That was a choppy journey, but we got here. The isle of Unst in Shetland - the northernmost inhabited island in the British Isles, with a population of around 700 souls.
At the top is the Saxa Vord Distillery - the most norther and subject to long summer days and long, long winter nights, so what else is there to do but make gin.
And, boy, can they make gin! Saxa Vord used to be an RAF base, so this might explain it - or not. The distillery is cute, small and very friendly. This is a distillery that prides itself in its small batch productions and tours and tastings are actively encouraged. But you need to book in advance, so they've got time to put the lights on.
As we are looking at the artisan craft gins of Scotland, this is another distillery that uses local botanics to supplement the usual juniper. Apple mint is the botanic of choice in their Shetland Reel Original Gin, whilst their Shetland Reel Ocean Sent Gin uses bladderwrack seaweed (more on this later)
Shetland Reel is a classically made London Dry Gin. This is important, as it means that nothing is added to the gin after distillation, except for water to bring it to its alcoholic proof (43% since you asked) so its a good sign to hear a distiller referring to their gin as London Dry.
It's clean on the nose with juniper to the front with a middle of sweet spice and a high-hat of citrus. Neat, on the palate its well rounded and the mint makes a great rear-end appearance that cleans the palate and gives a clean and neat ending. This is a superb gin for making a classic G&T for those long beautiful Shetland evenings. Buy it at the distillery and they might even wrap it in a small tweed duffle bag too.
Now, much as I like Shetland Reel Original Gin, I really want to concentrate on their second offering - Shetland Reel Ocean Sent. Using the aforementioned bladderwrack seaweed - they wash it and dry it before distilling and it lends a wonderful salty tang with just a whiff of iodine. It's unusual, surprising and its bow towards savoury makes my adult palate dance a reel, let alone drink one. I think you are realising that I love this gin and so should you. This is a gin I'd always drink neat with a little water - out of a jam jar looking out to sea, or laughing at puffins! Then again if you want to have fun - get some sea salt, lemon slices and relive your youth drinking slammers.
Bladderwrack is high in iodine - which is a stimulant for the thyroid gland - and so boosts the metabolism. It is also a seaweed known to help rheumatism and rheumatoid arthritis. So, you can drink it and rub it into your knees and you'll soon be skipping about like a spring lamb.
Look out for Shetland Reel Special Editions - currently they have Simmer Gin with a lovely orange tang for a delightful sundowner; Holly Days, for Christmas, with extra spice, juniper and citrus. A new Limited Edition will be their Up Helly Aa Gin with added hints of woody spice. But be quick for they are small productions and when their gone, their gone.
Well, time for one last Ocean Sent gin out of the jam jar then back onto the bus. It’s another long trip back to the mainland as we're off to Aviemore.