Ginneries in Scotland are popping up everywhere, with the country fast overtaking the rest of the UK as masters of the ancient art. The latest, and a truly spectacular addition to the circuit is El:Gin. No prizes for where this uniquely distilled gin comes from.
Elgin is a historic Scottish town built south of the river Lossie and, like the crisp clean air and beautiful countryside, this gin more than lives up to the image of the town it calls home. It’s clear and clean with a distinctly Scottish edge.
Launched on Friday 13th May 2016, this boutique distillery has proven that it really is only unlucky for some. The last year and a half has been a whirlwind for founder Leah Miller, not least in perfecting the product.
“It took us over a year of trial and error to get the botanicals and balance right [prior to launch]. We knew where we wanted to go with the flavour profile, it was just getting the balance right that took the time,” explains Leah.
“I founded the company with a very good friend Paul Hooper. We both work for a large drinks company which inspired us to do something for ourselves. We wanted to create something different using local ingredients as much as possible and, most importantly, distill it ourselves using our whisky distilling knowledge.”
Paul has since left due to personal commitments but the El:Gin show must go on, with Leah and a group of close friends running the distillery between fulltime jobs. They do this for the fun of it, for the sheer passion, and that is telling in the product, from the gin right down to the comfortable, stylish matt black bottle.
The gin itself is made using Scottish Oats, something that gives it a distinct creaminess and texture; a unique experience for established gin drinkers. El:Gin cut back on the juniper content and concentrated primarily on a handful of botanicals, and spent over a year getting the balance correct. It was about giving each their place and not making one more dominant than the other, Leah explains.
“Firstly, we wanted to be different. As it says on the bottle, El:Gin is no ordinary gin. We purposely cut back on the juniper content, added strawberries, raspberries and apples and, we think uniquely to us Scottish oats. All distilled under a direct flame so we have complete control over the distillation,” said Leah.
“Next we looked at the packaging again wanting to move away from the standard gin bottle and pick something that would stand out, and people would remember, so opted for a black stoneware bottle with copper, black and white on our label.
“As for our name, being distilled, bottled and labelled in Elgin we really couldn’t call it anything else – the name was a gift.”
Leah is proud of Scotland’s role in the new wave of gin distilleries coming to market, commenting on how the gin industry is hot on the heels of whisky. Commenting on the pace of production, the freedom in the industry and the role of the consumer, Leah and El:Gin come across as a remarkably intuitive group of gin lovers who are pooling their expertise to produce a product that they themselves would love.
“I find the way that gin production has muscled in on whisky very interesting,” said Leah. “I read recently that 70% of the gin consumed in the UK is made in Scotland, even though many people think of it as an English drink. But I think we are really starting to challenge that mindset and Scotland is quite rightly being seen as pioneers in craft gin production.”
“I think the fact that you can distill gin and have it in a bottle within days and not have to wait for a minimum three years as for whisky encourages new gin distillers, particularly craft distillers, to have a go – each coming up with their own spin and twist making it a really inspirational place to be.”
When El:Gin first launched, Leah knew it was a gamble. She trusted the gin they’d spent days, weeks and months perfecting over a copper still, but it was about pushing it out into the market and getting the concept, brand and most importantly flavour to stick. The gin was distilled, bottled and labelled by hand, with the help of family and friends. They repaid the favour by giving one of the core staff’s daughter a distilling role and training her in the magic art.
Every long night, every reimagining of their direction and every sip of gin culminated in El:Gin receiving the Scottish distilled gin of the year at the Scottish gin awards, a momentous accolade to receive in such a short period of time and complete testament to the immense amount of hard work they poured into the gin, and of course, the sheer quality of the gin itself.
A year and a half on from launch and El:Gin aren’t resting on their laurels. They’ve already launched a few gin liqueurs – Moray Berry, a blend of El:Gin with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and fuchsia berries, and Moray Mocha, a chocolate gin liqueur launched in partnership with a local coffee roaster – as well as a seasonal special, Gin-gle Gin, inspired by Leah’s great aunt’s Christmas cake recipe.
With plans to set up their own online shop in the new year, Leah’s feet are firmly on the ground and she is determined “to continue to produce exciting new products and have fun doing it”
Enjoy this one. It’s pretty special. We’re delighted to be bringing it to everyone at home. El:Gin has not only found its footing on the ever-expanding Scottish gin map in such a short period of time, it’s rapidly becoming one of the country’s biggest landmarks.