Continuing my focus on Scottish gins ahead of International Scottish Gin Day, let’s celebrate with McLean’s Gin! McLean’s is unusual for a Scottish gin in that it is created via compounding, not distilling, the botanicals. I caught up with Head Ginologist Colin McLean to find out more:
Celebrating with McLean’s Gin
*Full disclosure, my bottle of McLean’s Something Blue gin was gifted in order to do my Instagram Live tasting and cocktail making, all opinions remain my own. This post contains affiliate links, these earn money to support the blog at no extra cost to you and are clearly marked*
How McLean’s Gin started
Basically it started in a cupboard in a Glasgow tenement, however there is more to the story than that! Colin’s foray into making booze started with homemade beer and wine, which by his own admission wasn’t the best…. A Christmas gift of a make your own gin kit from his in-laws was the true start to McLean’s gin, however it took Colin a year to actually open the kit and give it a go. Just in time for Valentine’s 2016 the first McLean gin was created for Colin’s fiance Jessica.
Fast forward nine months later and the perfected recipe was literally presented (as in given as presents!) to the McLean family, it went down a storm that Christmas and everyone agreed that they should make it sell. Fast forward another nine months, with kilner jars of gin and botanicals infusing in that tenement cupboard, to September 2017 and McLean’s gin was being sold at their first gin festival.The experimentation behind McLean’s signature gin, included freshly grown herbs from their tiny tenement garden, and peppers that they brought back from their travels to Madagascar. In all they amassed 50 different botanicals to play with! So the number of ingredients & combinations was immense. The final product includes anise, cubeb berries and sweet Seville orange, a pinch of rose, a touch of cardamom and a sprinkle of punchy grains of paradise. The McLean’s Signature gin is a smooth sipping gin, best served with a slice of red apple and Mediterranean tonic.
McLean’s Seasonal gins
Since then they have expanded the range beyond the first Signature gin, which with it’s aniseed kick, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! They added their seasonal gins to the range:
- Floral (Spring) – richly floral this violet coloured gin turns pink when mixed with tonic. The floral botanicals include rose petals, hibiscus and orange blossom, complemented by cardamom, fennel and nutmeg, leaving a slightly sweet finish.
- Citrus (Summer) – this is McLean’s take on a classic dry(ish) gin. It includes lots of citrus as the name suggests, including orange, lemon and fresh lime leaves, supported by herbal notes from rosemary, bay leaf and spice from black pepper. Overall this creates a refreshing easy to drink gin and tonic.
- Spiced (Winter) – McLean’s say this gin is described as ‘Christmas in a glass’. The recommended serve is with ginger ale to really bring out the spicing. The gin is bursting with pine notes, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and all spice, countered by fresh orange and aromatic Thai Basil.
Cherry Bakewell gin
This gin was created as something light-hearted, but was the star of the show at Christmas. What started as a musing whilst eating a Cherry Bakewell tart on a walk up Ben Lomond, ended up being very popular! Cherry and almond were added to the classic gin botanicals including cardamom, nutmeg and hibiscus. Great with tonic or in a cocktail, would you fully embrace the flavours and try it with cream soda?!
The inspiration behind Something Blue
I think it’s fairly obvious that Something Blue was created to celebrate the McLean’s wedding in June 2018! Not only did they toast their wedding, they also made a limited run of 150 bottles that quickly sold out at gin festivals. The feedback was so positive with people asking when the next batch was going to be made, that Something Blue is now a permanent addition to the McLean’s gin range.The exact botanicals that make it into Something Blue are a bit of a secret, however they do admit that 2 of the 8 botanicals are their favourites – tonka bean and buchu leaf. Now I’m not sure about you, but I’ve not come across buchu leaf before! Tonka bean I’ve seen in other gins where it adds a vanilla flavours as well as nutty and spicy notes. Buchu leaf apparently is more like a blackcurrant leaf in the taste it adds to gin. Think spicy, but also a mix between rosemary and peppermint.
As well as an unusual botanical profile, the bright blue colour is very striking and even better, changes colour when you add tonic, going a blush pink!
This makes Something Blue gin perfect for any celebration, not just a wedding. You will totally wow your guests!
Tasting Something Blue
With secret botanicals and unusual ones, I wasn’t sure what to expect when tasting Something Blue. We started off trying the gin neat in it’s traditional blue state, however you’d normally be mixing, so drinking a more pink drink:
On the nose I get fresh floral notes and then dry herbal and grassy notes. The floral comes through from the orris root, and the grassy/herbal aromas from the buchu leaf.
Something Blue to taste:
Neat I taste vanilla and spice, mostly from the tonka beans, which add marzipan notes and a richness too. The gin has a nice mouthfeel and at 39.4% is easy drinking. As Colin says:
It’s strong enough to get you through your wedding day, but not too strong to make you forget your speech!
Something Blue and Mediterranean tonic
When you add the tonic the gin turns a lovely blush pink. When I first tried Something Blue I thought I could taste cinnamon when it was diluted, but having spoken to Colin about the botanicals, there is no cinnamon or cassia in there! So those spiced notes must be coming from the tonka bean. I get herbal notes – including mint from the buchu leaf, I also get the dryness of the cardamom coming through at the end.
All in all this is an impressive gin – well balanced, but complex with a lot going on for 8 botanicals – demonstrating that less can be more.
French 75 – the celebration cocktail
The best way to celebrate is definitely with a cocktail, and what better way to do this than with a Champagne cocktail?!
To make the Something Blue French 75 you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 50ml McLean’s Something Blue gin
- 25ml Sugar Syrup
- 1/2 a freshly squeezed lemon
- Champagne to top up
Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup over ice in a shaker (or jar – anything with a lid!), strain into your Champagne glass and then top up slowly with Champagne. Cheers!
*warning this cocktail is seriously addictive!*
Something ClearSince getting married and creating Something Blue, the McLean’s have moved out of Glasgow to the village of Strathaven, where they have a purpose built lab to make their gins in. This meant that they had space to actually distill a gin and made their first London Dry distilled gin – Something Clear. At 50% it’s got a punch and comes wrapped in paper as it was made for their 1 year paper wedding anniversary. I love all the stories behind the gins that make them so personal!
They describe Something Clear as:
‘Unimaginably smooth… with lashings of juniper & citrus supported by floral accents, fresh herbs, subtle spice, bitter almond and sweet vanilla.’
Let me know in the comments which of the McLean’s gins take your fancy and how you will be celebrating International Scottish Gin Day!