Scotland – The UK’s Gin Capital
Of course, everyone knows about the great Whiskies produced in Scotland, but perhaps you are not so familiar with the great Gins that we are producing. Apparently, over 70% of the Gin produced in the United Kingdom comes from Scotland!
It seems that hand-crafted Gin is what everyone wants, and Scotland has taken up the challenge. Our long history of quality whisky distilling has given us the skills and the heritage needed to produce exciting Gin, using quality local ingredients that bring new flavours to your taste buds.
You find more details about some of Scotland’s Gin further on in this article, but if you are visiting Inverness you’ll need to know where to go to sup the end product. Here are some links to a few of the establishments that serve a variety of Scottish Gins.
For other restaurants, cafes and bars in Inverness and the surrounding area, why not take a look at our Local Eateries Page.
A Little Gin History
Gin has been around for hundreds of years, with accounts of juniper-based drinks going back to the 1500’s, probably having originated in Holland. It is said that soldiers fighting for the Dutch against the Spanish would knock back the infusion prior to a battle, thus resulting in the phrase “Dutch Courage”. However, gin didn’t become popular until the later part of the 1600’s when it was sold for its claimed medicinal benefits.
In 1689, new taxes were imposed on spirits imported into the UK from France, thus the production of gin in the UK increased massively as people sought cheaper alternatives. Indeed, producing gin required no specific licences so thousands of gin-shops sprang up all over the country.
By the 1720s and 1730s, cheap gin had become a major health problem for the poor. Death rates outstripped the birth rate and gin drinking was given much of the blame. Gin was dubbed Mother’s Ruin, and since it often contained oil of sulphuric acid and turpentine, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Major action was needed and after several Gin Acts were passed imposing high taxes on retailers, gin was no longer cheap and became beyond the reach of the poor.
In the 1800s, a sweeter, cordial like gin concoction was developed called Old Tom. Taverns would hang a picture of an old tomcat outside and a passer-by could insert a coin into a slot underneath – which resulted in a measure of gin being poured down a tube from inside.
Gin was also becoming popular with British ex-pats in tropical colonies where malaria was present. Quinine was being used as an anti-malarial, but it had a rather bitter flavour. However, adding gin to the quinine reduced the bitterness to acceptable levels. To improve matters further, the quinine was dissolved in carbonated water to form tonic water – and hence the G&T was invented.
As the fashion for sweet drinks diminished, London Dry Gin became popular. It also saw the trend for cocktails develop – with a Dry Martini being a particular favourite. Cocktails continued during the US prohibition era and saw the invention of Bathtub Gin (a combination of industrial alcohol, glycerine, juniper oil and water from the bath tap with fruit juices and mixers).
Gin was probably at its most popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Barmen and cocktail experts from the US were in great demand and many travelled to London to ply their trade. This golden era for gin continued up until the early 1960s, after which vodka started to take prominence and gin seemed boring by comparison.
However, gin was to get a boost when in 1988 the Bombay Sapphire was launched. The unusual blue bottle was eye catching and the refreshing juniper-light taste attracted a new following. Gin had been reinvented, and by the time Hendricks came along 10 years later the gin revolution was definitely underway.
Gin is now most definitely back, and we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of craft gin-makers. These days licences are required, so we can see just how popular gin distilling has become. Between March 2014 and March 2015, 65 new micro-distilleries opened in the UK, making craft distilling one of the most exciting trends to emerge from the world of drink in recent years.
The increasing popularity of craft gin is in large part driven by a marked trend for authenticity and quality. Another aspect driving the popularity of gin is the huge variations in styles and flavours.
Scottish gins are leading the way with over 70% of UK gin being produced in Scotland. The best-known brands coming out of Scotland are probably, Hendrick’s (produced in Girvan, South Ayrshire), Tanqueray (produced in Leven, South Ayrshire) and Gordon’s (produced in Leven, Fife), the world’s number one London Dry Gin.
There was a time when a G&T could only be accompanied by “ice and a slice” (of lemon), but the producers of Hendrick’s decided it was time for a change. They not only developed a combination of curious packaging but declared that the lemon should be ditched in favour of a slice of cucumber. Now this may have seemed a strange combination, but it proved to be very popular and nowadays you will find all sorts of more exotic variations from watermelon to rosemary, and lime to grapefruit.
Trying to keep pace with the burgeoning Scottish gin market is getting to be ever more difficult as new varieties keep popping up. However, you can start to see just how many Scottish Gins there are from the map on the left. You can purchase this map as a print from – http://amcmurchie.com/product/scottish-gin/
We also have a Pinterest board dedicated to Scottish Gin
Whilst writing this blog we would like to make a special mention of Edinburgh Gin. Nestled beneath the stairs at 1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh you’ll find something of a hidden wonderland – the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. Here you can enjoy a variety of tours that will introduce you to the history of Gin and the distilling process, as well as providing you with a generous tasting.
As you can see we have taken the tour so are well qualified to give it our recommendation.
You can find out more at – Edinburgh Gin Distillery Tours