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Spirit of enterprise

There’s much more to Scotland’s distilling industry than whisky. We also produce world-class gin, rum, and vodka.

These spirits don’t need the long maturation periods of Scotch whisky - which is why new distilleries, and a few familiar names, are producing the lighter, brighter spirits to satisfy a new generation of drinkers.

Scotland, with its abundance of fresh water, ready grain supplies, and generations of distilling expertise, has the skills and resources to produce award-winning spirits. Gin, with its flexible recipes and relative simplicity of production, has proved the perfect spirit for those looking to create and sell their own brand.


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Two of the UK's most popular vodka brands are made in Scotland

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Stirred into action

A spin-off from the 1990s revival in cocktail consumption, younger, more affluent drinkers have developed a fresh taste for gin.

Over 70% of gin made in the UK is produced in Scotland, including three of the bestsellers - Hendrick’s, Tanqueray and Gordon’s, the world’s number one London dry gin.

The spirit is undergoing a revolution. Today’s gin drinkers want bigger and brighter flavours, exotic mixers and bucket loads of ice.

Baristas and consumers also crave exclusivity. After all, why drink mass-market ‘London Dry’ gin, when you can opt for locally-produced, small-batch distillations, flavoured with such exotic botanicals as rock rose, coriander seeds, cassia bark or Lebanese mint?

Shake it up

The gin industry, once the preserve of a few big players, is now facing stiff competition from a range of ambitious new producers.

Old steadings, cellars and warehouses across Scotland are being repurposed to produce gin.

Spurred on by the global success of Hendrick’s Gin, produced in Ayrshire by whisky giants William S Grant & Sons, a whole host of new gins have entered the market.

The Botanist Gin, made at the historic Bruicladdich distillery on Islay, is flavoured with 22 foraged island botanicals including gorse and wild mint.

In Caithness, the makers of Rock Rose use a unique distilling process which infuses 18 botanicals in their gin, of which five are grown locally.

And at the Arbikie Distillery in Arbroath, distiller Kirsty Black is using juniper, kelp, carline thistle and blaeberries to add flavour to raw spirit made from her farm's own potatoes.

 

East, west, gin's best

Many producers restrict themselves to small batch productions, so they can set up in the middle of our cities.

In the capital, Edinburgh Gin, NB, Daffy’s, and Pickering’s are all produced within the city limits, with dedicated gin bars and gin tours now popping up to satisfy curious, gin-loving locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, in the west, at the Glasgow Distilling Company, the city’s newest distillery, the team have launched The Makar, a 43% proof gin made in a 450-litre copper still nicknamed ‘Annie’. Across the country, there are now over 30 dedicated gin distilleries, offering a whole range of different styles and strengths of the drink.

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Over 70% of gin made in the UK is produced in Scotland

Rum rediscovered

In recent years, with increased holiday travel to the Caribbean, a rise in the market for spiced and imported rums, and a growing realisation that the spirit can be as complex and satisfying as the finest whiskies, Scotland has got back in the game.

At the Dark Matter Distillery in Aberdeenshire, the Ewen brothers have just launched Scotland’s newest rum. With an abv of 40%, Dark Matter offers predominant flavours of fresh ginger and allspice, and is also made with green peppercorns and dried long pepper. The brothers are also developing a white rum, using a wild strain of yeast found in Banchory, that produces a wonderful flavour and is currently undergoing DNA testing to establish what strain it is. Although our ancestors often took the drink with hot water and lemon juice, today’s drinkers will soon be using Scottish rum to mix up their own daiquiris, mojitos and piña coladas.

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The difference is clear

Vodka, usually associated with Russia, Scandinavia and Poland, has long been a major ingredient in the Scottish spirits mix.

Indeed, two of the UK’s most recognisable, and popular, vodka brands – Vladivar and Glen’s - are made in Scotland.

Now, mirroring the revolution in the gin world, Scottish vodka production has gone ‘boutique’, with a host of independent producers putting their own spin on the spirit.

Ancient spirit, new flavours

As a neutral grain, or potato spirit, vodka lends itself to the addition of novel flavours. Russians have long drunk spiced and infused vodkas, and Scotland’s native flora offers a long list of new ingredients and tastes.

The makers of Pincer Vodka, created at the Crossbill Highland Distillery by Aviemore, flavour their product with milk heather and wild elderflower.

In Shetland, the makers of Blackwood Botanical Vodka distill their spirit five times, before adding hints of meadowsweet, sea pink, angelica and marsh marigold.

Holy grass, Scotland’s answer to Poland’s citrus-scented bison grass, is used to flavour the vodka made at the Dunnet Bay Distillery, in Caithness. Holy grass has another useful property: it can help deter Scotland’s notorious midges.

Skilled hands meet hi-tech

Many of Scotland’s new distillers are graduates of Heriot Watt University’s pioneering International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD).

The Edinburgh institution is the only venue in the UK to offer both Honours and Masters degrees in brewing and distilling. As such, not only does it supply the industry with new graduates, but with the services, expertise and facilities needed to keep Scotland’s distilling industry in peak condition.

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We’re here to help

Whether you’re a wholesaler, retailer, foodservice operator, importer or an agent - and wherever you are in the world - if you're interested in buying the very best Scottish gins, rums or vodkas, our team is here to help you.

We have an extensive network of offices around the world. Our international staff live and work within their office locale, have a comprehensive understanding of your market-specific business needs and can help link you to Scottish distillers and suppliers. 

Contact us
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