The Scottish Gin scene is utterly ridiculous. It’s grown at such a pace that we get whiplash just thinking about it, yet despite the seemingly enormous quantities of local Gin available, there are very few duds in the pile. It’s a protective region that seems to hold onto the belief that if one Gin falls, all Gins fall. As such, there is no time for silliness: make a great Gin and you’re in the team, make a bad one and you’re chased out of the region, pitchforks at your tail.
This dedication to quality means that we’re always keen to taste our way through all corners of the country, so little time was wasted when Alyson and Ross Jamieson, the husband and wife distilling team behind Linlithgow’s LinGin got in touch.
Now, you can be friends with who you like in this world, but if you’re a Gin nerd (you’re reading this, so go figure…), then you’d do well to make friends with the IT department at your company. Bring them tea, buy them chocolate, try turning it off and on again before you call them over… We have reviewed dozens (and dozens more) gins over the years that have been made by ex-IT workers, so it’s a fairly safe bet that if anyone is going to be juggling juniper berries around the office kitchen, the IT team are a fairly safe bet. While we’re on this tangent, we wonder what the cause of such a correlation could be? Does daily use of Excel trigger such a desperate urge to change paths, or is it at the core of why so many feel they can juggle the complexities of distilling?
Curious, we asked Alyson about her journey from tech to Gin.. “Ross and I ran our own IT company in Bathgate for 20+ years,” she explained. “It got to the point where we had lost our passion and drive so we knew it was time to get out. We were lucky enough to sell the company in June 2016, but we weren’t ready to retire yet so we started discussing what to do with our lives.
“It was time to do something that we loved. We had a dream to bring spirit making back to Linlithgow as we are both passionate Whisky drinkers and love everything ‘distillery.’”
Linlithgow may not be a name that many are familiar with today but it has had five distilleries in its past; the very last, St Magdalene, closed its doors in 1983. The shutting of the distillery left a significant mark on the town. It had been in operation since 1798 and, at its peak, had a capacity to produce one million gallons of booze a year. Not just a big producer, the name has become one to look for at auction sites as some of the distillery’s vintage bottlings can now sometimes be worth thousands of pounds. It was (and in the collector community, still is) a big deal, and so was it demise. Alyson, a lifelong Linlithgow resident, remembers all too well the day the distillery closed, and holds it up as a marker. “It was one of our imperatives that whatever we produced had to live up to the huge distilling heritage that our town has.”
The idea for LinGin was born in a hot tub back in October 2016. A few G&Ts in, Alyson felt the bubbles go to her head as she suggested to Ross that they should make their own gin. Ross was on board, but it wasn’t until three months later that they sat down and discussed it properly. By March 2017 the company was formed, and in August 2017 the duo took took possession of their first premises, working together to get infrastructure in place so that when their still arrived in the November, they could set straight to work.
After three weeks of fiddling around and getting to know their kit, the Jamiesons began their first pre-production run. After a couple of tweaks, on 15th January 2018, Batch 1 was put through the still. A tasting panel was quickly put to work, but if you’re thinking that the team just put a couple of friends together for this task, you’ve another think coming. IT people don’t do things like by halves, they have a natural pre-disposition to want to shift through data…
The panel is made up of 119 local people, each of whom was give seven samples of potential gin. Feedback aside, this was a clever move from the team, as it meant that even before launch, there was already a great number of people not only interested in the product, but vying for it and spreading the good word. One taster even suggested the inclusion of meadowsweet, which went on to become LinGin’s star botanical.
The meadowsweet is (currently) picked from the canal bank behind the Jamiesons house, but the rest of the botanicals come from further afield. There’s juniper (which the duo hope to grow), coriander seed, angelica, orris, bitter orange, cassia, cardamom, cubeb and three secret ingredients, a pepper, a spice and a herb amongst them.
The LinGin duo has teamwork off to a tee. Ross fills the tanks and gets the stills running, whilst Alyson mixes the botanicals and deals with the heads/tails and hearts, as well as cutting the gin to bottling strength of 43% once off the run.
To make LinGin, the botanicals are macerated for 24 hours in a 96% ABV grain spirit that’s been reduced to their desired starting strength. After its rest period, it’s poured into the still and further diluted with water. The still is made to a one shot, London Dry process, and each run takes eight to nine hours. After distillation, the gin is left to sit for three to four hours before being diluted with filtered water taken from the Linlithgow supply.
Over the next couple of days, the batch dilution is tweaked until the Jamiesons are happy the ABV is spot on, then they leave it to sit another four to five weeks before bottling.
On average, each run yields around 50 – 60 bottles. Three runs are blended into a batch, so each one comes out at between 150 – 180 bottles. As we spoke to the Jamiesons they were just set to hit their milestone 2000th bottle and are aiming for 3000 for LinGin’s first year. Not bad for a couple of retirees, eh?
LinGin to taste…
Meadowsweet announces itself with its unique fragrant nature on the nose, so striking with its fresh yet sticky nature. Just under, the orange also adds a a candied citrus tone that broadens the aroma while the floral violet-like top note that cubeb brings can just be perceived for those who care to continue sniffing to the point it’s probably all got a little too intimate…
To taste, the same meadowsweet and orange combination appears upfront, leading into juniper (possibly something like rosemary), with the pungently aromatic cardamom being the more pronounced of the spices on the finish. Cubeb and what resembles Grains of Paradise add depth to the aftermath in what is a smooth and very well made gin. We’d serve it with an orange peel in a G&T although, have a sneaky suspicion that a sprig of of thyme would work wonders for those who love a more herbaceous pairing.
The branding work for LinGin, we must admit, isn’t the most head turning we’ve ever seen. It’s okay, and perfectly pleasant with some nice attention to details though. The bottle is an unusual tall, square shape which will do something to help the gin stand out. The label work – featuring the town’s palace and various interpretations of racing green fonts – is not going to appeal to the hip young crowd of Gin drinkers that are positively thrusting money at the scene but it’s not going to alienate them either. It’s safe, solid and has considered details between the spot UV and the foiling that justify the trust in craftsmanship that’s gone into the liquid and the higher price point. Viewed with a more global mindset though, the idea that Linthingow’s skyline is iconic, is perhaps over reaching the description a little…
On liquid alone LinGin is a winner – the Jamiesons distilling talents have allowed each botanical to sing separately and wonderfully. As with so many of the Scottish gins that have emerged since 2016, it’s another great offering, both in its taste and the team who make it.
Do they have the potential to become the nextSt Magdalene? Who knows. What’s clear however, is that for now, it shows that it’s still possible to add more interest to an already busy Gin category. That it’s possible to make something worthwhile through careful consideration not quick gimmicks, to fulfil a dream and to succeed at making it a reality one batch at a time. It’s charming and we want it to thrive and can’t see why, slowly but surely, it won’t do just that. Keep a look out for it folks!
For more information about Linlithgow Distillery, visit their website: linlithgowdistillery.co.uk
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