Sunday, August 21, 2016

Caorunn Gin with George Mackay Brown

My first brush with Caorunn gin was in Aberdeen airport, my sister bought a bottle when we were en route to Shetland for a family visit. We drank it with enthusiasm, and on the way back I bought more, it's been a favourite ever since. (Which was helpful when we first got it at work, the rep was so pleased with my enthusiasm he gave me another bottle - he's a lovely man).

Caorunn is made in Scotland, specifically at the Balmenach distillery in the Cairngorms, where they can draw on a long history of distilling. The name is Gaelic for rowan berry - which is one of the botanicals, rowan's have all sorts of mythology and folklore attached to them (planted next to a house they're meant to keep witches and other evil spirits away). The five sided bottle is inspired by Scottish Art Nouveau, and the five pointed star shape on it references the five specifically Scottish botanicals which also include heather and bog myrtle. This is a product that celebrates its provenance, it's also really good.

The result is a clean crisp gin in the London style with a nice balance between spice, citrus, and juniper. It makes an excellent G&T, and is a good all round cocktail gin - garnish wise Caorunn suggest red apples (apples are another botanical) and they also have This recipe for a winter toddy with apple juice, port, bitters, lemon juice, and sugar. It's one I'll be trying.

I think someone has just started making gin in Orkney, but until I get to try it, and despite gin not being the first drink I'd associate with George Mackay Brown (that would be whisky) the personality of Caorunn seems well suited to his work. He said of himself that "I sometimes see my task as poet and storyteller, to rescue the centuries treasure before it is to late. It is as though the past is a great ship that has gone ashore, and archivist and writer must gather as much of the rich squandered cargo as they can".

It's what he does time and again in his short story collections along with celebrating the landscape and the seasons. In its own way Caorunn does that too with all the ways it references its Scottish origins, along with the hint of ancient folklore tied up in those botanicals. Not that there's anything nostalgic about this gin - it's more a sense that it celebrates where it's come from. Anyway, it seems perfect, especially in toddy form, to enjoy with Mackay Brown's stories of Orkney life - especially when the wind blows and the rain chucks it down outside (as it is tonight).

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