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Review

Caorunn Gin

Distillery

Balmenach Distillery (International Beverage Holdings), Cromdale, Speyside, Scotland, UK.

Website

Caorunn Gin and International Beverage Holdings Ltd.

History

Balmenach Distillery is a working malt whisky distillery, one of the first in Scotland, having been licensed in 1824 by James McGregor. The Distillery was bought by Inver House Distillers in 1997 and in 2008 became part of International Beverage Holdings.

Balmenach is in the heart of Cairngorm National Park at the foot of the Haughs of Cromdale. These hills are a natural source of spring water used by the distillery. Simon Buley is the distiller responsible for the production of Gin at this site. He had been looking to produce Gin for some time, particularly using traditional Celtic methods. This became reality when the Gin was launched in the UK in 2009, and the USA in 2011.

Production

Produced in small batches of around 1,000 liters from triple distilled wheat grain spirit. The botanicals are vapor infused in a unique Copper Berry Chamber from the 1920’s (looks like a large copper cylinder lying flat) with 4 trays where the botanicals are placed creating a large exposed surface area. We are led to understand this is a common piece of equipment for the extraction of essential oils in the perfumery business but certainly unusual in Gin distillation. Natural local spring water is used throughout the process.

The clear squat decanter style bottle (devised by Navy Blue Design) has a distinctive red asterisk on the face (above the label) and the bottom is a unique five-sided base; both designs representing the five Celtic botanicals used in the Gin.

Category

London Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

41.8% (84 Proof).

Price Range

$$$ - $$$$. Available online, try: Fine Wine House, Liquorama, Liquor Barn, Astor Wine or Star wine & Liquors.

Botanicals

The gin is made from 6 traditional and 5 local* Celtic hand picked botanicals (from the surrounding hills and the distillery’s garden): angelica root, apple (coul blush)*, bog myrtle*, cassia bark, coriander seed, dandelion leaf*, heather *, juniper berries, lemon peel, orange peel and rowan berry*

Name

Caorunn (or Rhuda-an) is pronounced “Ka-roon” and comes from the Gaelic word for Rowan Berry, a key botanical in this Gin.

Tasting Notes

On the nose is citrus and light pine (juniper) with some sweet floral notes, plus if you let it pervade you can find spice and herbal notes coming through (even rosemary!). On the palate there is a very slight sweetness with this smooth medium to full bodied spirit displaying a taste of citrus (lemon & orange) and juniper with spice (coriander) notes, plus there are some subtle hard to define nuances in the background (perhaps apple, berry fruit and vanilla). The close is long and very dry with a warming peppery citrus finish and some floral notes, plus a slight hint of aniseed. A very well balanced Gin with some very subtle nuances.

This is perfectly acceptable drunk neat, with a nice crispness. However, we quickly found out how nice it is in a Gin & Tonic (we suggest Fentimens), preferably in a strong 1:2 ratio mix, and we tried this with a slice of lemon (but the producers recommend serving with thin slices of red apple). This Gin also makes a soft but very good Martini, it mixes extremely well with the herbal qualities of the vermouth (particularly when drier) and we garnished this with a twist of lemon. This proved so popular the bottle was empty far too soon. There are plenty of suggested cocktails on the Caorunn website for one to experiment with further.

We have heard through third parties this does not do so well when garnished with olives (especially with a Dirty Martini) or with Lime, so we’re guessing a Gimlet might be out. Unfortunately we did not retain enough Gin to try these out but plan to with our next bottle – please let us know how you get on especially if you try the slices of red apple, olives or Lime. 

All in all this presents a good recommended London Dry Gin with a soft smoothness many Gin lovers and some new Gin lovers will enjoy. Alas, we can’t help but feel a little disappointed in the 5 Celtic botanicals used for not presenting a stronger impact on the flavor profile (although we truly appreciate it is always easier to criticize than create).

Awards & Accolades

90 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

89 Points, Beverage Testing Institute.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.

Silver Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.

Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2012.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2011.

Bronze Medal, International Wine and Spirits Competition, 2011.

Double Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2010.

Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2010.

Silver Medal, International Cocktail Challenge, 2010.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2009.



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