Scottish Gin: Our picks for the best craft Scottish gins available
Gin has had a massive renaissance in Scotland over the last 10 years. Now there are over 90 distilleries producing gin in Scotland and more are in the works. With such a huge array of choice, it can be difficult for you to filter through the noise and work out which is the best one for you. Most craft gins are around the same price, in the region of £30-40, and they all have their own unique styles. We’ve chosen our favourite Scottish gins to make life much easier for you. Whether you’re choosing a gift or a new gin to try for yourself, you’re sure to find something you love on this list. If you want to take it back a step, you can start by learning what gin is and the different types.
Our first pick for the best Scottish Gins is Raasay. It hails from the beautiful Isle of Raasay just to the north of Skye, in the Hebrides. The producers describe their gin as “the first legal spirit made on the Island”. This gin is a celebration of life on Raasay and the juniper is picked from the island itself. You can visit the distillery for a tour. Or, if you’re looking for an extra special getaway, they also have a few bedrooms so you can stay at the distillery.
Tasting note: Fresh and aromatic with juniper, citrus and a hint of rhubarb.
Serve with: Tonic and orange zest.
In Old Scots, ‘eenoo’ means ‘just now’ or ‘at the present time’. Where eeNoo gin is concerned, this means that there is always time for gin – a sentiment we wholeheartedly agree with!
Whilst researching the word, the distillers discovered a great story of Eenoolooapik (Mr Eenoo). He was an Inuit who visited Aberdeenshire in the 1800s. Through the label artwork, they pay tribute to Mr Eenoo and his adventurous spirit which brought him to Scotland.
Tasting note: Sweet and fruity taste from raspberries and honey, but balanced perfectly by juniper and citrus notes.
Serve with: Tonic and raspberries.
Pickering’s is based in Edinburgh where they make and sell a range of gins and liqueurs. Their 1947 Original Gin is based on the first recipe for Pickering’s gin as written in Bombay in 1947.
Tasting Note: Cardamom, coriander, clove and cinnamon spice lead to a crisp, refreshing and long finish.
Serve with: Tonic, ginger ale or Dr. Pepper and a slice of orange.
The Botanist is the first and only dry gin produced on the Isle of Islay (eye-lah), in the inner Hebrides. In addition to the nine core ingredients, the Botanist uses 22 botanicals which are all foraged from the island itself. Despite being a huge undertaking, just one man forages for all of the botanicals.
At Bruichladdich distillery, they believe in the power of people and are a big employer on the island. This is because they refuse to replace people with machines. Instead, they make their gin the old-fashioned way – slowly, carefully and by hand.
Tasting note: A growing warmth with big citrus flavours.
Serve with: Any way you like! They created their gin through experimentation, and they don’t want to deny you that process too. They do, however, have a flavour wheel to give you an idea of pairings to draw out particular botanicals.
The name ‘Daffy’ comes from the 1800s when, in Britain, this was the name for gin. It is a slang term long since forgotten in daily language but celebrated here. Daffy was also the Goddess of Gin, written about as early as the 1700s. So you will be amongst the gods when drinking this Scottish gin! The lady depicted on the bottle is the wife of the distiller. Famous artist, Robert McGinnis, crafted this iconic image for them.
Tasting note: Slight spicing and oakiness, with citrus flavours and Lebanese mint.
Serve with: Tonic, lime and a little rubbed mint.
Caorunn is an incredible, small-batch gin distilled at Balmenach Distillery in the Scottish Highlands. The name is pronounced ka-roon, from the Gaelic word ‘Caorunn’ meaning rowan berry. Just one man, Simon Buley, makes every bottle of their gin.
Tasting note: Clean, crisp and sweet, this gin is full-bodied and aromatic
Serve with: Tonic and red apple sliced (preferably pink lady)
The Wilson Brothers make Misty Isle gin at the first gin distillery on the Isle of Skye. To make, they use water from the Storr Lochs and, wherever possible, forage the juniper berries from the island. The gin also includes one mystery ingredient which can only be found on the island.
Tasting note: Cassia, lemon and orris.
Serve with: Tonic and a twist of orange peel.
Shetland Reel hails from the most northern end of Unst, which is the most northerly inhabited island in the UK. It is only accessible from Shetland mainland by two ferries making its location is closer to Norway than much of Scotland. This also makes them the northernmost distillery in the British Isles. This gin is the passion project of two couples: Frank and Debbie Strong who have turned the ex-RAF site at Saxa Vord into an award-winning tourist resort; and Stuart and Wilma Nickerson who also own and operate The Malt Whisky Company.
Tasting note: Juniper, mixed spice, sweetness, a little citrus and a refreshing hint of mint at the end.
Serve with: Wedge of pink grapefruit, with sprigs of both mint and lavender
Granite North takes its name from the rock which is so closely associated with the North East of Scotland. As keen hillwalkers, founder (Sandy Matheson) and his partner (Kirstie) wanted to capture the taste of the outdoors and their beloved Cairngorms. They infuse their gin with Grand Fir needles to seamlessly achieve this.
Tasting note: Intense woodsy pine, with cardamom and black pepper warmth. Citrus flavours bring sweetness and balance.
Serve with: Tonic and a curl of fresh grapefruit.
Fun and playful, Glasgow Gin set out to mimic the sense of humour their beloved city is famous for. The bottle perfectly captures this with their depiction of the Duke of Wellington statue. This statue became a famous symbol of Glasgow as it always has a cone on its head! No matter how many times the council would remove the cone, a new one would pop back up. So, nobody even tries anymore. The cone is a permanent and iconic feature making this Scottish gin comfortably the most patriotic whilst sitting on your shelf.
Tasting note: Fruity, floral, with crisp lemons and apples. A smooth finish of berries and sherbet: they did promise fun after all!
