Seventy percent of the gin in the UK is produced in Scotland. Yes, the land that so many of us think of when we think of whisky is also a huge producer of gin. Labels like Gordon's and Tanqueray. who have their origins in London, are actually produced in Scotland.
While gin production has been ongoing in Scotland for some time, over the past three years there has been an explosion in craft distilling - small boutique distilleries creating an endless variety of hand-crafted custom gins. Where just three years ago there were as few as a dozen craft distillers in the UK, today there are over 75 and that number is growing.
Many observers point to the introduction (in 1998) of Hendrick's Gin as the beginning of Scotland's custom small batch gins. Produced in Girvin, Ayrshire, it is known for the distinctive infusion of cucumber and rose. Order a Hendrick's and tonic and instead of a garnish of lime, you'll likely find cucumber.
The surge in craft gin distilling can be put down to several factors including a change in distilling regulations and changing consumer tastes with more emphasis on local individuality. Gin is well suited to meet these consumer desires as, unlike other spirits, each emerging craft gin offers its own unique flavour profile.
Today gin distilleries are popping up all across Scotland - from the Highlands and Islands, to Loch Lomond and The Lothians, to the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Beyond Hendrick's, Scotland's craft gins now include The Botanist, Cross Bill, Rock Rose, Edinburgh Gin, Pickering's, NB Gin, Firkin, and more.
Unlike others on our list above, Firkin is not a product of a distillery, but of independent bottler Gleann Mor Spirits Company – a purveyor of rare find whiskies and themselves a recent new addition to Scotland’s spirits industry.
Gleann Mor is located in Dunbar, East Lothian and their Firkin Gin debuted only 6 months ago. Despite the wide varieties of craft gins available, Firkin is making waves for its originality not just in taste, but for it golden coloration – achieved from the unusual step of maturing in American Oak casks, and for its unique, wax sealed bottle complete with pewter labeling.
Perhaps the success of Firkin and the other Scottish craft gins could be down to a change in consumer demographics. The desire for authenticity and quality is bringing a new appreciation of gin to the 20 and 30-something crowd while the more traditional older generation gin drinkers are also enjoying the new varieties brought forth by this expanding industry. The trend is even stronger in the USA where craft distillers have grown from a couple dozen to over 750 in the past 15 years. With gin sales enjoying about a 4 percent growth per annum, it's doubtful the trend will falter in the near future. And though the spirits industry can be cyclical it would appear that craft gins are here to stay.
•About Scottish Gin (from Must Visit Scotland)