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The Rise Of Scottish Gin: Why Your St. Patty's Day Will Taste Differently This Year

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When thinking about a list of best cocktails to sip on, for some reason, gin cocktails are mostly excluded. Whether that’s due to most people turning to more popular spirits like vodka and whiskey, among others, or a general dislike for gin, that’s to be debated. But, what we do know is that the perception of gin cocktails should be changing — and thanks to a resurgence from a few Scottish gin companies, that could very well happen.

To some, gin tends to look towards England with its legendary London Dry gin and brands like Broker’s, Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth and Beefeater. That’s why it’s so surprising that it’s another country that actually produces most of the gin in the United Kingdom. No, it’s not Wales — the home of Catherine Zeta-Jones — or even Northern Ireland and it’s beautiful, Game of Thrones scenery. It’s actually the birthplace of the Loch Ness Monster, Sean Connery, and Haggis. Yep, it’s Scotland, guys.

 

Scotland’s much more well-known for its Scotch whisky industry, but England’s neighbor to the north actually produces 70 percent of all of the gin in Great Britain — and most of the gin in the world. Chances are, if you pick up a random bottle of gin, it was made in Scotland.

For a country whose national animal is the unicorn (yes, that’s a fact), this might come as a surprise. After all, many people think Scotland only made and produced whiskey, not some other alcohol that can be served in all those delicious gin cocktails of yours. We’re used to hearing names like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Ardbeg, but many of us might not be aware that some of the most well-known gin brands in the world are made in Scotland.

Well-known Scottish brands include Hendrick’s, Pickering’s and Gordon’s. Even Tanqueray, the famed gin founded in England, is now produced in Scotland. Caorunn, another well-known Scottish brand, only burst onto the market in the last decade. Nestled in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, Balmenach Distillery has a rich history in the whiskey world, as well as an abundance of wild ingredients that have been used throughout the generations for many varied purposes.

Another popular Scottish gin is The Botanist. This gin might be the best bridge between the Scotch industry and the gin world. Launched in 2011, The Botanist is actually made by one of the most famous Scotch makers in the world, Bruichladdich. It’s distilled at the famed distillery on Islay off the coast of Scotland, which uses 31 botanicals, 22 of which are actually foraged by hand on the island.

Part of the rise of Scottish gin is because, worldwide, the spirit has seen a revival in recent years, only helped the gin industry in the country. Says Simon Buley, Gin Master for Caorunn at Balmenach, “We can see small craft distilleries popping up across the country and whisky companies have also arrived to the gin market. The flexibility of the recipes, the abundance of botanicals and the relative speed of its production makes gin the perfect spirit for those looking to create and sell their own brand.”

Much of the success of Scottish gin is due to the world-class distilling courses at universities. “Scotland has a centuries-old reputation for world-class whisky distilling and so Scottish gins have been distilled to a similar high standard,” says Kirsty Black, Abertay University PhD student and master distiller at Arbikie Highland Estate in Angus, Scotland. It also helps that they have a tradition of making whiskey. “The Scots are also experts at selling drinks internationally, again following in the centuries-old path trodden by Scotch Whiskey.”

Strangely, there really isn’t anything specifically that differentiates Scottish gins from English gins. “There are lots of gins in the market that are produced both sides of the border, each truly unique with their own story and taste,” says Buley.

Since such a high percentage of the Gin distilled in the UK is distilled in Scotland, it’s often likely that people are actually drinking gin made in Scotland when they’re sipping ‘London Gin’ while assuming it comes from England. That’s like eating a Philly Cheesesteak in Alaska. Yeah, not good.

So, next time you’re looking to make some gin cocktails to impress your friends, take a look at the label. It was probably made in the home country of Ewan McGregor, which is probably a bit of a surprise to many, but is, suddenly, becoming more of the norm.

Lead image via Getty.

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