The Scots may be losing out in the whisky stakes to the Japanese but they are putting in a spirited performance with their premium gins. In my exploration of the ginaissance some of my favourites to date have been distilled north of the border. Perhaps this is not too surprising because in the mid to late 18th century the city of Edinburgh was a hub of distilling expertise. In 1777 there were eight licensed distilleries in the city and Port Leith area as well as upwards of 400 illegal stills.
In the early 19th century John Haig took over Leith’s first legal distillery, the Leith distillery, and the port area was soon established as a centre for rectifying and distilling as well as exporting rectified grain spirit to the distillers in the English capital. In 1823 duties on Scottish spirit were halved which meant that better quality spirit in larger volumes could be sent south of the border. The English distillers were soon up in arms and Parliament rescinded the tax break. This ostensible set back only fuelled Scottish ingenuity. By 1826 Robert Stein had invented a new method of continuous distillation – a process further improved by the Irish distiller, Aeneas Coffey – which speeded up the process and allowed the use of cheaper grains rather than the more expensive malt barley.
The result was that inexpensive, lighter, neutral grain spirit was available to the London distillers by the gallon, leading many of them to move away from the sweeter Old Tom gin and to develop the London Dry. London Dry as a style has ruled the roost pretty much ever since.
With this heritage it is perhaps surprising to discover that there is only one gin distillery currently operating in the centre of Edinburgh, in Rutland Place in EH1 to be precise, and then only since 2014, a claim that The Spencerfield Spirit Company went to court to prove when Pickering’s Gin made a counter claim on their website. A prickly lot are the Scottish gin distillers, for sure.
Our featured gin this month, Edinburgh Gin, supplied by the ever reliable 31Dover.com, comes from the Spencerfield stable. Ironically, it started life out in 2010 in England at the Langley Distillery in Birmingham, although a 200 year old Scottish copper pot boasting the sobriquet of Jenny was used in the process. Using finest Scottish grain spirit together with juniper, coriander, citrus peel, angelica and orris root the spirit was then shipped up to Edinburgh where locally sourced botanicals such as heather, milk thistle, pine and juniper berries were added. It was only in 2014 that the whole process was migrated up to Edinburgh.
The bottle has an art deco feel about it using black and grey shades against a white background on the labelling. Edinburgh Gin is embossed in the glass and the stopper is synthetic. To the nose the gin which has an ABV of 43% has a piney and spicey aroma. To the taste the crystal clear spirit is very junipery with spices coming through with a creamy texture. The aftertaste is predominantly one of pepper and pine. Tasted neat and with the obligatory Fever-Tree mixed it had a very pleasing warm and smooth feel to it. A definite hit.
Until the next time, cheers!