In production terms, most rectify neutral grain spirit (as is the norm across the gin category) bought from either inside or outside Scotland and some produce their own spirit from scratch.
Some brands are classic London Dry, some reproduce old recipes and others use locally foraged ingredients to create new blends. There are also are those that are experimenting with ageing in barrel. Then there is marketing – some have Scottish branding and others don’t.
Darnley’s View was one of the early examples of a small scotch distiller (Wemyss Malts) turning its attention to gin. “A lot of new gins are linked to their whisky operation – they are making gin while they wait for the whisky to mature. But we are not subsidising our brown spirits with our white spirits,” says Darnley’s Hooper.
Produced at Thames Distillers in London since 2010, Darnley’s View has witnessed a market evolution – something that has signalled self-reflection. Darnley’s announced it is building its own distillery in Scotland.
“Since we started in 2010, provenance has become so important. To have our gin produced in Scotland strengthens our story.” The new Darnley’s View will also be repackaged for the new age of craft Scottish gin.
As in England, very few gins in Scotland are produced from scratch – without bought-in neutral grain spirit. But Arbikie is one.
Hunter says: “We are unique, in that we operate a field-to-bottle distillery, meaning we grow, harvest, distil from scratch, mature and bottle all in the one location.
“We have our own water supply direct from the Angus hills. This approach fits in with the provenance aspect of Scottish distilling and helps us differentiate ourselves from other gin companies,” Hunter says.
“We make our own spirit from scratch, so Kirsty’s Gin uses our potato vodka, which provides a creamy and peppery taste to the gin, and our latest release, AK’s Gin, uses Viscount wheat which lends these great butterscotch notes to it.
“By distilling our own spirit we are, in effect, using the profile of these ingredients to help shape the final product above and beyond the required juniper base and additional botanicals.
“This enables Arbikie to capture the terroir of the farm in its products.”
Keith Bonnington, director and co-owner of Colonsay Beverages, which produces Wild Island Botanic Gin from its Hebrides base, says the “surge” in the number of gins is “part driven by consumer demand for premium gin” but also “new interesting ingredients”.
Bonnington sees the choice of botanicals as the best way for his gin to speak of its provenance: “We wanted to build our gin around botanicals growing wild and hand-foraged on the Isle of Colonsay, our home.
“We sought to find the best gin distillate we could in which to infuse these botanicals. The process we undertook resulted in us tailoring a high-quality premium gin around a 100% British wheat base, using 16 distinct botanicals with a lemon citrus-led character, built around our island lemon balm and distilled in Langley’s baby still [a distiller based in the Midlands, England. We cut the distillate to our bottling strength of 43.7% abv using pure Scottish water and we bottle in Scotland.