Everybody knows Scotland makes great whiskey. The distillers of Caledonia have been crafting exquisite spirits for generations, becoming the envy of the distilling world. But now my ancestral homeland is starting to earn a reputation for quality gin as well.
It makes sense. Making a good gin requires distilling knowhow, quality botanicals, and pure water — and Scotland certainly has all three of those.
The best known Scottish gin is Hendrick's. Infused with cucumber and rose petals, the unique flavor of Hendrick's Gin has made it one of the most popular of the new wave of gins that have hit the market in recent years.
Now a new Scottish import is starting to get attention. Caorunn (pronounced "ka-roon") Gin is made by Inver House Distillers at their Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. It's infused with five Celtic botanicals — including rowan berry, which is called "caorunn" in Gaelic — and six traditional botanicals.
Caorunn has a definite aroma of juniper, just as you'd expect from a gin made in the London Dry style, which this is. But there's also an undercurrent of sweet fruit, along with a little brine. A very pleasant scent overall.
The taste is a bit of a surprise. There's not much juniper there at all. Instead the sweet fruit from the nose is redoubled on the palate. In addition to the rowan berry, the botanical mix includes heather and apple, and that's what I think is jumping out here. It also has a touch of brine and some citrus notes to balance out the sweetness.
Caorunn is a tasty and satisfying gin, with lots of crisp flavor. It meets the classification of a London Dry Gin, but it quite different from the standard Tanqueray and Beefeater. Because of its sweetness, I can see using it in cocktails that originally called for Old Tom Gin (like a Tom Collins) and also drinks that have an herbal character (like a Martini).
And yes, it makes a delicious Gin and Tonic (which the distiller recommends garnishing with a slice of apple).
The Scots do it again!