Putting Arran on the gin map

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There is a brand new name in what seems to be an ever expanding gin market and that name is Arran.

Two young entrepreneurs have got their heads together to produce the first ever gin to solely carry the island’s name – and it is already selling like hot cakes.

Just as well then that one of the men behind the project is baker George Grassie of the Blackwater Bakehouse who,along with Stuart Fraser of Bay Kitchen and Stores in Whiting Bay, have formed the Isle of Arran Gin Company.

And it is already making something of a splash. Crafted from botanicals hand-picked from the island, the first run of Arran Gin has almost sold out since its first release last month.

With a punchy, distinctive flavour and an elegant bottle inspired by the sea and mountains, Arran Gin is the creation of Stuart, George and two others George Laird from Largs and Ross Hamilton from New York. It took the group 18 months to perfect their drink, foraging abundant, unusual botanicals, trying out different recipes and studying the craft of gin-distillation.

Arran is rich in wild botanicals and the lads teamed up with forager, and former Arran resident, Mark Williams and botanist Charlotte Karsemeijer to pick the cream of the crop, including fuchsia flowers, meadowsweet, noble fir, hogweed seeds and sea lettuce. Stuart said: ‘The taste evokes Arran… coastline and hilltop on the first ‘nose’, following with floral and vegetal, honey, spice and citrus. It’s creamy, with a long, smooth finish.’

Taking advice from just a small group of local experts, the gin crew have beavered independently to make what they call a ‘real’ gin that looks and tastes beautiful by remaining true to the ingredients and the island where they were picked.

George added: ‘Just as my bread has nothing in it besides water, salt, flour and ferment so the gin has no cheats. It’s made with real ingredients without shortcuts, yielding true and natural flavours.’

After experimenting with a pot still at home, the gin makers took their final recipe and botanicals to the Glenshee Craft Distillery in Perthshire where larger volumes could be made by master-distiller Simon Fairclough. As business grows, the group hope to build a distillery and visitor centre on the island, adding strength to the island’s artisan food and drink scene of which both Stuart and George are passionate.

So far the gin is pnly available on Arran, bus as production speeds up the team will open an online shop and hopes are that bottles will soon pour into shops and bars on the mainland.

So what’s the best way to drink it? Stuart said: ‘It’s your gin. Get creative! I like it with a chunk of ice and a wedge of orange to add sweetness. Cheers!’

Arran Gin retails at £37.99 and is available at the Bay Kitchen and Stores, Arran Graphics and A C Cameron with other outlets following soon. It is also available in a growing number of bars and restaurants on the island.

Stuart and George discuss foraged seaweed on the shore at Blackwaterfoot.

Stuart Fraser and George Grassie who are behind the new Arran gin. 01_B10gin01

Stuart and George discuss foraged seaweed on the shore at Blackwaterfoot. 01_B10gin02