I've been going through the gin in the wardrobe trying to decide which ones not to write about (it's not been an easy choice) but I couldn't miss out Shetland Reel gin.
Shetland Reel is the first gin to be made in Shetland, Blackwoods made claim to being a Shetland gin, and for a while the original company behind the brand had plans to open a whisky distillery there, but in truth all they ever did was source a couple of botanicals there and put a Viking ship on the label. Blackwoods is a decent gin, worth trying if you find it, but the use of the Shetland name has always curbed my enthusiasm for it.
Shetland Reel (the name explicitly references country dancing and music, but I wonder if they're making a point about provenance as well) is made in Unst (predictive text badly wants that to read aunts...) which is as far north as both Shetland, and Britain, goes. Being 'the most northerly' is a nice usp to have, but it comes with some interesting logistical considerations and expenses, so anything you make there needs to be good to justify the inevitable price tag (it's around £35 which puts it firmly in the premium range, but you can easily spend more).
Shetland Reel is good, it uses local apple mint, but it's nowhere near as pronounced as the mint in Daffy's, rather it presents as a fresh, green, note that balances out the juniper, both of which feel like a supporting act for citrus. Basically a good crisp gin, light and elegant, and beautifully balanced. I'm currently enjoying it in a G&T but I'd like to try it on something like an English Garden cocktail, and maybe with mint rather than cucumber.
I'm watching Reel gin with interest, I love the idea that someone can go to Shetland and make a living doing this, it's exciting to see for lots of reasons, and it's made Christmas presents for daughters very easy for my father for the last couple of years.
Book wise, David Howarth's extraordinary account of the sadly under told story of the 'Shetland Bus' is a must. As a navy man it seems safe to assume Howarth was a gin drinker, and by the end of the book you'll want to raise a glass of something in honour of the men who ran this 'bus'.
For those who don't know the story there's a comprehensive Wikipedia article Here, but basically it was a joint operation between the British and Norwegians during the war to get agents and supplies in and out of Norway. Initially they used fishing boats to cross the North Sea in, and then later got 3 submarine chasers - which were safer. To avoid detection they would sail as late into the winter as they could, often in horrendous conditions. Howarth was a junior navel officer who helped set up and operate the base in Shetland - his tone is very much the stiff upper lipped sort, which is charming in itself, add that to the bravery with which these sailors faced very real danger (there were some terrible losses) - well, as I said, it's a story that should be better known.