Launched in 2013, NB Gin (which stands for North Berwick Gin) is a classic, sometimes overlooked gin crafted in small batches from the heart of Scotland.
With Scotland a veritable hive for new gins (a dozen new releases in 2013 and 2014 alone), it comes as no surprise that there is a craft distillery creating quality gin in the small town of North Berwick, just a few miles north of Edinburgh.
The story of NB Gin begins with the dream of a couple – Steve and Viv Muir. While both have successful careers as corporate lawyers (Viv has recently given up her job to focus on NB Gin on a full-time basis), they both felt drawn to creating their own spirit and the couple started the development phase of their gin in 2011. They commissioned a John Dore Still and developed a recipe that is distilled in batches of no greater than 100 litres at a time. Two years later, in late 2013, NB Gin was launched.
As with all gins, there were many recipes put to the test before the final line-up was decided. Not solely relying on their friends and family to help with feedback and improve their recipe (presumably, tasting different types of gin is not one of those family commitments everyone shies away from!), Steve and Viv also enlisted the taste buds of Thames Master Distiller, Charles Maxwell. With his positive tasting notes, they had the endorsement they needed to launch.
Bottled at 42.0% ABV, NB Gin has clear juniper and coriander seed on the nose with a touch of eucalyptol from the cardamom. To taste, a deep resinous gin emerges as juniper gives way to coriander seed, cassia and a touch of citrus with a warming peppery bite. All in all it is a Classic Dry Gin.
As writers who aren’t fiercely patriotic towards any country, it’s quite refreshing to see that while proud of their roots – NB Gin are not desperately trying to state just how Scottish they are. No tartan labels, no all-Scottish botanicals, references to the Bard or a nod to highland whisky folklore here. That said its clean and simple aesthetic alongside classic flavours are also what make the gin a little hard to feel passionate about. We’re not ones for clichéd patriotism or outlandish botanical selection, but the lack of any distinct unique selling point leaves NB Gin at risk of generating little more than ambivalence.
Here are two people who make great quality gin, whose story clearly demonstrates that they care about their craft, yet in their quest to create a classic London Dry Gin – they have created a spirit that could really be made anywhere. NB Gin doesn’t give really a sense of a place in either its flavour or aesthetic. Other than being well crafted, its elegant yet simple aesthetic and classic taste leave us a little unsure about what it’s all about. To use two different NB’s – it’s not bad but not bewildering either.
Craft Gin in our opinion should combine the care and attention that goes into creating a spirit (and this is very much the case here), but should also be a celebration of the regionality stemming from where it’s made and the people who make it. There’s no need to be extreme and use a local wildflower that can only be foraged on the second day of the early frost – but this really is a classic gin that could be created anywhere. A little bit more of a regional accent and more provenance would have been nice, even if it were introduced at a later stage.
In many ways given the hundreds of gins on the market, the fact that we are happy saying it’s good enough to not think twice about pouring a double, yet not unique enough to captivate, is a testament to many positives and not just shortcomings. Granted, NB’s creators will not see this article as applauding these positives, it’s their baby after all and undoubtedly, our ambivalence will be irritating to hear.
We are picky, more so than many consumers. There will be hundreds of fans eager to try this gin and to whom the story of it being made by a charming couple in Scotland one tiny batch at a time is enough. To date, more than 1,000 bottles of NB Gin have been sold and the company now has 40 trade customers spanning Scotland, Northern England and London.
Given the countless other gins vying for shelf space and whose contents, stories and entire product scream out for being inimitable – it just doesn’t set us alight.
Don’t be fooled into thinking NB Gin will disappear though, the quality of the liquid will get the gin stocked in many more bars and find fans all over the UK. That said, combine small budgets with brutal competition for listings and there could well be slow and steady progress to increase annual production volume at the distillery rather than a meteoric rise.
These are all longer term problems and with talk of some distilleries even failing to get that far, the fact that we are certain that NB Distillery will encounter them, is because they have made a good quality spirit. Already, to help with increasing demand, Steve and Viv have recently upgraded their equipment and have expanded their premises for the second time in a year to make sure that they’re geared up for more significant production in 2015.
NB Gin may not have found a fanatical reception here, but don’t let that put you off discovering it and tasting it for yourself. As with any labour of love, it deserves recognition for the many attributes it has. Give it a taste and let us know what you think!
For more information about NB Gin, visit their website: www.nbgin.com
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