Caorunn gin captivated me from the first time I heard about. Exotic botanicals are nothing new in modern gin. With Big names like Bombay getting into exotic ingredients designed to invoke a certain region, it shouldn’t be surprising that a gin coming out of Scotland would attempt to do something that invokes a certain vision of the pastoral and idyllic Scottish countryside.
The 5 Unique Botanicals (w/ Wikipedia references for those who are unfamiliar with the Botany of the Northern United Kingdom)
Coul Blush Apple: The UK telegraph reports that native apples are making a comeback, after being obscured beneath the mounds of cheaper imports like Granny Smith. “Makes a good sauce.”
Heather is a short shrub that grows in bogs all across Europe and parts of Asia.
Bog Myrtle is also known as “Sweet Gale” and is a short shrub common in nitrogen poor bogs in North America and Europe. Bog Myrtle was a common component of beer flavoring in Europe prior to the availability of hops.
Rowan Berry is a common wild tree in the UK. Often as small trees with bright orange-reddish berries.
And Dandelion leaf should be familiar to anyone who’s ever had a lawn.
These botanicals are in addition to a traditional gin bouquet, which oddly is what comes out when Caorunn gin is tasted.
I found that to be the most striking thing upon tasting: It doesn’t taste all that different from a traditional gin. All of these exotic flavors go in, and the end product is smooth but traditional. The most prominent note is the juniper, but there’s subtle flavors of vanilla, burnt sugar and cinnamon. I’m not sure if those come from the five Scottish botanicals, or from the more traditional gin flavorings. It works well in a Gin and Tonic, and my friends who were not gin drinkers seemed to enjoy Caorunn gin w/ Fresh muddled basil, blueberries and a bit of club soda (summer improv cocktail). But I couldn’t help but just feel a bit of disappointment. There’s nothing wrong with a good London Dry gin, but when the marketing is focused around these five exotic herbs I expected something that tasted unmistakably like Scotland. Instead, it tasted like it could have been anywhere near London.
One thing that Caorunn has interestingly done reminds me of the “point of difference” garnish with a cucumber thing that Hendrick’s has done really well. A gin and tonic is with a lime; Hendrick’s is with a cucumber. I think that Caorunn would like to be the gin and tonic with an apple slice. Its only too bad that as hard as I strained, I just couldn’t taste any definitive notes of apple in this gin.
Best consumed: Holds up capably as a London Dry gin.
Availability: Rather uncommon in the US. Either your local large-selection liquor store, or online.
Rating: Expectations are hard to overlook sometimes. While a solid gin, I think it could have been so much more