that perfectly combines local botanicals and exotic fruits. Finally, in homage to St Andrews “The home of Golf”, there is Golf Gin that is inspired by the many different botanicals that grow around the gold courses in the local area. You can read more about their different gins (and the whisky and beer as well) on their website here.
Read All About the Eden Mill Team
On the From Real People blog, I love telling the stories of independent businesses like Eden Mill. Hopefully I can inspire more people to make different choices when they shop. One of the things I particularly love about Eden Mill is that their website’s contact page tells the story behind all the members of the brewery/ distillery team. Take a look and remind yourself that buying a bottle of Eden Mill gin helps all these people feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. You can also take a range of different tours of their Eden Mill. It’s a perfect idea for a great day out if you are ever in St Andrews.
From a Pressure Cooker to Perfection
For the 3rd Gin in this tour of Central Scotland, we head East from Edinburgh to North Berwick. This is where the lovely folk who make NB Gin are located. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NB name comes from the seaside town in East Lothian where husband and wife team Vivienne and Steve Muir create 2 varieties of Gin as well as some amazing Vodka. Their Gin journey started by experimenting in their kitchen at with a pressure cooker and some old central heating pipes. They used their makeshift ‘still’ to create the perfect blend of botanicals worthy of putting their name to. Armed with an awesome London Gin recipe they invested in a custom-built still and the distillery was formed.
London Dry Gin Perfection
NB Gin make 2 different varieties of Gin. First up is their classic London Dry Gin, which is a clean and crisp perfect grain spirit with 42% ABV. In 2015, just two years after starting the distillery, Vivienne and Steve’s Gin was voted the Best London Dry Gin in the world. Their other Gin is a 57% ABV ‘Navy Strength’ Gin. This higher ABV is the proof at which gunpowder would still ignite, should gin be spilt on it. It was the established way Navy officers would test the strength of their gin supplies, ensuring that they were not diluted by unscrupulous suppliers or fellow sailors.
Tours Coming Soon…..
In the coming months, Vivenne and Steve will start doing tours of their distillery at Halfland Barns, near Tantallon Castle. The tours will aim to establish an experience of learning and luxury like no other distillery tour experienced before. As a small distillery they will be welcoming you to their home and sharing their continual search for perfection. You can find out more about NB Gin on their website here.
A Long History of Gin in Edinburgh – Who’d Have Thought
As we head towards the end of our Gin Tour of Scotland, our penultimate stop is in Scotland’s capital. In the West End at the foot of the famous Castle is the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. You might be surprised to learn that there is a long history of Gin making in Edinburgh. There are records of countless distilleries that go back to the 1700s. By 1777 there were eight Gin Distilleries in the city, When unregistered stills are taken into account the number was almost 400! Most of these were centred around the Leith docks. With very close trading links with the Netherlands, the gin makers had easy access to a wide range of spices. The closure of the Melrose Drover Distillery in 1974 saw Edinburgh’s long association with Gin draw to an end.
The Nichol Family and the Spencerfield Spirit Company
The company behind Edinburgh Gin is the Spencerfield Spirit Company, who have a long tradition as a great business with community and family values at their core. The company was first established in 1970 as a Whisky distillery by husband and wife team Alex and Jane Nichol. As far back as 1970 Alex put his experience working for Glenmorangie to good use with the wonderful Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose Whiskys. In 2010 they branched out into Gin and launched the first batch of Edinburgh Gin.
Bringing Gin Back to Edinburgh
The distillery brought Gin making back to Edinburgh in 2014 with the opening of their current site in the West End of the city. Their two stills called Flora and Caledonia create the magic under the watchful eye of David who is their lead distiller. The Distillery also has an amazing partnership with nearby Heriot-Watt University, which sees the Distilling done by students as part of a knowledge transfer programme with their brewing and distilling course. More recently, the Nichol family have partnered with Ian Macloed Distillers who are another independent family business with a long heritage in the drinks business. You can read more about the Nichols and the Spencerfield Spirit Company on their website here.
