Master Distiller, Simon Buley, the creator of Caorunn Gin, goes under the Gintime spotlight.
Simon Buley is happy: “The best thing about Caorunn is I can make it today and you can enjoy it tomorrow!” This may not come as much of a revelation to gin distillers but it’s a real treat for Simon Buley, master distiller of Scotland’s exciting new gin Caorunn. Living in Speyside, the heart of the whisky world, it was difficult for him not to be influenced by the distilling industry and he now enjoys the different challenges both spirits present. “Whisky production starts at mashing right through to distillation. During this there are many parameters that need to be controlled and kept a watchful eye on, and of course you have to wait three years at least before you can call it whisky. Gin is all about getting the right mix of botanicals and the perfect rate of distillation. When making Scotch Whisky nothing except water, malted barley and yeast is allowed to be added, so getting the chance to add ingredients to a product and try out different recipes is great.”
And what an ingredient list he has. Along with the traditional botanicals juniper, coriander, citrus, angelica and orris, Simon has added ingredients local to the distillery: rowan berries (Caorunn is the Gaelic word for rowan), Coul Blush apple, heather, bog myrtle and dandelion. You could say that Caorunn is truly a spirit of place. Naturally this took trial and error and a lot of hard work.
“We found that the five botanicals we used embodied the Celtic spirit and taste we were looking for. They can be hard to source at certain times of year, as most of them are seasonal. We just have to ensure we have enough in stock to see us through.”
Caorunn is made in a ‘berry chamber’ consisting of four perforated trays enclosed within a sealed copper chamber. The botanicals are spread out and the trays are then put in place in the chamber, which is locked and sealed. The grain neutral spirit is then vaporized and enters the chamber.
“The design means that all spirit vapours must pass through the botanicals,” Simon explains, “and that results in the full impact of the botanicals in the final product.”
This slightly unusual method still qualifies Caorunn as a London Gin because all the botanicals are natural and no flavours are added after distillation. The gin also benefits from the softness and purity of the Scottish water, which makes it an easy to drink, smooth gin.
A ‘small batch gin’, Caorunn is made in batches of 1000 litres at a time and Simon is there from start to finish: “The attention to detail that we apply to Caorunn restricts us to a batch this size. The distillation process is all controlled by hand, sight, smell and taste. We all have these senses so why not use them? After all these are what consumers use to assess the product. We think that all these factors rolled together make a truly exceptional gin.”
Regular Gintime readers will be aware that there are many gins gracing the most stylish back bars these days but Caorunn’s bottle has a very striking design, as Simon explains: “Our marketing team was determined to have a packaging, that incorporates the essence of the brand, its Scottish heritage and Celtic botanicals, but avoiding the traditional Scottish look and feel that is so characteristic for the Scotch category. It was created by Navy Blue Design who were inspired by our five Celtic botanicals and the Celtic motifs and knots that are the essence of the Scottish Art Nouveau movement.”
Although living in the heart of Speyside means that Simon doesn’t, shall we say, ‘get out much’ but he is more than happy with the simple pleasures life has to offer. “As long as my night out involved good food and a few good drinks with friends and family I would be happy. What more do you need?”
Indeed! And he’s very excited about the future of the gin industry. “More and more artisan, small batch distilled gins are launched, like Sipsmith Gin from London, that help to increase the quality perception of the whole gin category. This shows that consumers want a more sophisticated product, one that stands out from the rest and can get people talking. How often did you hear anyone say ‘I tried x gin last week it was great you should go and get a bottle’. This is starting to happen.”
Simon also has a huge respect for mixologists, many of who are coming up with new and unusual cocktails to make the most of Caorunn’s distinctive flavours. Recent additions include the ones featured in Gintime News – link to Caorunn item. ‘How on earth they keep coming up with different ones all the time astounds me! Caorunn is full of flavours and works well when you just keep it simple, using a dash of Tonic or dry Vermouth.”
Trying a new gin is always exciting. What should we be looking for when sampling Caorunn for the first time? “All you should look for is satisfaction, if you get this then you know its hit the spot!”
Simon’s favourite G&T serve:
“You guessed Caorunn with a slice of red apple not lemon. The apple really makes a difference and you can eat it at the end!”