Distilled and bottled in Scotland, Caorunn is handcrafted in small batches and firmly takes on the mantle of a national product. Not only does this relative newcomer draw on centuries of distilling expertise learned from the whisky trade as well as on the pure Scottish Highland water, it’s also infused with time-honoured Celtic botanicals. Even the name itself, Caorunn, is Celtic for Rowan Berry (one of the botanicals used).
Caorunn is distilled at Balmenach Distillery (that can trace its origins back to 1824, making it one of the oldest distilleries in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands). The Balmenach Distillery itself (first licensed in 1824 by James McGregor) was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to be licensed in the production of Scotch whisky. The distillery is situated in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, at the foot of the Haughs of Cromdale. Inspired by the landscape that surrounded them – Simon Buley (one of the distillers) wanted to is to use the ancient skills and recipes of spirit making and to harness the age old Celtic botanicals that grow on the surrounding hills of Balmenach Distillery. It was based on the Celtic traditions and regional crops that Caorunn’s recipe took form. It includes six traditional botanicals (juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica root, cassia bark) but also adds further Scottish botanicals including rowan berry, heather, dandelion and coul blush apple.
Before the botanicals are introduced into the process, the pure grain spirit is triple distilled. Once the neutral spirit is ready the team begin their to make gin. Carefully controlled by the Gin Master, each batch of Caorunn is usually only around 1,000 litres and unlike most other types gin distillation, they vaporize the pure grain spirit through a unique copper berry chamber. This is similar to the distillation techniques used in Carterhead stills however, the Caorunn still has a round chamber with copper frame and carries four large horizontal trays (rather than a basket sitting at the top of a column still like with the Carterhead’s). Spreading the botanicals on these trays allows the grain spirit vapour to meet the botanicals on the largest possible surface during a long and slow infusion process. Finally, the distillate is blended with Scottish highland water and bottled at 41.8% ABV. The combination of a slower process, smaller batch, top quality botanicals and careful monitoring allows for a consistency and exceptional quality in the end product.
Drunk on its own, the gin is crisp, dry and well-balanced yet still full-bodied. The botanicals jump out in the palate with spices, cirtus and floral notes all working well to compliment a dry juniper note that leaves you with a crisp, clean finish. Interestingly the recommended Caorunn G and T serve is with a thin wedge of red apple (fitting in nicely with the coul blush apple used to make the gin itself).
Continuing with the heritage all the way throughout- the bottle (which was influenced by the Scottish Art Nouveau movement), has a unique five-sided base. Both the shape and the symbolic asterisk represent the five Celtic botanicals.
The team at Caorunn has done phenomenally well to establish the brand in what has become a ferocious and fast paced market place. Cleverly playing on national identity, they have managed to create instant heritage in a new product. Of course this is greatly helped by the liquid itself, that more than lives up to such brilliant marketing. With a style-based sponsorship programme of the newly refurbished National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh as well as recently making their debut in the USA, things seem to be gathering momentum and 2012 shows all the signs of being a huge year. With the combination of good gin, savvy positioning and a genuine point of difference – both in taste and providence, we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more from Caorunn.
For more information on Caorunn, visit their website: