The bottle of Caorunn Gin was purchased by From the Gin Shelf. Review opinion entirely that of the author.

By Euan Harris

By Euan Harris

Euan is the founder of From the Gin Shelf and a gin enthusiast. An official supporter of International Scottish Gin he also writes for the Scottish Gin Society.

Having celebrated its 10-year anniversary in early 2019, Caorunn Gin has been synonymous with the Scottish gin movement. As one of the early favourites on my gin discovery, it seems fitting to revisit Caorunn to see if it still hits the mark. Read the review to find out.

Story.

The Scottish Highlands in a glass

Ask people to name a Scottish gin and you’ll hear Hendrick’s, The Botanist, and more recently Isle of Harris. You’ll also most likely hear Caorunn.

As with many of the Scottish brands of the gin revival, Caorunn is crafted in a whisky distillery – Speyside’s Balmenach – one of the first distilleries to be licensed in the production of Scotch whisky in 1824.

Caorunn (pronounced ka-roon) takes its name from the Scottish Gaelic word for rowan berry, one of the locally foraged botanicals the gin is built around – indeed the distillers state that it “forms the very soul” of Caorunn.

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The Process.

Botanicals used

Caorunn Gin uses 11 botanicals in its recipe but the brand centres around its five foraged Celtic ingredients – rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf. These are foraged by master distiller Simon Buley from the countryside around the Highland distiller.

The local ingredients are supported by 6 traditional botanicals which you’ll find in many gins, namely juniper, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and cassia bark.

Caorunn Gin is made using vapour infusion, with the world’s only working copper berry chamber, dating back to the 1920s.

How Caorunn Gin is made

Caorunn is distilled using the vapour infusion method with the world’s only working copper berry chamber. Dating back to the 1920s, it contains four perforated trays. These allow the botanicals to be spread evenly, creating a greater surface area for the alcohol vapours to slowly pick up their flavours.

The depth of the spread is important. Too shallow and the vapours pass through too quickly, which would result in less depth of flavour. Conversely, too great a depth would inhibit the vapours from passing through.

1000 litre batches of high-quality grain neutral spirit (GNS) are distilled at a time. The alcohol is vapourised by steam and runs into the berry chamber, before being condensed back into liquid and held in a feint tank.

Once all the original GNS is distilled, the liquid in the feint is recondensed and passed through the berry chamber for a second time, to pick up even more of the flavours from the botanicals.

The resultant spirit is then cut back to 41.8% using pure Scottish water, ready for bottling.

BOTANICALS

rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf, juniper, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, cassia bark

RECOMMENDED SERVE

How to serve Caorunn Gin

  1. Add plenty of ice to a highball glass
  2. Pour in 50ml of gin
  3. Add 50ml of premium tonic water
  4. Garnish with three slices of Pink Lady apple

On the nose Caorunn has a bright and aromatic aroma. I also get the faintest hint of apple. It’s hard to tell, however, if that’s because I know it’s in there, given it’s become synonymous with the gin.

Tasting notes.

What does Caorunn Gin taste like?

On the nose Caorunn has a bright and aromatic aroma. I also get the faintest hint of apple. It’s hard to tell, however, if that’s because I know it’s in there, given it’s become synonymous with the gin.

To sip, Caorunn is crisp and zingy. Quite floral, with delicate citrus in the background. The finish is long-lasting. A gentle spice lingers on the tongue well after you’ve put the glass down, while a dry juniper leaves its mark.

It’s a gently balanced gin. No single flavour really stands out above the rest. They all work together in harmony but it remains a gin full of taste.

With tonic

Adding tonic opens up the florals and it’s a crisp and fresh G&T. Caorunn recommend serving with slices of pink lady apple as their signature pour. I actually preferred it with a wedge of orange to bring out more citrus and a little sweetness to balance the bitterness of quinine from the tonic.

Packaging.

To complete the brand and share their highland spirit with the world, Caorunn have chosen a bottle that really fits well with their story. Its pentagonal shape represents the five Highland botanicals in the gin and gives that distinctive Caorunn contour that the brand’s become synonymous with over the years.

The design had a refresh in early 2018 courtesy of design agency JDO, but it still maintains the characteristic shape, with its five-point logo front and centre.

The bottle is definitely iconic. It’s by no means as striking as many of the newcomers to the market, but it’s as distinctive to Caorunn as its signature serve, allowing it to stand out without the need to shout.

REVIEW VERDICT.

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OVERALL RATING

  • BRANDING 81%
  • ORIGINALITY 86%
  • TASTE 70%

Summary

Caorunn Gin is synonymous with Brand Scotland, possibly even more so than the likes of Hendrick’s, given the strong focus on its Celtic branding.

Do I love it as much as I did when I first discovered it? Probably not, but I think that’s more to do with how my palate has changed over time.

Caorunn is a classic; an iconic Scottish gin which, despite its age is a comparative elder statesman in the category. It’s a crisp, clean gin and the foraged botanicals really work in transporting you to Speyside.

With its accessible price tag, it’s a great place to start for newcomers to the category. But it remains a must for any gin collection. 

Price: around £25, but varies due to special offers
Where to buy: most UK supermarkets and various online retailers

FAQs

What garnish goes with Caorunn Gin?
Caorunn is served with pink lady apple slices.

Where is Caorunn Gin made?
Caorunn Gin is distilled in Speyside, Scotland, at Balmenach Distillery.

What are the botanicals in Caorunn Gin?
Caorunn Gin contains 11 botanicals. These are rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf, juniper, coriander seed, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and cassia bark.

How much does Caorunn Gin cost?
Expect to pay between £20 – £30, depending on special offers available in supermarkets and online retailers.