Gin atomic: why Scot­land is be­hind the new boom in Mother’s Ruin

Sunday Herald - - TORY CONFERENCE SPECIAL - BY KARIN GOOD­WIN

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.”

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