Pull on the handbrake ... everyone out. We have arrived at Arbikie Highland Estate, on the east coat of Scotland in Angus. There the Stirling Brothers have converted an old barn into a distillery. The farm provides the spirit ingredients and the surrounds foraged for botanicals.
The estate is gearing it's self up to producing whisky - but as we wait whilst it sleeps in the barrels maturing, Arbikie has come up with some other more immediate spirits. First came Arbikie Vodka - a premium spirit made from their own potatoes. Then came Kirsty's Gin - but who is Kirsty?
Kirsty Black, previously of Pickering's Gin in Edinburgh is the resident master distiller and distillery manager and after two years she has produced Arbikie's first gin.
Again the gin is made using a spirit based on their own potatoes (including King Edwards - I throw that in as a fun fact). The locally sourced botanicals contains kelp, thistle and fruitiness from blaeberries. If we remember the three notes requirements, then you can see the fruit helping the top notes with some zing. The thistle in the middle with herbaceous florals and kelp at the base , plucking away like John Paul Jones on bass.
The potato based spirit is smooth with a certain creaminess that is very pleasing in the mouth. The balancing of the botanicals is focused on giving a rounded taste and Kirsty manages this beautifully. With some spicy pepper and liquorice making an appearance to perk things up.
Due to the quality of the base spirit and the botanical balance this is an excellent 'sipping' gin. Just a few drops of water over ice and enjoy.
But we're a bit more adventurous and would recommend this gin pared with sushi or cured salmon. Mix with a quality tonic (but be sparse - say, 50:50) such as Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic or if you want to be 'outrageous' try Peter Spanton No. 9 Cardamom Tonic and some blueberries slightly crushed and floating.
If you want to Cocktail-It then a martini would be smooth and unctuous if you used half and half with Arbikie Vodka (yeah, keep it in the family) with a tiniest tiddle of dry vermouth by Berlin's one and only Belsazar - A Peaty Nose twist on a Vespa (So shaken not stirred).
If the thought of all those potatoes is too much for you, Arbikie also produce another gin called AK using grain spirit based on wheat with the addition of Estate honey. Botanically there's black pepper, mace and cardamom - so a gin based on the sub-continent like Malacca, Ophir or Rangpur. Makes a damn fine G&T with lemon twist.
Dear, oh Dear ... Look at the time we need to get going. Onto the bus as we've a bit of a journey as next we are off to Shetland and we need to catch a ferry from Aberdeen. Somebody pick up Gary, he fallen of the wagon, again.