I really am rubbish at blogging about stuff I get up to, I think at the time that it might be nice to write something down and share some thoughts, but then… well it rarely actually happens. But as today (October 1st 2022) is international Scottish Gin day (@IntScotGinDay) I thought I would (re)document our Trip to Scotland in May 2022.
International Scottish Gin Day is an annual celebration of all things Scottish Gin and is celebrated not just in Scotland but participation is encouraged worldwide (we are natives of England)
Rather than rewrite what I wrote at the time on Twitter (@theginasium using the tag #scottishgintour2022), here are my original tweets from the tour, reassembled, with some additional comments and photos/maps. It is lengthy but there might be something in it to interest you.
Day 0: The Hazardous Liquids Tanker
The plan was to take in some of the fine scenery, Gin, and meet people that we had spoken to on line for the last few years. There would be 3 of us on the trip Me, my wife and our house cat (Mouse) and so we decided to hire a reasonably large camper van with a generous storage area in the back – we took bikes with us but never used them. We were very glad of the storage space to house Mouse’s cat wheel and the Gin trophies that we ‘scalped’ as we progressed on our trip. If Mouse had not been with us we might have driven up by car and hired ‘the beastie’ in Scotland, but this was not really an option.
The general route once we had travelled the 6+ hours to get to Scotland via Gretna is shown on the map below.
You can download the original of this map (without our scrawlings) from the @TheGinCooperative site, which is a great source of information on everything Scottish Gin related. Natalie and Martin who run The Gin Cooperative also invited us to stay over for one night during the tour
Day 1: onward to the barras
Our first Gin stop came only a few minutes after we arrived in Glasgow. The original plan was to drop in on Crossbill Distilling after 3pm to meet up with the crossbill team, to have a chat, take a look at the still room and of course purchase some Gin. A day or two before we set off though Stuart contacted us and asked if we wanted to join in one of their distilling sessions, as they had had a cancellation. As we are ardent fans already, we jumped at the chance to join in.
We can recommend their distilling class which was great fun and really did give me food for thought!
Day 2: Kitty hide and seek / There be giants
We can laugh about this hide and seek episode now – but at the time it was mortifying!
Pixel Spirits was our next stop on our tour. Their distillery is tucked away within the grounds of a hotel which of course a very good Gin bar. We were so pleased that Craig could find time from his busy schedule to show us around and chat about his production methods. They also have a lovely separate Gin School room for private and corporate classes.
Tofu one of Craig’s two Maine Coon cats was keen to find out what we had in our bag…. Mouse was as silent as a proverbial… and Tofu never found out, but I think they suspected.
Day 3: Sunday bloody sunday
The double whammy of Sunday and a bank holiday Monday meant that there had to be some quick rescheduling of our plans. But we made the most of the stunning scenery
The Isle of Raasay Distillery is in a picturesque location. As it was Sunday only the shop was open, and by open I mean the doors were wide open, but it being a Sunday the person who was minding the shop had had to go and prepare one of the guest rooms (yes you can stay there overnight. We made our purchase and left the money on the bar and had to make our way back for the next Ferry to Skye.
Day 4: Its GrimM up north
After a stop overnight opposite Fairy Tale Distillery and right near Eilean Donan Castle, we walked over to the distillery where the buildings definitely look like they have been lifted from The Brothers Grim books. Thomas showed us around briefly, as he was getting plenty of visitors to the bakery. The still room was pristine, it cannot be easy keeping all of that wood looking like it is brand new.
Day 5: A day full of colour
We were the only people on the RedDoor Gin Distillery tour at the Benromach distillery. It was a very chilled and relaxed affair with plenty of chances to taste the gins (one of us had to abstain, but we took the samples away in bottles). I even bought a very good organic Whisky (ie unpeated) which is made in the Benromach distillery on the same site.
The Little Brown Dog Spirits visit was one that we had been really looking forward to as we love the way that these guys do their social media. Whilst they take their Gin and finished spirits very seriously, they do not take themselves so seriously – if you have seen some of their instagram posts you will know what I mean.
We went on a short walk with Andrew to see where they usually forage for some of their botanicals, and were stunned to see how much damage had been done to the surrounding forests.