A Wonderful Range of Amazing Gin
The classic Edinburgh Gin is a perfect balance of locally sourced and grown Scottish botanicals that includes juniper berries, milk thistle, pine and heather. They also have the wonderful Cannonball, Navy Strength Gin as well. From there, the full selection is extremely wide and varied. There is Christmas Gin with rich spices and sweet orange that has almost a honey like quality that is amazing on a cold winter evening. For the summer, there the wonderful Seaside Gin that is made with seaweed, ground ivy and scurvy grass. It’s like a bottled version of the amazing coastal villages in Fife that I love so much. Add to that some amazing flavoured liqueurs including Raspberry (my wife’s favourite), Elderflower, Plum and Vanilla as well as Rhubarb and Ginger there is one for everyone.
Not only can you take a tour of the Edinburgh Distillery, but you can also enjoy their gin with some great food at their Heads and Tales Bar. Read more about both the Distillery and the Bar on their website here. I also found an amazing post from fellow blogger Victoria on her Bridges and Balloons site describing her trip gin tasting at the distillery, check it here.
The Glasgow Distillery Company – Makar Gin
Final Stop – Glasgow
For the final stop on this tour of independent Scottish Gin makers we head to the wonderful city of Glasgow. My wife Trudy is originally from a town just outside Glasgow so I’ve spent a lot of time there so it’s the perfect place to finish. I meet a lot of people who haven’t been there but have misconceptions about it not being the kind of place you would visit on a holiday or city break. If you haven’t been, I really would recommend it. There are some fantastic galleries like the Kelvingrove Art Museum and the Burrell Collection. You can even visit the house of the amazing Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There’s the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel, the Science museum, the River Clyde, parks and amazing shopping as well. For an evening out, there’s the wonderful cobbled Ashton Lane. It really is a fab place to visit.
Bringing Gin Making Back to Glasgow
Gin making in Glasgow can be traced as far back as the late 1700s. There are records of the Glasgow Distillery Company as far back as 1825, where it took over the operation of Glasgow’s first distillery in Dundashill. It closed it’s doors in 1903 and by the 1940s the Glasgow distillery scene had been completely obliterated. After the Second World War, the British Government supported the re-opening of mothballed distilleries and used Scotch Whisky to generate hard currency in a tough economic time. As the world rediscovered a love for Whisky, there were no distilleries established in Glasgow at all. This was mainly because of the cost of land. Thankfully, all this changed in 2013 when The Glasgow Distillery Company was reborn. Owned by Liam Hughes, a veteran of the drinks industry and accountant Ian McDougall the Makar Glasgow Gin was launched in October 2014.
Another Great Scottish Gin Collection
The name Makar is the Scottish word for a poet, bard or story teller. With their 4 different types of Gin, the Glasgow Distillery range combines different ingredients so that each Gin tells a story of it’s own. First there is the Original Gin
that is a vibrant yet traditional Juniper based Gin. Then there is the Maker Old Tom that is a sweeter style of gin that recreates the older style of Gin that complements the juniper with orange peel, almonds and a little honey. It’s a great Gin for cocktails like a Tom Collins. The name Old Tom comes of the 18th Century when taxes Gin were ridiculously high and sales were driven underground. Many pubs would have a cat (the Old Tom) on the wall in the street outside. Under the paw would be a slot for money and a lead tube. Customer would insert a coin in the slot and inside the pub a barman would dispense Gin through the tube.
The other 2 Gins include an Oak Aged Gin that has some amazing smoky notes from Oak casks. I love this Gin a lot and it’s fantastic in my favourite Negroni cocktail. Finally there is a Mullberry Aged Gin that is matured in virgin casks made of Mulberry Wood. This adds a hint of lemon, thyme, vanilla and a peppery finish that make for something a little bit different compared to a normal Dry Gin. What a great way to finish this Scottish Gin tour. If you want to read more about The Glasgow Distillery Company, check our their website here.
The End of the Gin Tour
So that’s it folks, the Scottish Gin Tour comes to an end. There’s been some fantastic Gins along the way, all coming from independent businesses of all types and sizes. Hopefully learning more about the different Gin’s will encourage you to seek out something exciting from an independent Gin Distiller the next time you are looking for a bottle. When you buy from the companies featured in this article you don’t make another faceless shareholder a but more money you feed families and support communities. Imagine how much sweeter you Gin and Tonic will taste knowing that.