The first brother has nothing to do with the story, so you can make up what happened to him, but the other two brothers have everything to do with this tale and to discover what happened and how three dogs were involved all you need to do is believe in magic and read on.
The two brothers were brought up in a cottage and both were interested in legends from ancient times. Stories of adventures and myth left them saucer-eyed, but as they got older they had to act all grown up and sensible.
Then one day the second brother announced that he wanted to revisit his childhood world of adventure.
His adventure was alchemy and his philosopher’s stone was GIN.
This journey has involved finding the elixir recipe. Boiling and distilling herbs, spices and fruits. Then to encase this potion in glass, stopper it and bring it to market.
The gin, which is to be released in May and showcased at this year’s Taste of Grampian, is called Raven Gin and is the newest Aberdeenshire gin to be released.
I met up with the second brother, Callum, director of Raven Spirits Ltd and Raven Gin’s founder, recently to talk about gin and to walk Mollydog and Callum’s two Scotties – Douglas and Ramsay (also known as the ASBO twins). So, as the three terriers ran about and terrorised the locals Callum and I shot the breeze before settling down to try this new gin of his.
First, the name, Raven, where did it come from and what is the inspiration. Callum explained, he has always been interested in Norse Mythology and that the raven is a revered bird to the Vikings. Odin, king of the gods, is often shown with two upon his shoulders. These regal ravens are called Huginn and Muninn, which in Old Norse translates as ‘Thought’ and ‘Memory’. These two birds fly over the Viking realm and report back to Odin all that is happening in the world. Odin is often referred to as Hrafnaguð, meaning 'Raven-God'.
So, the ravens, Huginn and Muninn, can be seen as manifestations of Odin’s spirit - his thought and his memory and this spirit has inspired the concept behind the gin. Callum grinned his assent.
Raven Gin comes in two editions: ‘Thought & Memory’, which is the regular offering, and the ‘Founder’s Edition', a stronger more intense version that is from the very first distillation run and will be limited to around 300 bottles. Later the range is to be expanded with the addition of a stronger ‘military grade’ gin of around 57% ABV.
First, we try the ‘Thought and Memory’ expression. The bottle is unusual in that it is part frosted, part inked with copper embellishments – this triple decorated bottle is of a type I have never seen before and believed to be the first time this process has been done. The design and production have all been done in Scotland and the runic copper stopper shows a great attention to detail, that tops it all off. The packaging design for Raven Gin has all been realised by FortyTwo, the award-winning Aberdeen design team that fashioned the couture of The Teasmith.
Coming in at 45% ABV it is definitely a premium gin! Hand crafted to the recipe created by Raven Spirits at Banchory’s Twin River Distillery - their first custom distilled gin - but with hands-on help from Raven Spirits. In style the gin is London Dry and classic, but then it is refreshed and updated with a twist by the addition of mandarin. Certainly, makes a change from the normal use of grapefruit, lemon, lime or orange. The botanicals certainly seem to suggest this is going to be a modern classic.
Ryan, the Brand Ambassador for Twin River Distillery had suggested a garnish of lemon to help intensify the mandarin, but without overpowering it and Fever-Tree light tonic water. Since Ryan is also an award-winning barman we took his advice and popped the cork.
At 45% ABV Raven Gin is light on the nose, the juniper is understated, and the warmth of spice and the refresh of mandarin can easily be discerned. Tasting neat it is a revelation. There is a taste journey. First, there is the lightness of a pure clean spirit and an undergrowth of juniper and angelica. Then, the juniper fades allowing the mandarin to take centre stage and it is fresh and juicy. Lastly, the spice kicks in giving Raven Gin a long and lingering finish with the warmth of cassia and coriander ending with a firecracker of cubeb pepper that cleanses the palate. This is the type of gin I love – one that gives you the journey of flavours pulling out the taste and showing the art of careful, slow distillation.
With tonic, Raven Gin is lengthened into a very refreshing G&T that is classic and yet the mandarin just holds it slightly above other gins that can come across as tart, or at worse astringent. I would love to experiment with Raven Gin on their other suggested serves of the Salvatore Calabrese modern classic of the Breakfast Martini or one of my personal favourites - the Mandarin Mojito, a cocktail that breaks all the rules!
We then went on to pop another bottle, this time trying the very limited ‘Founders Edition’. Here the bottle is darker with its blackened livery, again enhanced with copper and inks. A stunning addition to any gin collection. This gin comes in at 47% ABV, but the taste and mouth-feel are very different from ‘Thought & Memory’. Taken neat it is creamy and very smooth. There is a depth of taste from the botanicals that is more intense than in the regular Raven Gin. The ‘taste journey’ is more pronounced, but it has changed, now after the initial herbaceous juniper comes the warming spices and lastly comes the mandarin – this spice to citrus slide is fulfilling and reminds me of festive scents. This gin is certainly related to ‘Thought and Memory’, but it is the elder, worldlier brother. Knowing the way gin is distilled and the way botanicals release their fragrance and flavour Raven Gin ‘Founder’s Edition’ is nothing short of alchemy.
With tonic, ‘Founder’s Edition’ is lengthened, but I must admit it is a gin that you should pour over ice and just sip and enjoy. This is an elegant and refined gin that needs no adornments or additions.
Raven Gin is also to launch a line in mandarin marmalade, turning the botanic into a preserve and a natural ingredient for that Breakfast Martini.
Now to finish the fairy tale that I began at the very start – I know you may be wondering about the third brother. That brother you knew all along. You are reading his words.
The moral to this tale: ‘childhood is better enjoyed when you are older’