Writing The Gin Clan – with Fiona Laing

The gin scene in Scotland is a huge deal and we’re very proud to be at the heart of it. On the latest count, there were more than 200 Scottish Gins on the market and more on the way. So we were delighted to help author, Fiona Laing research her new book about Scottish Gin that goes behind the gin.

The Gin Clan tells the stories of the distillers and makers who are creating passionately conceived and beautifully crafted gins, using the finest of locally-sourced ingredients.

We spoke to Fiona and she shared with us the secrets of writing her book.

What inspired you to write a book all about Scottish gins?

The gin, of course. I first wrote about a Scottish gin about six years ago and then kept hearing interesting stories about Scottish gins and their makers and tasting lovely gins. I met so many inspiring gin-makers and could see the enthusiasm from drinkers for trying new gins. So, when my publisher suggested I wrote a food or drink book, gin was the front runner. 

What does The Gin Clan offer gin lovers?

It is the ideal companion for anyone who enjoys gin because it tells the stories behind the gins. There are 135 entries covering about 200 gins, so if you want to know more about the maker or the distillery behind your favourite drink, it’s all there. 

In addition, I explain what makes a gin Scottish and why that definition is important – and difficult. There is also some historical background which explains why Scotland is such a hot house for gin making. And there is a wee section of Scottish tonics so it really is the perfect cocktail of information for gin lovers. 

Were you surprised at the size and growth in the Scottish gin industry?

Yes – and its growth was the biggest challenge in writing the book. When I started the project in September 2018 there were about 175 Scottish gins, by the end it was over the 200 mark. Every time I thought I’d covered everything, someone would tell me about a new gin. 

Estimating the size of the industry in Scotland is also tricky as official statistics do not break down the data. People say that 60 to 70 per cent of the gin made in the UK comes from Scotland but much of that will be from the Cameronbridge distillery in Fife where Diageo makes Tanqueray and its European supplies of Gordon’s Gin. Hendricks, another world leading brand, is made at Girvan in Ayrshire. 

The big players aside, what I found was a treasure trove of creative and inventive interpretations of gin which make the Scottish gin industry a endlessly fascinating sector.

What was the best bit about researching the book?

Much as tasting the gin for the book was fun, it was meeting so many interesting people and learning about their inspirations and passion for their product. 

What was your favourite Scottish gin story that you unearthed when researching the book?

It’s hard to pick a favourite because each one was special when I came to it. I have great admiration for the people who have worked hard in rural locations to create something which will help them improve their lives. 

We all point to Harris, GlenWyvis or Beinn an Tuirc where the community is being invigorated by the distillery. But it is also happening on a smaller scale. At Badvo, Helen Stewart is creating a gin business which helps diversify the income on her family farm in Perthshire. At Ice & Fire, the Black family have used gin making to give Caithness crofter Iain a different lifestyle after he was diagnosed with cancer. 

What’s the future of the Scottish gin industry, in your view?

There is much talk of the bubble bursting. Obviously taste will change – it always does. What I can see is several more distilleries opening in Scotland this year: they are already under construction and have been in the planning for quite some time. What I wonder about is whether someone doing the maths around investing in a new gin distillery would take the plunge to build a distillery when they see so many exciting gin makers already around them. But such is the passion of gin makers, they won’t all be put off if they believe they can make something special. So I imagine there will be a plateau but, as long as we enjoy drinking gin, I don’t see a dramatic burst bubble.

Does that mean there will be another edition of The Gin Clan? 

I’m currently collecting information on new gins and distilleries so that we can publish an updated edition of The Gin Clan. I’m also looking at topics for another book …. watch this space! 

Where can we buy a copy of The Gin Clan?

It is stocked in booksellers and gift shops across Scotland and can be ordered from bookshops in the rest of the UK. Scottish Gin Society readers can also buy direct (with free UK p&p) from the publisher, Great Northern Books https://www.gnbooks.co.uk/product/the-gin-clan/ 

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