The history of gin in Scotland is turbulent, full of scandalous times and revivals. Back in the 18th century a Gin Craze took over the UK, where it became remarkably easy to produce gin. Thanks to an act passed in 1690, becoming a distiller was as easy as paying a small fee and hanging a sign outside of their house proclaiming their intent to distill gin. After 10 days, you were officially a distiller, able to make and sell gin. Gin soon became the drink of choice for men and women (and even some children) because of how cheap and easily accessible it was. To help curb the negative impact gin was having on the community, laws were eventually passed making it harder to sell and produce gin, and taxes were levied to make it less affordable.
But now, there’s a 21st century gin revival afoot in Scotland, with distilleries new and old breathing new life into the historic spirit. Whether you fly over to the land of the Scots to experience them firsthand or track down a bottle at your local liquor store to bring home, gin lovers will not want to miss out on these five Scottish gins that are leading the revival.
The city of Glasgow may not be known for it’s gin, but perhaps it should be. Makar Gin from Glasgow Distillery is positioning itself among the best known gins from Scotland by returning to its 18th century roots. The distillery designed Makar Gin after the recipe produced by the original Glasgow Distillery. After years of research, distillers hit on a recipe that’s both delicious and intriguing, offering gin lovers a taste of the Old World. With Makar Gin, the distillers take a restrained approach with botanicals, using only eight, with the belief that less is more. The result is a spirit bursting with rosemary, black pepper, and juniper.
In the heart of Edinburgh lies one of the most beautiful and historic gin distilleries, tucked away on a side street just minutes from the castle. Tours here are both informative and fun, and happen to include a heck of a lot of gin to taste. Their original gin is the favorite for many, with its stiff menthol aroma and notes of citrus and coriander all blending perfectly together. Edinburgh Gin Distillery produces a number of season gins such as their Christmas gin loaded with cloves or their pink colored Valentine’s Day gin with rose and hibiscus flavors. A fun fact about this distillery is they actually use students from the Master Distillery Course each year to design or revamp one of their gins.
One will have to travel to the Bruichladdich distillery on the rocky island of Islay if they want to visit the very place where the popular The Botanist gin is created. While Islay is famous around the world for Scotch whisky, this gin is making waves by offering something unique. Made up of 31 different botanicals, 22 of which are sourced on the island itself, The Botanist is the only gin made on Islay. Expect notes of citrus and herbs including tastes of apple, mint, and coriander, all married together in one delicious flavor. A fun fact about this gin is that it is made in a rare Lomond still that actually allows the three plates inside to be cooled independently.
Rock Rose Gin
This Northern gin has only been in production since 2014 when husband and wife Martin and Claire Murray started up Dunnet Bay Distillery. Rock Rose Gin gets its name from one of the botanicals they forage, Rhodiola rosea, which they say gives the gin its distinct and unique flavor and smell of floral and roses. There are 17 other botanicals, including sea buckthorn, which combined with the sweeter fruit berries and herbs complete this gin’s complex flavor. This distillery also happens to be one of the few that have a British-made still, keeping things as local as they can.
Strathearn is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and along with making some incredible single barrel Scotch, it also makes some of the strongest gin in the entire UK. They make a total of four different kinds of gin here, the traditional Juniper Gin, Heather Rose Gin, Citrus Gin and Oaked Highland Gin. The Heather Rose gin may just be the favorite here, with a special property that appears when mixed with tonic. This mahogany-colored gin turns into a sweet pink color when mixed with tonic and the floral notes really come out. These gins are all handcrafted in small batches of 280 bottles each and using Old World methods and traditional small copper stills. Consider yourself lucky if you can manage to snap a spot on their overly popular four-hour gin experience where you get to create your very own gin, as well as learn about and take part in the gin making process.