Gin atomic: why Scotland is behind the new boom in Mother’s Ruin
GIN may once have been as synonymous with Georgian London as it was with ruined mothers – but now experts claim it is Scotland which rules the world of gin, a drink which has thrown off its stiff upper lip English image and embraced a new vibe infused with Scottish botanicals and Celtic attitude.
Latest figures show that the number of gin distilleries in the UK has risen by one-fifth in the last year alone to 131 – that’s double the number that existed in 2012. The boom is largely due to the popularity of artisan gin – and Scotland accounts for 70 per cent of the UK’s total production.
Scottish experts claim the growth is being largely driven by the growth in craft distilleries, 35 of which have opened in Scotland in less than three years, offering over 100 variations on the classic spirit. Many are producing gin while they wait for whisky to ferment and mature.
According to business publisher Euromonitor in 2010 domestic gin sales were about half those of blended Scotch whisky, at £774 million a year, but while it is predicted that Scotch sales will stay flat, gin is expected to reach over £1.5 billion by 2020.
Dr Annie Hill of Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling said: “We’ve seen a massive rise in both the UK market and export market for gin with Scotland accounting for 70 per cent of total production. This is an unprecedented increase in spirits production – I’m not aware of any other category, including Scotch whisky, experiencing such a massive increase in growth over such a short period.
“We have a vast array of botanicals that may be grown in Scotland and therefore a wide palate in terms of flavour and aroma that may be incorporated into our distilled products such as gin and eau de vie. The combination of raw materials available with such a strong history of distilling and entrepreneurship makes Scotland an ideal place to produce all types of amazing spirits.”
Scottish gins riding high include Hendrick’s, which was credited for setting the Scottish standard back in 1999, as well as a new crop of brands such as Pickering’s, Arbikie, Rock Rose, Strathearn and Persie Distillery. The coolest brands are using new infusions and suggesting pairings with speciality tonics, or as the base for hip cocktails. Leah Shaw Hawkins, brand manager of multiple-award-winning Pickering’s Gin, which was the first exclusive gin distillery to be established in Edinburgh for over 150 years when it opened in 2014, said: “Part of the reason behind the premium gin boom is the reputation in Scotland for distilling prowess. Gin is rapidly becoming Scotland’s second spirit.”
She said the appeal of Pickering’s, which tomorrow relaunches its Christmas gin-filled Christmas tree baubles – so popular last year that the first batch sold out in 82 seconds – was its handcrafted elements.
James Sutherland, gin expert and owner of 56 North in Edinburgh, one of a growing number of Scottish speciality gin joints, said people were no longer content with ice and a slice and were now looking for unique flavours and high quality. “Consumers are loving the fact they can buy interesting liquids from local producers who often have amazing stories behind why they make gin,” he said.
Sutherland claims the future is bright: “I’d love to see Scottish gin become a global must-stock for bars.”
Chrissie Fairclough of Gin Club Scotland said: “It’s true Scottish gin is having a moment.
“There’s no doubt that being in the home of whisky distilling gives you a head start – you’ve already got the credibility, the nous, the people, the kit, and the heritage. And the Scottish economy is loving it.”