Scotland is famous for being home to Whisky, Salmon, Shortbread, Haggis, the Loch Ness monster, ancient castles, clans, kilts & tartan. You can now add gin to the list as 145 distilleries in Scotland make 70% of the UK’s gin and it seems to growing every year. New distilleries are popping up even in the most remote areas. Rock Rose Gin made by Dunnet Bay Distillers is made 25 miles away from my home in Wick, Caithness and Fire and Ice Distillery has started creating gin 20 miles south of Wick at a croft in Latheron.
As a gin lover I was delighted to be invited to the second Scottish Gin Awards at the Double Tree By Hilton in Glasgow’s city centre. I was excited to discover new gins I had not heard of and to see read about new products from gins well known to me such as Eden Mill, Isle of Harris & Edinburgh Gin.
The evening started with over 600 guests and some g and t’s served up by the Scottish Gin Society Bar. I tried a Makar cherry gin & fever tree tonic, a Glasgow based distillery, a gin I have never tried but was delicious, just a gentle hint of cherry. Before the awards were announced we were served dinner that was also gin themed, I thought this was a lovely touch to the evening. I have been to awards before and the dinners can be a bit bland but I was pleasantly surprised. A delicious three course dinner full of flavour and plenty of colour.
The main award of Gin Distillery of the Year went to Isle of Harris Distillers, beating off some strong competition from 4 other distilleries. The team have focused on the story of the Social Distillery and a brand that shows provenance, quality and authenticity. A world renowned gin.
The first two awards of the evening were scooped up by Edinburgh Gin for Growth business of the Year and Innovation of the Year. They have seen unprecedented growth this year due to the popularity of their fruit liqueurs. Employing 70 new members of staff and a significance increase in turnover, this popular brand shows no sign of slowing down. Their Innovation of the year win is a result of their collaboration with the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh. Involving 12 months working together to create an innovative gin using 14 rare and exotic botanicals handpicked and grown in the Capital’s most famous garden. The Edinburgh Gin 1670 is a bespoke gin and has beautiful illustrated packaging. Edinburgh Gin also won Bronze for their Pomegranate & Rose liqueur and Silver for their Cannonball Navy Strength Gin.
Distilled Gin of the year Gold went to Isle of Skye Distillery‘s Misty Isle Gin, Persie Gin from Glenshee took Silver and bronze went to Crafty Distillery Hills & Harbour Gin.
The Best Marketing Campaign went to Persie Gin‘s unique approach using humour as a driver for engagement. Through creating a comfortable, fun environment for their customers the brand has seen a rise in sales.
A gin company I had not previously heard of won the Excellence in Branding Award. Electric Spirit Co beat 12 other Scottish distilleries to come out on top. Their minimalist but symbolic logo/design are hand stamped onto neon orange bottles to really make them stand out and become instantly recognisable in a crowded market place. The ethos behind the brand is to challenge the status quo, innovation and simple bold branding. I now look forward to trying this gin and see if I can find some for sale locally to me.
Newcomer of the Year was Kintyre based Beinn an Tuirc. A sustainable distillery that produces its own renewable energy from a small hydro-electric scheme at Torrisdale Castle estate. Production began in 2017 and with their strong brand, story and marketing strategy the future looks very bright for this young business.
The Newcomer of the year Highly Commended was awarded to Crafty Distillery who started trading in May 2017 and are based in Dumfries & Galloway. They have a cheeky but relaxed vibe to their business. Their attitude is of being all inclusive, creating quality and tasty gin for everyone without a high price tag is welcoming. They often involve customers in product development and they also make their own wheat ‘base spirit’ from local grain. These guys also won Gin Destination of the Year where they offer tours showcasing their unique approach to distilling and tasting right through to a foraging experience in the local area. That sounds really interesting doesn’t it?
