It is not an easy task to keep up with the new distilleries, and new gins, being launched at the moment. Nor can it be easy, as a small batch distillery, to get your name out and your voice heard above the din of the competition. Some things help though: a good story; a beautiful bottle; a sell-out first batch! Avva Gin had all this, and more, as they wisely teamed up with The Juniper Club to become the gin subscription service’s second gin of the month in November 2016.
Avva Gin was launched by Elgin’s Moray Distillery in October 2016 but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that success seems to have come so swiftly. Avva Gin’s founder, Jill Brown, is a third generation licensee and also the owner of multi-award winning liqueur business, Berry Good, which she established in 2008 while she was studying for an honours degree in Rural Business Management.
The name of the gin originates from the Indian language of Dravidian, in which Avva means respected grandmother, or mother. At the same time, in Hebrew, it means to overturn or ruin; thus neatly referencing gin’s reputation, from Hogarth‘s days, as ‘Mothers’ Ruin’. With this in mind, Moray Distillery’s still is, appropriately, named Jessie-Jean, or J-J for short, after Jill’s grandmothers.
However, what Avva Gin is really all about is local arts and crafts. Rather unusually, Avva Gin’s bespoke copper still, J-J, was made for them by local firm Speyside Copper Works also based in Elgin. The small, yet traditional, 250-litre copper still was carefully handcrafted before being personally delivered to the Moray Distillery just a few streets away. As easy as it might have been to buy and import a standard off-the-shelf still, Jill recognised the value of local craftsmanship:
“I appreciate the importance of utilising local suppliers, which is why I chose for the still to be made in Moray. Not many distillers or distilleries were able to just pop over the road to see it all coming together. A Scottish still for a Scottish gin seems fitting.”
The honouring of local heritage and attention to detail doesn’t stop there though. The stunning bottle was designed by fellow Scottish firm Pocket Rocket Creative (who also designed Rock Rose Gin‘s bottles) and references Elgin’s famous landmark. Elgin Cathedral, also known as the ‘Lantern of the North’, is widely recognised as one of Scotland’s most ambitious and beautiful medieval buildings.
Avva Gin’s label is inspired by the cathedral’s east gable which is, or would have been, just as impressive as the famous west front. The cathedral’s east gable served to showcase the skill of the stonemasons with one large rose window and two rows of five narrow lancet windows piercing the tall structure. Only fragments of the rose window survive now but Pocket Rocket Creative have reimagined the tracery of the rose window to crown their label which depicts the five-arched lancet windows below.
The label is rich and sumptuous in shades of teal with copper detailing which catch the light beautifully. The overall look of the container is inspired by apothecary bottles with the wooden topped cork a beautiful feature with its de-embossed rose window design. Over this sits the label demonstrating that every batch is bottled by hand, before being individually numbered and signed by the Master Distiller.
As one would expect, the contents of the bottle also reference the local landscape. Avva Gin contains eleven botanicals in total, including rowan berries, dandelion, red clover, mint and nettle, many of which are found locally and sourced from a network of Jill’s friends and family across Speyside and the Highlands.
“It’s the transformation of what many consider weeds, which are gathered and preserved to allow year-long use.”
With a bottle – and a list of botanicals – so good, demand for Avva Gin was high. And, with J-J producing only 200 bottles per batch, those bottles didn’t hang around long! Avva Gin’s first batch went on pre-sale on 14 October 2016 and was sold out by 2 November. The second batch was snapped up as quickly as the first and at the time of writing Avva Gin are already selling their third batch (and no doubt working on many more!) within just a few weeks of launching!
The nose is dominated by juniper and pine with a hint of citrus and a delicate vanilla-like sweetness. To taste, Avva Gin is herbaceous and savoury with prominent juniper and a slight peppery heat. It is a robust, clean gin with a particularly herbal finish, from which it is easy to imagine the Highland foraging that went into selecting the botanicals. However, being unfamiliar with their flavours, I did find it hard to distinguish each one.
Avva Gin recommend serving their spirit in a large coppa glass with plenty of ice, tonic and a lime and juniper berry garnish which definitely works well. Avva Gin is distinctive and complex and holds its own against the tonic, with the lime garnish working well in elevating the flavours and enhancing the citrus botanicals.
Avva Gin is a splendidly Scottish Gin which transports me to a lush Highland forest on a dry, crisp day. Feeling tempted? Go on, ‘Avva Gin!
Avva Scottish Gin can be purchased from The Juniper Club (£38 for 70cl).
With thanks to The Juniper Club for the complimentary delivery of their November Gin of the Month.