Following a thoroughly enjoyable evening with Andrew in the distillery, we may have made a few purchases that enabled us to continue into the night in the camper van, as they let us park right outside where their new distillery building is now located on the farm.
Day 6: Gin Friends
In the morning we took the short trip in the camper back to where Natalie and Martin of The Gin Cooperative are based. We spent the day being shown around the local area taking in a walk on a stunning beach that we shared with a large colony of seals. Then off for a bite to eat at the Brewdog HQ in Ellon, before making our way to a local whisky distillery and then finally back for a fantastic meal cooked by Martin. The evening was of course topped off with an exploration of the Gin Cooperative shelves. But we had made sure we had brought with us a few bottles of Gin from south of the border for them to try. It was a great evening spent with some lovely people.
Mouse was keen to explore their house too – but stayed mostly hidden out of sight.
Day 7: Walkies, and get Lost
The Lost Loch Spirits team are prolific, with an eye for botanical detail that extends to an interesting adaptations for their iStill column. It was great to hear about their plans for the future and how they might need to adjust their roof to accommodate their new still. They have some excellent Gins, many of which they produce for others.
It was especially great to be able to park on site, go for an evening walk and then to have a cafe serving breakfast in the morning was superb.
Day 8: A shedload of Juniper
We made our way through lovely countryside to the Caorunn Gin Distillery where we learnt about the botanicals that were used, their unique Copper Berry Chamber and the meaning of the symbol on their bottle. One of the samples was the 96% neutral grain spirit – I was surprised at how quickly it evaporated. Lovely explanation of their process and history of their production.
The Inshriach Distillery is in stunning country side beside a valley filled with wild Scottish Juniper. Walter the distiller and owner had said we could park on site and we went out for as long walk up the valley with Mouse to take a look at the wild juniper.
Day 9: having a wee nose about
We went for a short walk in the morning and managed to catch a glimpse of Walter running after sheep (they were being the sheepdogs – it looked like very hot and hard work). We didn’t want to impose any longer as the work with the sheep really was much more important than having a chat with us. But just as we were about to pack away and get back on the road, Walter came by (I assume the sheep had been herded by this time) and we had a very interesting tour and with more information about what might be in the pipeline for the distillery in the future.
Persie Distillery was next on our list and one that we had added at the last moment as many distilleries were not happy to receive guests. We didn’t say we were doing a tour but were received with such enthusiasm by Chrissie and sat in a comfy chair for us (one of us) to take on a tasting flight of Gin and a short tour of their operation.
This is a great place to visit and drop by especially if you appreciate Gins named after dog breeds.
Next on our journey that day was the Wee Farm Distillery . Even though they had closed we were so happy that Jenny was happy to chat to us and show us around her distillery. They really do have such a pretty cute little still. I think this may have been upgraded in size since we visited. It’s so great to meet people that appear to genuinely love making and selling Gin and are very keen to talk all about it. We left with some Gin and presents for our girls, along with a lovely steak for our tea.
Day 10: hot but hydrO’d
We stayed in Biggar over night but did not have the opportunity to visit the Distillery of the same name (perhaps next visit). Once again the weather turned sunny and we started to make our way south to Peebles, before our long drive back home. We parked the camper one side of Peebles and had quite a walk to the other end where the Peebles Hydro is located along with the 1881 Gin Distillery . Once again it was a Sunday so there were not many people to talk to but we made the most of the stunning views and location along with some Gin and Tonics.
After the tyres had cooled…
Looking back on the experience of the great places and people we managed to meet during the tour, there is nothing I could really fault. Even when things did not go exactly to plan, what took its place was better than could have been expected. So for that, I really want to say a big thank you to everyone that helped us to make these great memories, and helped to provide us with more lovely Gin….
When you are having a Scottish Gin particularly when you are celebrating International Scottish Gin Day, spare a thought for the marvelous people of the industry (Scottish or otherwise) that have worked so hard to entertain our senses.
PS: If you are thinking about doing a similar trip, feel free to reach out by email to get in touch and ask any questions about how we organised and arranged it.