Distilled and bottled in Scotland, Caorunn is handcrafted in small batches and firmly takes on the mantle of a national product.
Not only does this relative newcomer draw on centuries of distilling expertise learned from the whisky trade as well as on the pure Scottish Highland water, it’s also infused with time-honoured Celtic botanicals. Even the name itself, Caorunn, is Celtic for Rowan Berry (one of the botanicals used).
Caorunn is distilled at Balmenach Distillery, which can trace its origins back to 1824, making it one of the oldest distilleries in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands. The Balmenach Distillery itself (first licensed in 1824 by James McGregor) was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to be licensed in the production of Scotch whisky. The distillery is situated in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, at the foot of the Haughs of Cromdale. Inspired by the landscape that surrounded them – distiller Simon Buley wanted to use the ancient skills and recipes of spirit making and to harness the age-old Celtic botanicals that grow on the surrounding hills of Balmenach Distillery. It was based on these Celtic traditions and regional crops that Caorunn’s recipe took form. The gin includes six traditional botanicals (juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica root, cassia bark) but also adds further Scottish botanicals including rowan berry, heather, dandelion and coul blush apple. Some of the native Scottish botanicals are foraged in the region that surround the distillery.
Before the botanicals are introduced into the process, the pure grain spirit is triple distilled. Once the neutral spirit is ready, the team begin to make gin. Carefully controlled by the Gin Master, each batch of Caorunn is usually only around 1,000 litres and unlike most other types of gin distillation, they vaporise the pure grain spirit through a unique copper berry chamber.
This is similar to the distillation techniques used in Carterhead stills, however Caorunn’s still has a round chamber with copper frame and carries four large perforated horizontal trays (rather than a basket sitting at the top of a column still like with the Carterhead). Spreading the botanicals on these trays allows the grain spirit vapour to meet the botanicals on the largest possible surface area during a long and slow infusion process. Finally, the distillate is blended with Scottish highland water and bottled at 41.8% ABV. The combination of a slower process, smaller batch, top quality botanicals and careful monitoring allows for a consistency and exceptional quality in the end product.
Caorunn to taste…
Drunk on its own, the gin is crisp, dry and well-balanced yet still full-bodied. The botanicals jump out in the palate with spices, citrus and floral notes all working well to compliment a dry juniper note that leaves you with a crisp, clean finish. Interestingly the recommended Caorunn G and T serve is with a thin wedge of red apple (fitting in nicely with the coul blush apple used to make the gin itself).
Continuing with the heritage all the way throughout- the bottle (which was influenced by the Scottish Art Nouveau movement), has a unique five-sided base. Both the shape and the symbolic asterisk represent the five Celtic botanicals.
The team at Caorunn has done phenomenally well to establish the brand in what has become a ferocious and fast paced market place. Cleverly playing on national identity, they have managed to create instant heritage in a new product. Of course this is greatly helped by the liquid itself, which more than lives up to brilliant marketing.
Making their debut in the USA in 2012 and becoming a continued presence across Duty Free and the larger UK retailers – things seem to be gathering momentum.. 2015 saw them consolidate their position as one of the more established names in the Scottish Gin scene and with foraging trips alongside other engaging campaigns, 2016 is set to be another big year for them. With the combination of good gin, savvy positioning and a genuine point of difference – both in taste and provenance, we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more from Caorunn.
For more information about Caorunn Gin, visit their website: www.caorunngin.com
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