I somehow missed the memo on the fact that many, many great gins come from Scotland. I think of the spirit as being more purely English somehow—London-based or something. It’s a touch embarrassing, especially in that I have been drinking Hendrick’s (South Ayrshire) for a couple of decades now (seriously, I was on it right at the start) and my current fave is The Botanist, from Bruichladdich Distillery (in Islay!).
Now comes Caorunn Gin, quite different from those above, and which I’ve been loving for its own virtues. A side project of the Balmenach distillery in the Highlands, distilled (they say) in a 1920s still originally designed to extract essential oils for use in perfumes, it has been around a while but recently has become more widely available.
The bottling has the standard gin ingredients, plus local botanicals the brand describes as Gaelic. They are: Rowan Berry (Gaelic: Caorunn), which thrives on rocky, peaty soil and adds notes of bitterness; Dandelion, offering herbal notes with a hint of sharpness; Coul Blush Apple, a dessert varietal unique to northern Scotland; Bog Myrtle (Sweet Gale), infusing notes of spice; and Heather, the inimitable Highland botanical with perfumed, honeyed undertones.
The result is a modern London Dry, described by the head distiller as offering “a crisp, aromatic taste with a fruity, floral touch and a long dry finish.” I find that description apt, but a touch too light; to me, this is a bracing gin as well, not all that far off from Beefeater actually (another go-to for me, when I want a martini with a little sting). The combination—the balance of power and elegance—makes it just right for the cocktail below, invented by Walter Pintus, Head of Bars at London’s The Conduit, a member’s club whose mission states that it is “Gathering Changemakers To Solve Real-World Challenges.” I wish them luck with that, as I wish you luck with the challenges of this recipe—like all the best things, well worth the effort.
PUMPKIN SPICE SPRITZ
1 1/4 oz. Caorunn Gin
1 1/2 oz. Spiced Pumpkin Shrub*
1 3/4 oz. Soda Water
5 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
Build in a glass over ice. Garnish with pumpkin ash**.
*Spiced Pumpkin Shrub: 1 part fine sugar; 1 part fresh pumpkin, strained through cheesecloth; 1 part apple cider vinegar; cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and vanilla, to taste.
PREPARATION: Mix sugar, spices, and pumpkin and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least one day. Add the vinegar and blend the ingredients. Fine strain, bottle, and refrigerate.
**Pumpkin Ash: Spread a layer of the leftover pumpkin pulp (what remains after the pumpkin is strained through cheese cloth) over a baking sheet and bake at high temperature. Once dried and slightly burned, place it into a blender and blitz until powdered.