Serve with: Elderflower cordial, cranberry juice and a twist of lime.
Dunnet Bay Distillers, located in Dunnet Head in the North of Scotland, was founded in 2014. Its location makes it the northernmost Scottish gin and operating distillery in mainland Britain. Rock Rose Gin was their first product, with many of the botanicals being grown in Scotland. The botanicals are vapour distilled with the base spirit in “Elizabeth”, the distillery’s copper pot still.
Tasting note: Fruity berries with a sharp sea buckthorn finish.
Serve with: Tonic with a sprig of rosemary.
Downpour gin is clear whilst in the bottle. But, add a splash of tonic, and the release of essential oils turns the gin cloudy. This special gin is made and bottled on the small Hebridean island of Uist. This is a family business, distilling both whisky and gin. They describe it as the first ‘legal’ distillery on the island. Stories and songs, passed down for generations, tell of illicit stills supplying those who passed through.
Tasting note: Citrus, spice and heather.
Serve with: Tonic, citrus twist and a sprig of rosemary. For a little extra something-something, add wild heather.
It won’t come as much of a surprise that Glaswegin is distilled and bottled in, you guessed it, Glasgow. This gin is made using just eight botanicals – all listed on the bottle so you can’t forget. They are Scottish milk thistle, coriander, orange flower, Italian juniper, angelica, chamomile, bay leaf and pink peppercorns. Award-winning designer, Paul Grey, designed the eye-catching minimalist bottle. So, having a bottle of Glaswegin on your shelf will be like a piece of modern art.
Tasting note: Scottish milk thistle and juniper are the stars, with lime subtly edging in.
Serve with: Echoing the no-nonsense style of the city, they recommend your favourite tonic and garnish. Simple.
Orkney Gin Company is a family run business in Orkney, a stunning set of islands off Scotland’s north coast. They currently make three gins: Johnsmas, Mikkelmas and Rhubarb Old Tom. Sneaking is as our favourite, but only just, is The Johnsmas.
In Old Orcadian, ‘Johnsmas’ means mid-summer. This comes across in the gin which conveys the bright flavours of an Orcadian summer. If you are looking to stray away from Scottish gin, looking instead for something a little different, they are also the producers of Orkney Akvavit, Scotland’s first Akvavit.
Tasting note: Just like summer! Floral, fragrant with the flavours from juniper, mint and citrus zest.
Serve with: Tonic with a slice of apple or lime.
Arbikie Distillery is located on a 2000-acre farm in the Scottish Highlands. It is one of Scotland’s farm-to-bottle distilleries. Almost all the ingredients for its spirits are grown and distilled at their estate. Even the water they use comes from the farm’s underground spring. Their gin, named after master distiller Kirsty Black, begins with the distillery’s tripled distilled, potato-based vodka as its base spirit. Four botanicals – juniper, kelp, carline thistle and blaeberry – are all grown at or harvested near the distillery. They infuse the vodka with these botanicals to make the gin.
Tasting note: Creamy, floral, citrus with delicate black pepper notes.
Serve with: On the rocks with a twist of lemon. If adding tonic, use Mediterranean tonic and a sprig of thyme.
Not surprisingly, this Scottish gin is made in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. At their city-centre location, they offer an excellent distillery tour. Edinburgh Gin produces a huge range of incredibly popular gin liqueurs, but, for us, their original gin is the pick of the bunch.
Tasting note: A juniper-forward flavour with tart lime peel and orange zest.
Serve with: Tonic and orange zest.
This gin is named after the Scottish Crossbill, the only bird listed as endemic to the British Isles. Crossbill Gin began production in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands but has since moved to a bigger operation in Glasgow. The flavours are a celebration of Scotland’s nature. They also run an incredibly popular Gin School, where you can distil your own creation which you can take away with you.
Tasting note: Big hints of juniper with a quite sharp, dry finish. Rosehip gives a citrus edge to the finish.
Serve with: Great enjoyed neat over ice. If serving with tonic, use one that is naturally light (a bigger one will overpower the gin), a squeeze of orange zest and a twist of orange on the side.
Redcastle gin is distilled in Arbroath, Angus using a unique, secret blend of 13 botanicals. Each bottle is individually filled, sealed, wax dipped, labelled and numbered, by hand before ending up on your shelf.
Tasting note: A spicy tipple with juniper and anise giving way to more herbaceous flavours.
Serve with: Mediterranean tonic with a twist of orange peel and star anise.
NB Gin hails from North Berwick, hence NB. This award-winning Scottish gin was the only drinks brand selected in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. It was also voted one of the top 100 brands in the world by Rolls Royce. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was selected for the Brits afterparty three consecutive years. So, drinking this, you will definitely be in good company.
Tasting note: Dry, juniper-led gin with notes of coriander seeds, cassia and citrus.
Serve with: Tonic, blood orange and fresh basil.
This popular North-East gin hails from Udny in Aberdeenshire. The Team at Teasmith wanted to create a gin which celebrates their local history. Their corner of Aberdeenshire has links to the tea trade with Sri Lanka in the 19th century. In 1867, a gentleman called James Taylor from Auchenblae, Aberdeenshire planted the very first tea plantation in Sri Lanka. This sparked a process that would turn the island into one of the world’s finest tea-growing regions.
The Teasmith reflects this by being the first gin to use hand-picked tea. The Ceylon tea provides a distinct minty sweetness when distilled and complements the traditional gin botanicals such as juniper, coriander, and orange peel, perfectly.
Tasting note: Juniper and citrus with a subtle addition of spice. Minty sweetness comes through on the finish.
Serve with: Tonic and a sprig of fresh mint.
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The Plate Unknown is an educational food blog. Here we share information about world food culture, the origin of dishes from around the world, and tips for taking a food-focused trip.