Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Three Scottish Craft Drinks You Need To Try.

In Scotland, we take our alcohol pretty seriously. The drinks industry here is booming, and there are so many options to choose from. From beer to whisky to gin, there are craft options being produced around the country, offering unique, distinctive flavours and tastes. Craft 56° invited me to join them in Glasgow for a craft gin and rum tasting evening, giving me the opportunity to learn more about three brilliant small, Scottish companies, their processes, and their products.

Craft 56°

Craft 56° is a really innovative and exciting business run by Ally Hardy. The aim is to bring together small-batch Scottish producers of craft beers, rum and other spirits, creating a space where it is possible to discover unique and unusual drinks that aren't widely available. They currently stock drinks from all across the country, as well as some really cute gifts for the drinks lover in your life. My favourite thing, though, is their Craft Gin Club. We all know how much I love a subscription service, and this seems like a real winner. They select a gorgeous gin and, alongside some complimentary treats, deliver it straight to your door. For instance, Ally explained that he works with Sugarsnap artisan chocolates for the Gin Club, who often produce a chocolate either infused with that month's gin, or with botanical influences that complement it. The subscription costs just £40 a box - and you can choose whether you'd like monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly deliveries. The perfect way to try out a variety of Scottish craft gins!

After some tasty food provided by Soul Food Sisters, an awesome local collective of migrant women who create diverse and delicious scran, we were treated to presentations from three of the producers Craft 56° work with.

The Garden Shed Drinks Co.

You know when you recognise a face but you can't place why? It wasn't until he mentioned being a professional rugby player that I realised that the man in front of me was Glasgow Warrior and Scotland player Ryan Grant. Ryan, his fellow Warrior Ruaridh Jackson, and their wives Maxine and Kirsten run the Garden Shed Drinks Co., a concept developed after a trip to a local distillery. Their gin was created in (you guessed it!) a shed and contained flavours inspired by the botanicals in their garden. I also absolutely love that the Garden Shed Drinks Co. works closely with conservation charities Trees4Scotland and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, donating a percentage of their profits back to the natural environments that inspired it.

The gin itself is absolutely delicious. We were given a couple of measures to try - one as a straight shot, and the other with a tonic mixer and garnish. The main botanicals present are blackberries, dandelion root and lavender, giving this gin a surprisingly soft and fruity flavour. Incredibly more-ish, this would be the perfect drink for a summer's day in - where else?! - the garden.

Sugar House Rum

I'm not really a rum drinker if I'm honest. I've always thought I didn't like white rum, but after our presentation from Sugar House Rum, it turns out what I don't like is Bacardi. Rum, it seems, is surprisingly delicious and I'm faintly annoyed I've missed out on it for this long. Ross from Sugar House Rum was inspired by the Sugar Houses of Glasgow and founded the company on his belief that there was a need for a Scottish craft rum - something I am now fully in agreement with. The company boasts both a white and a spiced rum - and we were kindly given a measure of each to try. 

Their white rum uses high-quality cane molasses and Scottish water, before being double-distilled in copper pot stills. I honestly was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this - to my inexperienced palate it tasted fruity and spicy, and at 43% ABV I was pleased that it wasn't overwhelming me. The spiced rum combines their white rum with vanilla, cinnamon, lime zest and cocoa beans, creating a rich, smooth and sweet flavour that I honestly could've drunk gallons of. I'm highly impressed with this company and believe it's one to watch - who knew rum from Scotland would be so delicious?!

McLean's Gin

Colin McLean began his journey into creating gin when he was given a kit for a Christmas present. When the results were appreciated by his family and friends, he took things a step further by turning his tiny 1.52m² cupboard into a "gin lab". From here, McLean's Gin was born. Using a compounding process that dates back to the early 17th Century, Colin and his wife Jess have launched a range of different gin flavours. They've since moved out of the flat where production started (which is great cause more space = more gin!) but they still bottle, label and seal by hand. We were lucky enough to try three of their gins, and oh boy...

McLean's Signature gin has quite a strong aniseed and fennel taste. I know lots of people who would love the liquorice-y delight of this, but to be honest that's not my thing. On its own this wouldn't be for me - mixed with a Mediterranean tonic water, however, this was perfect. We also tried the Something Blue, a limited edition gin created to celebrate Colin and Jess' wedding day (so cute!). This includes each of their favourite botanicals - tonka bean and buchu leaf, as well as butterfly pea leaf to give that stunning blue colour. Finally, we also tried their bright pink Cherry Bakewell gin! Obviously full of cherry, vanilla and almond, this tastes EXACTLY like Mr Kipling's baked goods. We were given Cream Soda as a mixer, and it was honestly like a dessert in a glass. I've been raving about this since I tried it - you need to give this a shot! Next I need to try their Floral gin (before it goes to seasonable availability from Feb-Apr) and watch it change from violet to pink!

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Overall I had the most enjoyable evening, tasting delicious craft drinks that I'd highly recommend. These are some real hidden gems and I genuinely will be making purchases from all three of these companies as soon as I can. Supporting small, Scottish businesses is something that is incredibly important to me and when they are manufacturing such high-quality products, how can anyone resist?!

What are your favourite craft drinks? Do you love a gin in the summer or are you more partial to a rum-based cocktail? Let me know!

*I was invited along to this event without any expectations: I was not required to post a review but I genuinely thought these companies were worth raving about!*

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