TORONTO — Scotland may be synonymous with whisky, but gin is gaining in popularity in the land of kilts and bagpipes.
“Seventy percent of gin created in the UK is actually made in Scotland,” explained Michael McCuish, PR Executive – North America for VisitScotland, speaking at a gin and food pairing media event last week at The Caledonian in Toronto.
Gin, he said, is making a resurgence in the country. “I think it’s mostly because people are looking for ways to innovatively use food and drink, what else they can do that’s different and edgy but using the abundance of natural produce in Scotland, so it makes sense.”
McCuish announced that 2015 is the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland, while 2016 will be the Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design. “We want to highlight Scotland’s wonderful culinary scene which in the past hasn’t had the opportunity to shine,” he said. Along with it, various whisky distilleries will take part in special events, and gin will also be in the spotlight in 2015.
Last week’s gin paired Scottish feast was curated by Edinburgh Gin, and featured house cured Atlantic salmon paired with the distillery’s Cannonball Gin, and a hot smoked galantine of pheasant paired with Small Batch Edinburgh Gin.
One place visitors to Scotland can try food and gin pairings is at the 5-star Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh where you’ll also get views overlooking the castle. The hotel features what McCuish called a “wonderful gin sorbet” and a fully stocked gin bar with gins from around the country.
Another attraction is the centrally-located Edinburgh Gin Distillery Visitor Centre, which opened in June and offers three different tours where visitors can learn how gin is distilled, enjoy samples, and even be guided through the process of producing and bottling their own gin. In the evening the facility functions as a cocktail bar, where you can try their Cannonball Gin, but note, because of its potency (57.2% alcohol), they’ll limit you to just two drinks.
Edinburgh Gin’s Alex Nicol told Travelweek there’s so much more that can do with gin compared to whisky. “Whereas maturation plays a big role with whiskey, with gin, we make it today and we’ll sell it tomorrow,” he said.
“We can induce flavours by putting in juniper berries, a lime or anything you want, and it’s much more exciting, you can really have some wild flavours coming out of there,” he added. “We’re a bit more adventurous than the whisky guys who have to have consistency and being conservative is a merit there, whereas with us it can be a drawback.” The company makes fruit gins and is planning to make a gin using seaweed.
“It’s great fun,” beams Nicol.
McCuish, meanwhile emphasized the variety to be found in Scotland. He said its two main cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which are just 50 minutes apart by car or train, are completely different in outlook. Edinburgh has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in addition to many renowned festivals while Glasgow is “all about the fashion and music industries.” Scotland is also easily accessible with Air Canada flights from Toronto to Edinburgh.