A couple of years ago, I had the good pleasure of going to a gin tasting which included my first taste of Caorunn gin. Since then, Caorunn has been my gin of choice when out for dinner or drinks, or in at home for a Friday night with friends.
I found out recently that Caorunn have started tours of their gin plant this year, so last week, we took ourselves down to Cromdale in Moray for a distillery tour and tasting.
Our first port of call was the Bothy, a small but welcoming warming space to relax and peruse a whole host of locally made giftware and furniture. The room also includes a bar which we would return to later for our complimentary G&T at the end of the tour and tasting. The space felt really authentic to the handcrafted ethos of Caorunn as we would continue to find out during our 90 minute experience.
I picked up one of the bog myrtle and apple candles. Did you know that midges absolutely detest bog myrtle? As a fragrant plant, it’s a key ingredient in Avon Skin so Soft – a must-buy if you ever head to the western coast of Scotland in the summer!
Another great gift idea is this botanical bottle. Featuring all 11 botanical ingredients of Caorunn Gin, this is a great idea to replicate the aroma of gin at home!
Tours are deliberately kept small and intimate, so booking ahead of time is definitely recommended. We started by listening to our guide Emma give a potted history of gin. I hadn’t realised that gin is actually older than whisky – the first written mention came in 1269! Throughout the centuries gin has become ever-popular, and Scotland produces 70% of gin in Britain – a testament to the natural larder of ingredients found throughout the country. The site of Caorunn is also home to one of the oldest working distilleries, which has produced Balmenach whisky since 1824.
It was then time to head outside and take a look at Caorunn’s botanical garden. All five of the celtic botanical ingredients are foraged locally, within walking distance of the distillery.
Coul Blush are a variety of apples, the most northerly grown in the UK. They have a sweet, clean aromatic taste.
Forming the very soul of Caorunn, the rowan berry has inspired celtic medicines and recipes for generations.
Heather provides subtle, sweet perfumed undertones, and it’s also an integral part of the Highland landscape.
Despite having a bad reputation as a pesky weed, Dandelions are commonly used as a herb within food and drink preparation, and these bring a unique freshness to Caorunn.
Of course, as well as warding off midges, bog myrtle infuses a soft sweet resinous aroma.
Emma also gave us a close up look at a bunch of rowan berries. The name Caorunn is Gaelic for rowan berry and the star shape at the base is also the star shape logo on all their marketing and promotion.
After a few minutes in the brisk Scottish air it was inevitably time to warm up and so we headed straight into the distillery.
As distilleries go, this is a relatively small one, distilling 1000 litres of gin at a time, using the world’s only working copper berry chambers to infuse the botanical ingredients.
The botanical ingredients are weighed out before being laid out in the chamber trays.
This chair is very important, as it is used to make the distillers comfortable as they watch the vaporiser rise to the correct level. Any liquid that rises above this level ruins the whole batch of gin, as it would be turned green!
All of the artwork witin the distillery was created by Chelsea Frew. It’s stunning and really gives the distillery a personal feel.
After our tour of the production area, it was time to nose around (literally) the botanicals that are infused into Caorunn and see if our nose/tastebuds could detect the diffrent notes within the neat gin. As well as the five Celtic botanicals there are also 6 traditional botanicals; coriander seed, lemon peel, cassia bark, angelica root, orange peel and not forgetting juniper berries which are the heart of gin. When we were finished, we could compare our answers (which were all different) to the head distillers. None of us got remotely close, so at least none of us have missed our calling as a distiller!
From there it was time to end our time on the tour with a Caorunn & tonic – traditionally served with Fevertree tonic and a red apple garnish, served by Emma our guide.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Caorunn. Having been on a couple of whisky tours, I can say it was the best distillery tour I’ve been on. Each element of the Caorunn tour and tasting was well-thought out and presented. Having smaller groups gives a more intimate feel to the experience and the setting within the Cairngorms National Park is very hard to beat. Emma was both knowledgable and passionate about Caorunn, and was able to share recipe ideas for hot gin toddies. It’s definitely a hidden secret (at the moment!) in Speyside and a great place to take any gin enthusiast. Very highly recommended!
Tours cost £10 per person and include:
- An insight into Caorunn’s artisanal production process, botanical garden and foraged local ingredients
- Behind the scenes tour of the production area
- Tutored deconstructed nosing and tasting session
- Neat tasting
- Refreshing Caorunn & Tonic with red apple garnish
To make a booking, or for more information contact 01479 874933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: Balmenach Distillery, Cromdale, PH26 3PF
I received 2 complimentary places on the Caorunn Distillery tour and tasting for the purposes of this review post. All opinions are my own.