Edinburgh Gin may take inspiration from the past, particularly the 1920s Art Deco scene, but it’s contemporary approach and continued innovation is proving them to be the one to watch.
Launched by Spencerfield Spirit Co. in June 2010, Edinburgh Gin is part of the wave of 21st Century distilled gins adding interest and premium tastes to a revitalised and ever growing category.
Edinburgh Gin is a nod to the days when the city of Edinburgh was a hub of Northern distilling expertise. In 1777 there were eight licensed distilleries and reputedly almost 400 illegal stills in Edinburgh and the Port of Leith. As gin rose to become the fashionable spirit of the era in both England and Scotland, Edinburgh Distillers, like their London counterparts, produced gin from both locally sourced ingredients and exotic botanicals from around the world.
For the first four years, Edinburgh Gin started its life south of the border in a 200 year old Scottish copper pot still affectionately named “Jenny,” into which the finest Scottish grain spirit was distilled together with classic gin botanicals such as juniper, coriander, citrus peel, angelica and orris root. Once the team at Langley’s had worked their magic, the spirit was then shipped up to Scotland. Once returned to Edinburgh, a selection of locally sourced and grown Scottish botanicals such as juniper berries, milk thistle, pine and heather were macerated, with the gin distillate at about 60% ABV. In the final process, they reduced the liquid to a bottling strength of 43% ABV.
Since mid 2014 however, the team have moved the entire operation “in house” and have based it in the heart of Edinburgh. After three years of growing the brand and developing sister products in their seasonal infusions – co-owners Alex and Jane Nicol felt it was time to take the next step. As a small family owned business, they felt that it was prudent to take the time to develop a product before taking on the fiscal risks of a new distillery. Thankfully for us gin fans, with their first still run on the 1st of July 2014, Edinburgh had another craft distillery to be proud of.
The process remains essentially the same as before with the the flavour remaining unchanged. As an end product, Edinburgh Gin remains exactly the same. The big difference since the move has been that it is now possible to watch the entire process unfold, as the two 140 litre Christian Carl stills are on display to anyone visiting their central Edinburgh bar. The two stills are shaped differently: one is an alembic still, the other a more traditional column. This allows for numerous techniques to be employed and – critically – many different types of gin to be made, should they want to make them. Interestingly, the distillery itself is run by graduates from Heriot-Watt University as part of a knowledge transfer programme. It’s a nice touch as the university has long been the only place for students to embark on a brewing and distilling course and it seems only fitting that an Edinburgh based distillery should be the place where they can shape their wings. We hope that the exchange leads to blooming new distillers, but also that their youth and innovation is rewarded with the ability to produce new products that excite gin fans for years to come. So far, this very much seems the case and already, there has been a limited edition Christmas Gin to hit the shelves.
To taste, Edinburgh Gin has a full juniper hit complemented by the ensuing heathery notes, adding a particularly Scottish twist. Tasted neat, there seems to be a lot of spiced notes coming to the fore (certainly no bad thing) giving the gin a warm feel, yet its quality shines through as it still retains a smooth feel.
The bottle continues with the Scottish theme and is visibly inspired by the Scottish Art Deco movement during gin’s glory days in the 1920’s. Overall, Edinburgh Gin offers an enjoyable alternative to other more familiar brands available on the shelf and continues the good work set out by Hendrick’s, Caorunn and to a certain extent Blackwood’s at establishing Scotland as a producer of premium gin brands.
Edinburgh Gin’s parent company – Spencerfield Spirit Co. (same owners, just a parent name to cross over spirits – not a big conglomerate), are also behind the success of Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose whiskies. It is a small company based on a farm on the banks of the Firth just outside Edinburgh. Until the opening of their new distillery, Edinburgh Gin proved to be a valuable addition to a portfolio of niche luxury spirit brands, although they weren’t a contender for bringing them to new heights. Spencerfield Spirit Co. had been carving out a reputation for specialising in reviving orphan spirit brands on the verge of extinction and creating their own niche brands to great success and applaud. Since the launch of the new distillery and new home for Edinburgh Gin in the heart of the city the gin and company have been taken to the next level (even though the volume of gin they produce may not have changed much). They can now lay claim to being an authority and a hub for Scottish Gin and with it have a chance to cement Edinburgh Gin as one of the leading gins north of the border.
The collection of gins under the Spencerfield portfolio continues to grow as they expand the Edinburgh Gin range with variations now including a raspberry liqueur, an elderflower liqueur and a rhubarb and ginger liqueur. For these, Edinburgh Gin is taken and infused respectively with fruits that have been previously macerated in pure sugar cane. The liquid is bottled at 20% ABV and is available in smaller 50 or 20cl bottle sizes. These tasty little fruity gins are a good addition to those looking to add a little extra to their G&T or even to replace Pimms in summer. They also have a higher proof gin called Cannon Ball Gin which we’ll be writing a full review on, as well as all the sister gins in a separate review. Stay tuned!
These small batch variations on Edinburgh Gin also go someway in showing that the team doesn’t rest on their laurels and will continue to innovate. With young graduates eager to spread their wings and a bar at their disposal, its hard to see how there won’t be more variations in the future. With talks of increasing distribution in the US and elsewhere globally (they sold over 14,000 cases in the US during 2014), all things are pointing towards positive growth and a continued rise up the gin charts. Going from third party distilling to in house was always going to be a game changer, but to have done it by combining it with a partnership with a leading university, a bar and a gin tasting experience in the heart of the city is a master stroke. They have many reasons to celebrate 2014 and even more reasons to look forward to the years to come.
For more information about Edinburgh Gin, visit their website: www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk
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