When you think of Scottish spirits, there really isn’t any competition. The ‘water of life’ is an international brand, and even fierce competition from Japan to the East and the US to the West have not shaken Scotland’s place as the one true home of whisky. But there is another spirits industry quietly gaining international recognition: gin.
Scotland is home to more than 60 gin distilleries, producing nearly 500 varieties of the spirit. In a decade, sales to the US have grown by 500 per cent and it is now exported to 140 countries, with China a particularly promising market.
Inspired by this week’s International Scottish Gin Day, I went in search of some of the finest examples:
Nick and Emma Smalley make Teasmith Gin from tea that’s hand-picked and hand-rolled in Sri Lanka. “We wanted a key botanical and, discovering the area’s historic associations with tea, it was a no- brainer,” says Emma. “James Taylor, the father of Ceylon tea, came from Auchenblae, and Aberdeen shipyards built tea clippers.”
Seven Crofts, based in Ullapool, was born with a Fisherman’s Strength gin launched in the autumn of 2020. It is named after the seven original dwelling houses that founded the fishing village of Ullapool.
Forfar distillery Gin Bothy has partnered with smokehouse Alex Spink and Sons, which has been smoking fish over oak-wood fire since the 1970s, to produce a new limited-edition gin. Smoked Gin marries two of the region’s favourite traditions: distilling and Arbroath smokies. Arbroath also boasts Redcastle Gin, named after the local 12th century castle, and Devil’s Staircase, named after part of the West Highland Way.
Eight Lands is made at the Glenrinnes Distillery in the whisky region of Speyside. On a good day, from Ben Rinnes mountain, you can see eight Scottish counties: Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness.
Made in a still called Scotty, named after the famous Star Trek engineer who was born in Linlithgow, Lith gin uses a chief botanical of canal-side meadowsweet. It comes in jade-coloured glass in a shape that reflects Linlithgow Palace. “We could have called the still ‘Mary’ as Linlithgow is also the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. But we are both Trekkies so it seems a good choice,” says Alyson Jamieson who runs the distillery with her husband Ross.