As outrageous punners we can’t help but love the start of the Gin Bothy story, which began around three years ago, when founder Kim Cameron won herself an accolade – the title of World Jampionship Jampion.
Kim’s jam making hobby left her with an awful lot of left over fruit, and while she’s an enterprising sort (she also runs Peel Farm Coffee Shop & Crafts), she didn’t quite know what to do with the surplus. In the end, it was mother’s insight that led to Mother’s Ruin, when her mum suggested adding the leftovers to gin.
She did just that, creating many, many, many editions. “Following the same fruit calendar as the jam, I started to infuse raspberry, strawberry, late autumn raspberry, sloe and chilli. Then I thought I could create a mulled gin for Christmas and – following a trip to Italy to look at how they use their natural larder – I created an Amaretto gin,” Kim says, explaining how her range came to be quite so expansive.
When she started making infusions, Kim bought in gin from a distillery, but she soon became frustrated at the lack of control she had over the end product, so she made an arrangement to sublet the Ogilvy distillery in Glamis for three days a month, setting their distiller to work on her own products.
Gin Bothy Original is made in a 200-litre traditional copper still. The botanicals make great use of local botanicals, with juniper, orange and lemon joined by heather, milk thistle, hawthorn, marshmallow root and Scottish pine needles. Many of these ingredients are soaked in a grain neutral spirit overnight, ahead of a 7 – 8 hour run (each of which yields around 290 bottles).
Gin Bothy Original to taste…
Gin Bothy Original speaks with a William Wallace-esque accent. It smells undoubtedly juniper driven, but the heather and milk thistle of its home comes on strong, shouting “see ye pal” at full volume. The pine needles and juniper conspire wonderfully to create an all altogether forest fresh feel, while the orange and lemon is as fresh as though it were squeezed into the bottle just this second.
It’s pillow soft on the mouth, and though an initial orange sweetness greets the tongue, it is chased away by an earthy, fresh juniper and a pine heat. Milk thistle lends a uniquely creamy/herbal feel. Remember snapping dandelion stems in half as children and licking the sap from your fingers? (If you didn’t – don’t worry – it was tart, sour and – frankly – a terrible mistake.) it has some of those similar sappy qualities, but in gin it just works, adding an extra dimension that complements the herbal elements whilst bringing something completely unique.
The taste left in the mouth is one of fresh pine with a hint of sour cream. It’s a fantastic gin and, to be honest, much better than we were expecting considering the fact it was initially built as a base for Kim’s infusions. Arguably, from a flavour perspective alone, it’s one of the standout Scottish Gins and one you really need to try. Both warm and cool, with a strong grip on tradition and provenance, it’s smooth enough to sip neat but really comes into its own in a G&T, wherein the heather and milk thistle conspire to whisk you away to a Scottish mountain path. Gin Bothy is one that deserves the full ice and a slice treatment. Serve on a summer day, with a wedge of overripe orange and a handful of ice.
To make the leap from Gin Bothy Original, the spirit is transported to Kim’s bothy in the Angus Glens in Scotland. Bothies are shelters or small stone huts that were used – typically – to house farm labourers. They are now used as mountain refuges for explorers, and can be found in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the North of England.
Kim soaks the fruits in gin for as long as three months, hand turning each maceration daily to get as much out of the fruit as possible. To avoid waste, all of the fruit is then filtered out and used in two of her jams: Merry Berry & Raspberry and Gin.
On her website, Kim describes herself as “the accidental gin maker,” stating that “The Bothy was never created for the sole purpose of gin, but since I began sampling my creations three years ago at Peel Farm’s gift shop and local shows I’ve never looked back! Unlike other fruit gins that are out there, I use whole fresh local fruits and although it takes time (and a lot of hand turning), it’s worth it for the rich flavour that’s created.”
Of all her creations, Kim names her Gunshot Gin as her favourite. “It was my second creation,” she recalls, “and it came about because I don’t like wine. When everyone was drinking mulled wine at Christmas I wondered if I could create a mulled gin…” One day, while she was working on the gin (in the brisk, brisk cold), she was tasked with making lunch for the shooters at a local estate. One of the shooters had a wee nip of the spirit and exclaimed “yip! You’ve cracked it this time. That gives you an inner glow all right, and it’s the colour of my bullets (hence the name)!” The gin is infused with cinnamon, cloves and mixed spices and is the perfect winter drink, selling particularly well at Christmas.
Gunshot Gin is made in incredibly small batches of just 38 bottles at a time and can take up to four months to create, with each bottle hand-turned, hand-filled and hand-labelled. It’s gone down particularly well in the shooting community, with the first batch being bought outright by one avid tester.
Both Gin Bothy Original and Gunshot Gin come in heavy rectangular 70cl bottles, each wrapped with a simple label depicting the bothy as drawn by your ten-year-old-self. It’s simple and sweet, but given the quality of the liquid inside we won’t be surprised if it changes, as while it’s not unattractive, the liquid has the capacity to be a real contender.
With so many products under the Gin Bothy name (eleven and counting), it’s going to be hard for Kim to place a focus on any one product. This, in turn, could hamper growth, as it’ll be difficult to pick a direction. This is someone who doesn’t cut corners, remember; someone who could have stuck to the easy path of infusing into a generic gin but who went ahead and made her own anyway. The fact that she throws herself into her gin so entirely is incredible, but it could mean that she spends more time growing the product then the brand itself, whilst both are intrinsic to success.
Success is deserved, too. Gin Bothy is a solid endeavour; one that shouts about its home rather than shouting about shouting about its home. Kim is clearly building a local following, but with time and luck, her gin will soon be added to the roster of fantastic Scottish spirits that are quietly becoming global phenomenon’s.
For more information about Gin Bothy visit the website: ginbothy.co.uk
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