Caorunn has been one of the most successful of the new wave of Scottish gins, which include terrific and tasty examples like Pickering’s, Crossbill and The Botanist to name only three.
Caorunn is made in the heart of whisky country, Speyside, at the Balmenach distillery. This dates back to 1824 and no doubt the founders would be astonished but delighted to see the old place also now making gin.
The gin is made in a 1920s-era Copper Berry Chamber, the only working example of its kind in the world. The Master Distiller is Simon Buley, who I recently wrote about for the US drinks magazine, Chilled, and you can read that short piece here. Caorunn is making big pushes in the US market and it’s become incredibly popular there since its launch in 2012.
As well as the more traditional botanicals (juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica root and cassia bark), Buley gives his gin a local flavour by also using five Celtic botanicals, including bog myrtle and the coul blush apple, the UK’s most northerly apple which originates from Coul in Ross-shire. The apple is important because Caorunn’s recommended serve is with a slice of red apple, and it’s an amazing combination.
The name Caorunn, by the way, is pronounced Ka-roon and is the Gaelic word for the rowan berry, which is another of the five Celtic botanicals that give Caorunn its distinctive taste. The other two are heather and dandelion.
It begins with the bottle, though. When you try a new spirit the pleasure starts with holding and examining the bottle, in anticipation of the pleasure to come from sampling the contents. And Caorunn’s bottle is a delight, with many detailed features. It’s five-sided, and has a five-pointed star as the base, both representing those five Celtic botanicals. The red five-pointed star logo also nods towards those botanicals, and you can see those botanicals if you look very closely at the label.
You can only spend so long looking at a bottle, however, before you get the overwhelming urge to open it. Caorunn is a London dry gin so you’d expect a crispness on the nose, and the blend of the botanicals ensures that the juniper doesn’t dominate. It’s also floral fresh, and a little fruity and spicy. An intriguing blend, in other words.
Caorunn is bottled at 41.8% proof, so is just marginally stronger than average. Tasting it, all the notes from the nose show through and the overall effect is a perfect blend of the floral, citrus and other fruit flavours, some spiciness, and the sharpness of the juniper. Although it’s a wonderful gin to sip neat, it also makes a brilliant gin and tonic, especially if you use the thin slices of red apple that Caorunn recommends.
Oh yes, the final delight of making your gin and tonic with a slice of apple rather than lemon or lime is that you get to suck and eat the apple at the end, imbued as it is with the flavour of the gin. If you’ve never tried an apple that has been soaked in Caorunn and tonic for several minutes, you don’t know what you’re missing.
And what’s remarkable about Caorunn is that it’s such a good gin at such an affordable price.
Visit the Caorunn Gin website.