Cask Gin of the year bronze was awarded to Eden Mill Oak Gin, Silver given to Pickering’s Islay Oak Aged Gin and gold going to Makar Cask Aged Gin Matured in Oak. This was a new side of gin that I was not aware existed and something I look forward to trying.
Navy Strength Gin of the year was bronze to Edinburgh Gin, Silver to Kirkjuvar, Orkney and the top award of gold being awarded to Still River Uncut. The Gold winner is a distillery from Aberdeenshire and currently holds the record for the world’s strongest commercially available gin with it’s now gold winning gin. Navy Strength is not a type of gin that I have sampled but it definitely is growing in popularity.
Speciality gins and gin liqueurs are growing in popularity and I know many that love these new products, including my great aunty aged 82. McQueen Gin, from Callander, were awarded Gold for their Mocha Gin and their Spiced Orange Gin took Bronze in the Speciality Category. Shetland Reel Simmer Gin took home the Silver.
Boe Gin, based in Alloa, were double winners in the Gin Liqueur of the Year category. Their Bramble Gin Liqueur took gold and their Peach & Hibiscus took Bronze. The Alloa distillery took home Silver in the London Dry Gin Category with their Boe Scottish Gin.
Gin Fayre (No 18) won Gin Event of the year with their try before you buy opportunity and offering distillers a direct route to market. They have hosted many events across Scotland giving gin drinkers the chance to learn more about what they are drinking with regards to the processes of making the gin to flavours, varieties and matching garnishes.
If you fancy a gin and you are in Aberdeen then pop into The Craftsman who were crowned the Scottish Gin Bar of the Year. They focus on quality not quantity, saying that they offer expert knowledge on over 35 Scottish Gins. They say they are a nook for the unique and the underdog, which sounds lovely to me.
The big winners of the night were Eden Mill, St Andrews with five awards under their belt. Winning Exporter of the Year, Excellence in Marketing, London Dry Gin of the Year, bronze for their cask gin & the big one was Gin of the Year with their original Eden Mill Gin. The distillery has a strong link to provenance and history of St Andrews but still has a great mix of old and new as a brand. They have collaborations with sponsors Hibernian FC and Scottish Rugby which contributed to hugely successful marketing results. It is a fast growing gin brand internationally and with a huge increase in visitor numbers over the last year they are expanding to a new site with a visitor centre and new distillery. After the awards Eden Mill’s winning gin was given to us and we helped them celebrate being the Gin of the Year with a garnish of our choice. Their Love Gin is one of my favourites to sip on a weekend with some tonic and a few frozen red berries or some rose lemonade. Their tour is definitely on my list of things to so so I look forward to the new expansion being up and running.
The panel of 22 Judges from all over the UK had 116 gins to blind taste in 18 categories. They looked at not only the taste and aroma of the gins but also on profits and how the distilleries are growing and written entries by distillers and marketing teams considered in the final results. The judges also focused on consistency and without that you cannot create a great brand.
Alex Bruce, Adelphi distillery and the chair of the judging panel, told us how a high quality and credible all the entrants were. That there has been a surge of new distilleries in the last year along with growths of innovation and new gin locations. Mr Bruce went on to say “we have a rich history of distilling here in Scotland. We are leaders in quality and that creates a point of difference in an increasingly crowded shelf. These are all inclusive awards for newcomers and well known names”
The Scottish Gin Society were the hosts of the evening and one of their members, a lovely lass named Marion, told us a bit about what they do. They are a not-for-profit organisation , A-Z of everything Scottish Gin related and showing where and how it’s made. Creating awareness and sharing successes of Scottish Gin, they really do love Scottish Gin! A big online gin loving community of over 100,000 is just my cup of g and t.
To finish off our night we had wonderful entertainment from Four poofs and a piano. Lovely guys as I had a chance to chat with them before I headed back to my hotel.
The Scottish Gin awards is in its second year and it was such a fabulous evening full of glamour, gin and craic. Thank you so much to The Scottish Gin Awards for inviting me along to share in the celebrations of our countries talented gin makers!