Scotland has some of the best gin in the world and we’re going to be trying five different ones in a whisky-style tasting this Friday where, unlike when you order gins at gin festivals, pubs and restaurants, you get to taste the gins and mixers separately to appreciate what each brings to play.

I’ll talk through each of the gins as we go, discussing the history of the producers, the botanicals and also talk about why that specific mixer was chosen to match it. We’ll nose and taste each gin  and discuss what we all find – don”t be shy to speak up in the chat. There is no wrong answer when it comes to individual taste, what we detect is based on our own life experiences and my years travelling the world eating and drinking when editing a food magazine are a huge help for tastings, as are childhood sweets and schooldays – anyone else remember exactly what a school gym smells like or the medicine cabinet after yet another accident? Being a clumsy kid is perfect all these years later when tasting gin – and whisky!

First, pour half the gin into a glass, smell it and say what you can smell. Then take a couple of small sips, what can you taste? Pour a little of the mixer into another glass, what do you think? What can you detect – remember, not all tonic waters are equal and some can overwhelm the gin, even adding a slice of lemon can ruin the balance. That’s why every mixer was chosen with that particular gin in mind.#

Pour half of the mixer into the gin and then smell it. Trying them separately helps you to work out what mixing them brings as you can break down the separate elements and see how they work together. Now taste them. Add your comments to the chat and let me know if this is your favourite gin! Feel free to ask questions about garnishes etc.

Once we’ve tried all five gins, you can try the different mixers with the other gins – or keep the remaining half to try later in the cocktails below. That’s why we only pour half of each gin and mixer, it’s a great way to experiment further. Or just buy two sets… 

You’ll also need a glass of water to refresh your palate between gins – and to stay hydrated!

Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention a very special gin soup recipe…

Garnishes

I love Nim’s infusions (air-dried fruit wheels) which are perfect for garnishing gin. The air-dried fruit adds intensity of flavour and they’re so handy. No wasting any fruit, no risk of bloodshed (there is a reason I’m not allowed to handle knives these days!), just perfect wheels for garnishing your G&T. No Gimlet is complete without a lime wheel and the Winter Infusion with Cranberry and Orange is perfect in a Red Snapper – both cocktails will feature in future gin tastings with The Spirits Embassy! For more details, go to https://nimsfruitcrisps.com/product-category/infusions/ 

Order of Drinking

Don’t forget either not to skip ahead – or not to reveal in the chat if you’ve done so!

  1. Isle of Harris Gin – Artisan Drinks Co. Classic London Tonic
  2. Kirkjuvagr Aurora Gin  Merchant Heart’s Pink Peppercorn Tonic
  3. Garden Shed Gin –  Walter Gregor’s Scottish Raspberry Tonic 
  4. Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin  Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade
  5. Orkney Rhubarb Old Tom Gin – Lamb & Watt Ginger Ale

Isle of Harris Gin – Artisan Drinks Co. Classic London Tonic

Info: Harris Distillery, 45% ABV, 70cl

Location: Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Botanicals: Outer Hebridean sugar kelp seaweed, Macedonian juniper berries, English coriander seed, cubeb aka Javan pepper, bitter orange peel, Angelica root, cassia bark, orris root and liquorice root

Dirty, Dirty Martini
This is my variation on a classic Dirty Martini which, in turn is a variation on the classic Martini. If you can afford it or have a birthday/special occasion coming up – and both Junemas or Johnsmas count as special occasions – the Harris Martini glasses are something special and would be ideal with this cocktail which works so well with that Isle of Harris Gin special botanical – sugar kelp seaweed.

What makes this Dirty Martini extra Dirty? Using caper brine from a jar of capers instead of the traditional olive brine, it really adds a new dimension to it

40ml Isle of Harris Gin
20ml Belsazar Dry Vermouth
Large dash of caper brine
2-3 capers, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake, strain into a Martini glass and add a couple of capers – ideally on a cocktail stick or toothpick for ease of use

Info: Orkney Distilling, 42% ABV, 50cl, £26.99

Location: Kirkwall, Orkney

Botanicals: Include juniper, Angelica root, Ramanas rose, Burnet rose, borage, Orkney bere barley, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, whole cloves, black and pink peppercorns

Dog’s Nose Cocktail
This is their Winter Edition Spiced Orkney Gin, reflecting the variable temperatures this month and the great thing about this cocktail, which dates back to Tudor times, is that you can serve it chilled or at room temperature, depending on the weather that day

30ml Kirkjuvagr Aurora Gin
300ml local brown ale 

Pour the gin into a highball or half-pint glass, top with the brown ale (I use Harvey’s Elizabethan, Armada or Prince of Denmark ales), gently stir and enjoy – no garnishes with this one!

Garden Shed –  Walter Gregor’s Scottish Raspberry Tonic 

Info: The Garden Shed Drinks Company, 45% ABV, 70cl

Location: Glasgow

Botanicals: 13 botanicals, including juniper, blackberries, dandelion root, grains of Paradise and lavender

Scottish Garden Cocktail
A variation on the classic English Garden Cocktail – which would also work beautifully with the Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin 

50ml Garden Shed Gin
25ml St Germain Elderflower Liqueur
75ml cloudy apple juice
Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed
Juice of 10 Scottish raspberries, freshly blended
Cucumber wheel or mini cucumber sliced in half vertically, to garnish

Pour the liquid ingredients into a cocktail mixer jug full of ice, stir, strain into a highball glass and garnish with the cucumber

Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin  Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade

Info: William Grant & Sons, 41.4% ABV, 70cl, £34.99

Location: Girvan Distillery, Girvan

Botanicals: Including juniper, rose petal, orange blossom and chamomile, ‘an array of natural floral essences’

Magical Midsummer Cocktail
Mark the change from spring to summer with a fruity and floral cocktail – perfect for parties in the garden or enjoying on the sofa, watching the rain. Stick to one fruit if preferred but the berry blend works perfectly with the seasonal botanicals

120ml mixed berry juice (or blend your own strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)
1/2-1 tsp runny orange blossom honey, to taste
40ml Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin
3 rosebuds, to garnish

If opting for the pre-made juice, pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice – otherwise, blend the berries with the honey first, then add to the cocktail shaker – shake and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with the rosebuds

Orkney Rhubarb Old Tom Gin – Lamb & Watt Ginger Ale 

Info: Orkney Gin Company, 43% ABV, 50cl, £34.99

Location: Burray, Orkney

Botanicals: Juniper, Seville orange peel, rhubarb, wild rose petals and cinnamon

Rhubarb 75

Old Tom is a sweeter gin than London Dry Gin and balances out the tartness of the rhubarb. A splash of this would be perfect in a spicy rhubarb and apple pie – or to turn a classic French 75 cocktail into something very special.

Crémant du Jura sounds Scottish but this is Jura in France and a decent, affordable fizz, plus the lemon notes of the sparkling Chardonnay works very well with this cocktail. Or use the fizz of your choice, be it Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or another

30ml Orkney Rhubarb Old Tom Gin
Juice of 1 large lemon
Crémant du Jura or other fizz, to top
1 violet or rosebud, to garnish

Pour the gin and lemon juice into a Champagne flute, top with the fizz of your choice and decorate with the floral garnish. Enjoy!