Recent years have seen the craft gin market grow exponentially. And the truth is that while some new gins are exceptional, many are not. And while many new gins embrace an ever expanding list of increasingly unusual botanicals, some work and some don’t. Some gins taste distinctive but many don’t. That doesn’t necessarily make them a bad gin of course, but without seeing the bottle some gins are just not that easy to identify, particularly when mixed with tonic water. It was this that Dale and Vicky McQueen wanted to address when they launched McQueen Gin. From the very beginning they were determined to create something different and distinctive. McQueen Gin was never going to conform.
Dale and Vicky McQueen decided to take on the traditional gin market in mid-July 2015. By August Dale had quit his job, registered Trossachs Distillery Limited and ordered a still. Then, in amazingly breakneck speed, McQueen Gin was launched on 3rd June 2016. And they launched with not one product, but four. And four defiantly distinctive products at that: Chocolate Mint Gin, Sweet Citrus Gin, Mocha Gin and Smokey Chilli Gin.
Since then, McQueen Gin has been among the first Scottish gins to receive Craft Gin accreditation from the Scottish Craft Distillers Association. They also won a grant of the maximum £10,000 from the Scottish EDGE Wild Card Award (for entrepreneurs launching new and innovative products into the Scottish market) which they have used to recruit a graduate to learn the business and help it grow. In addition to all this, they have received the accolade of being “the Heston Blumenthal of the gin market”.
With no intention of slowing down, McQueen Gin launched their fifth gin in five months, McQueen Dry Gin, on 4th November 2016. McQueen Gin hope that this latest addition to their range will open even more doors and widen the market for them. However, with each batch producing only 300 bottles of each flavour, they do not see any of these gins as a permanent part of their range. McQueen Gin are as determined as ever to keep experimenting and keep producing new gins; the retention of current products will be driven by sales and customer feedback alone.
“We will continue to break into new markets and deliver something very special to our customers. McQueen Gin will continue to develop new and exciting products, which will break some of the tradition of gin-making. With our new Head Distiller, Danny Gowrie, we see no limit to what can be created and delivered to gin fans across the world.”
All the gins have a different botanical line-up but no flavour elements are added after distillation. The spirit is simply blended and left to rest before being cut to McQueen’s final bottling strength of 42% ABV. The McQueen Dry Gin, arguably the most conservative of the lot, features Bulgarian juniper, grapefruit, lime, vanilla and black pepper. The Dry Gin, like all the others, is then bottled on-site at their distillery in Callander, Stirlingshire in their signature dark blue 50cl ceramic bottles. These traditional-looking bottles have the words ‘craft gin’ and an image of their still, little Maggie, embossed on the front and truly echo the company’s artisanal aspirations, although they may belie the trail-blazing contents.
On the nose, McQueen Dry Gin is very juniper- and pine-heavy with just a hint of citrus in the background. To taste, it is definitely a dry gin with lots of juniper in the fore followed by citrus with spicy pepper on the finish. Mixed 50/50 with water, I detected the sweeter notes from the vanilla and the gin certainly came across as smooth and clean.
McQueen’s recommended serve is as a gin and tonic with 50ml of McQueen Dry Gin, 100ml of Fever-Tree Premium Tonic Water, plenty of ice and a grapefruit and lime peel spiral garnish. And I’ve got to admit it’s pretty damn good! The grapefruit and lime garnish accentuate the citrus and, to some extent, the sweetness too although this remains at its heart a dry gin.
What I’m less sure about it is how distinctive it is. This is undoubtedly a good gin. But it’s perhaps less of a curious gin for curious minds and more a lovely gin for gin-lovers. I’m not sure I could pick this gin out of many from my collection blind-folded, but I’d certainly pick it again. I’ve not tried the other McQueen gins but I’d hazard a guess that the Dry Gin is the most traditional, and least adventurous, of the lot. I’d view this as a signature, entry-level gin to the McQueen collection, based on which people will have the confidence and enthusiasm to try the more original gins they offer. Go on, give it a whirl!
McQueen Dry Gin is available for purchase direct from McQueen Gin (£35 for 50cl).
With thanks to McQueen Gin for sending me a sample bottle.