When so many new gins are launching every month in the UK and further afield, how do we bloggers and enthusiasts keep up? I like to keep a close eye on Instagram and Twitter where I share my finds with a #newginalert, while gin festivals are also a great way to not only hear about new releases but taste them too. I can still walk into a bar or pub and spot a gin that I’ve yet to try, but it’s pretty rare that I’ll never even have heard of it before. But that was how I first came across Inshriach Gin, and that was just the beginning of this serendipitous story.
Back in June 2017, I found Inshriach Navy Strength Gin on the marvellous MarTINY machine at my favourite little cocktail joint in Hackney after the co-owner, Felix Cohen, won a case in a bet on the outcome of Theresa May’s infamous election. I hadn’t even heard of Inshriach, let alone seen it or tasted it before. But I was impressed. So naturally I shared the good news on Twitter. And, unexpectedly, I found myself invited to the gin launch the following week!
And what a gin launch it was! Hosted by London artist Molly Micklethwait (sister to Walter Micklethwait, the founder of Inshriach Gin) and her partner Rufus White at their shed village in the heart of East London, it was an intimate, magical affair. Incongruously tucked away at the bottom of a residential garden in the middle of bustling Bow, the shed village looked, and felt, quite the quaint little hamlet with wandering musicians, playing children and even a village dog looking for a quiet place to sleep. And, in true village style, everyone knew everyone. Including, it transpired, my husband, who quickly realised from the distinctive name that he had been to school with Walter!
Strange as it may seem, there couldn’t have been a more perfect place for the London launch of Inshriach Gin, given that it is distilled in a little shed in the Scottish Highlands. And not just any little shed, but Channel Four’s Shed of the Year 2015! Once home to Crossbill Gin, they and Walter parted ways in late 2016. Then, in 2017, Walter launched his own Inshriach Original 43% featuring Scottish juniper and other botanicals, all picked within just a few miles of the Inshriach Estate, deep in the Cairngorms National Park.
An incredibly friendly and open chap, Walter admits that he’s far more interested in flavours and botany than cocktails and gimmicks. His ambition is clearly to produce a quality spirit that speaks for itself and for his little patch of Scotland. So much so that, when a difficult harvest this year led to an unusually sharp gin using early-season juniper, Walter took the decision to withdraw an entire batch of the Original 43% from sale. A difficult decision for any producer at any time of year, this speaks volumes when undertaken by such a small operator in the run-up to Christmas.
With Inshriach Gin I’m trying to get the best results I can from simple ingredients that I can pick myself.
Those simple ingredients consist only of juniper, rose hips and juniper tips blended with spring water from the estate that Walter describes as “slightly peaty but very soft”. Being locally foraged, each batch varies depending on when and where the ingredients have been picked, although Walter does mix harvests to get the best quality and consistency he can. He then freezes his botanicals before leaving them to steep for two or three days prior to distillation (partly vapour-infused and partly immersed) in his 150-litre copper still affectionally known as Lil Nellie.
Inshriach 43% Original Speyside Dry Gin
The nose is clean and dominated by juniper and lemon. The citrus is less bold when sipped neat but there is certainly plenty of green, piney juniper with some herbal notes and a very peppery bite. Mixed with water, a hint of citrus comes through at the start, followed by juniper and then pepper again on the smooth finish.
Served with Fever-Tree (I haven’t yet got hold of their local, and recommended, Walter Gregor’s Tonic) and a wedge of lemon, this makes an outstandingly classic and clean G&T. With bold flavours and no messing about, this is undoubtedly a combination that will hit the spot, especially for the purists among you.
Inshriach 57% Navy Strength Speyside Dry Gin
The newest addition to the family, the Inshriach Navy Strength contains the same botanicals as the Original 43% but the ratio of ingredients to spirit is completely different. The robust nose is full of juniper and brings to mind wide open spaces, heather, gorse and those Scottish Highlands. Sipped neat, this powerful gin is very juniper-forward with perhaps some minty notes and a little of that pepperiness that was so prominent in the Original Gin. Water brings out both the flavours and the soft velvety mouthfeel of the Navy Strength. There appears to be less citrus in this variant but the green piney juniper is still abundant, alongside a slightly tangy tartness – almost a jamminess – which makes me wonder if the Navy Strength may contain more rose hips than the Original recipe.
In a G&T (again with Fever-Tree), the suggested grapefruit garnish adds citrus and enhances the lovely bitter-sweetness of the gin. Whether it’s down to the garnish, or the different balance of the botanicals, this appears to be a slightly more contemporary, less traditional, gin than Inshriach’s Original. But that is certainly not a bad thing in my books. This robust and hearty gin makes another exceptional gin and tonic that few could find fault with.
Indeed, I had the pleasure of introducing Inshriach Gin to a gathering of fellow gin bloggers and industry professionals at Gin Foundry recently and it seemed to go down very well indeed. I’d highly recommend you give it a go soon too; I don’t think it will be long before that shed has a few more awards to grace its tumble-down walls.
Purchase Inshriach 43% Original (£38 for 70cl) or Inshriach 57% Navy Strength (£50 for 70cl) here.
With thanks to Walter for the complimentary bottle of Inshriach Navy Strength Gin.