Methven is a village near Perth. The bus made it after a drizzle of a run up from Loch Lomond, a mere one and a half hours. Here in methane is the magic that I call Strathearn (Extra points for saying "Strathearn, that's a lovely Strath, Ern"). Labelled as 'probably the smallest distillery in Scotland'.
Where Strathearn is concerned I put up my hand and admit to a bias. I have watched this distillery since it opened and been intrigued and delighted by quite a few of their gin expressions. So rather than concentrate on one gin, we will be gambling through a few. This might get messy, but I'll try to keep us all vertical and on the level.
First to be unveiled is their Heather Rose Gin - labelled up as a celebration gin! Well lets all give it a rousing Hip Hip Hooray. This gin uses two processes - initially there is a distillation with a basket of botanicals, then afterwards there is some compounding with the more delicate additions. Besides the usual juniper, coriander and lemon peel there is liquorice, orange peel, rose petals and purple heather flowers. The flowers give a luxurious floral hue to the flavours as well as the colour, for we have here a lovely amber liquid. When a mixer is added - then you get a lovely pink blush to your drink - but the prescribed mixer of choice would be champagne to give you a real Celebration Champagne Cocktail.
The bottle, it's livery all scream class and this gin is classic, with it's pinky twist. The floral nature is a great addition to the cocktail cabinet and it is as versatile as it is traditional.
Lovely - so lets now look at another of their gins - and one that first peaked my interest and understanding as to what can be achieved with the juniper libation. Dear readers, I give you Strathearn's Oaked Highland Gin. Again Strathearn use the double process and the botanicals used are the usual suspects of juniper, lemon peel and coriander, with the addition of orange peel, liquorice, rose petals, vanilla and oak barrel staves - yes you did read that right.
The staves add a certain dryness, but with sweetness that the vanilla and the liquorice accentuates. The oak barrel staves taking the gin and the taste on a right turn into Whisky Town. But only to the outskirts for the balance is well done and there is more a nod to gin than to the whisky. The trick must be to let the gin come in contact with the oak for just the right amount of time - very much a Goldilocks Timing. But the bears would not wake up with a sore head. This gin is smooth, elegant and shows how Strathearn can make fantastic classic gin with an unusual twist that seems natural and not out of the ordinary. There are a lot of new gins that have unusual ingredients just for the sake of it - like Violet Elizabeth screaming "Look at Me, Look at Me" - but Strathearn manage it with restraint and refinement. Put it in a glass over ice with a curl of orange peel and enjoy. 'Sipping' Gin at it's best, or a slight splash of ginger ale, rather than tonic will perk you up no end!
There is also a citrus gin which adds grapefruit and kaffir lime leaves to the mix to give a sparkling top note gin and a Juniper Gin which has higher evidence and reliance on juniper and a spicy cradle to the finish.
Strathearn are also in the process of letting their whiskies sleep - so lets look forward to that - although there have been some releases of their Uisge Beatha. The use of small casks and different woods (cherry, pear, chestnut to name but a few) will, I am sure, create a stir and a lot of comment.
Back on the bus - time to pick everyone up and set off again on the gin trail with a visit to the capital, as we arrive in Edinburgh.