Whisky is, of course, our national drink and you can read more about it here, but Scotland does produce other forms of refreshment. Indeed, we have a soft drink lovingly known as our ‘other national drink’: Irn Bru, like tablet and Edinburgh Rock, is a sugar-filled delight.
First produced at the end of the 19th century, it is a drink of ingredients which to this day are kept under lock and key. The packaging notes ‘citrus’ flavours however one has great difficulty in identifying them. It has been variously described as ‘orange without actually tasting like orange’, ‘lemonade without tasting like lemons’, ‘sugary fire’ and a ‘fruity cola’. Only two things are certain. Firstly, that it is a ‘rusty’ shade of orange and, secondly, that it is an almost guaranteed hangover cure.
But beyond our two national drinks is a whole land full of incredible producers of predominantly alcoholic drinks, with thriving craft gin and craft ale industries. Scotland produces and exports more Gin than anywhere in the UK.
One of the most famous is Hendrick’s which can be found in many an upscale bar across the world, whilst NB Gin is rumoured to be the Gin of choice of Her Majesty The Queen and, in fact, was the only alcohol served at The Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations and was also served at the marriage of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Gin has become a firm favourite over the last 5 or so years, shaking off it’s rather stuffy image, as a whole host of artisans have not only established a presence but created products with such a wide variety of ingredients that not only has it change what Gin is but how it can be enjoyed, with some, such as Edinburgh Gin’s Rhubarb and Ginger Gin being as enjoyable as a liqueur as it is with a tonic.
2018 saw the first ever Scottish Gin of The Year Top 100 (yes, there are more than 100 brands of Gin based in Scotland alone), voted for by Gin drinkers, with the Top Ten of Scottish Gins looking like this:
1. Isle of Harris Gin
2. Misty Isle Gin
3. Caorunn Gin
4. Edinburgh Gin
5. Hendrick’s Gin
6. The Botanist
8. Redcastle Gin
9. Sea Glass Gin
10. Rock Rose Gin
Many of the distilleries have visitor centres and The Carlowrie Club has relationships with several of them. If you would like to include Gin tours within your Carlowrie Club Vacation Experience, please advise your agent. We will leverage our relationships to deliver unique experiences and opportunities exclusively for you.
Beers & Lagers
If we Scots are fond of our spirits, we are even more fond of Beer, which we have been producing for about 5,000 years, however it was from the 15th century onward that commercial brewing came to the fore, with iconic brewers such as Tennent’s, William Younger and Belhaven established.
The boom continued into the 19th century with even small towns having breweries and ‘Scotch Ale’ exporting to the likes of India, Australia and the Far East. By 1840 there were 280 breweries in Scotland, before rampant mergers and closures whittled the numbers down to the aforementioned behemoths.
By the latter part of the 19th century brewers began catering to public taste, shifting from darker and heavier ales to lower gravity, pale coloured and clearer beers, predominantly lager. The higher hop content of some allowed them to travel better and therefore created a better product for export, whilst the lower alcohol content shortened the fermentation and maturation time, thereby increasing output and so lager became the dominant beer of production and consumption. By 1890 Tennent’s had established the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow for the production of lager and so began large scale brewing operations.
The 21st century has seen something of a reversal, with a proliferation of craft beer producers challenging the market place and consumers taste buds with artisan brewing methods and experimentation with different flavours and maturation processes, mixing the likes of grapefruit and whisky to create unique and alternative tastes.
Today there are almost 100 independent breweries in Scotland and a newly minted global phenomenon in BrewDog who in 2007 rebelled against the ‘industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK market’. Started by two 24-year-old friends, they brewed tiny batches by hand and sold them at local markets from the back of a ‘beat up old van’. Today BrewDog has more than 1,000 employees, 70,000 shareholders (thanks to it’s unique ‘Equity for Punks’ crowdfunding), 7 headline beers, 4 ‘amplified’ strong beers, 2 seasonal beers, one gluten free beer and two alcohol free beers, 46 bars and a hotel in Columbus, Ohio.
Deciding upon the best Scottish beers is an almost impossible process and a Carlowrie Club Vacation Experience can help by curating exclusive experiences at a number of breweries, including on our doorstep; Innis & Gunn, Barney’s Beer, Stewart Brewing, Campervan Brewery, Edinburgh Beer Factory, Cross Borders Brewing Company, The Ferry Brewery and the iconic Belhaven Brewery.
Thankfully experts recently selected their 12 of the best.
Mexicake (Tempest Brewing Co, Galashiels)
A smooth stout made with a balanced mix of chillies, vanilla and cinnamon.
Old Norway (Swannay Brewery, Orkney)
A strong beer, sweet with a wholesome bready character balanced by a ‘chunky does of jammy American hops’.
Big Raspberry Dog Chew (Fallen Brewing, Stirling)
Silky smooth with a hint of dark chocolate ganache topped off with raspberry compote.
Harvest IPA (Tempest Brewing Co, Galashiels)
Spicy and funky thanks to the saison yeast, this is magnified by earthy Vic Secret hops which also yields a topical tang.
Orkney Porter (Swannay Brewery, Orkney)
Ages in Isle of Arran whisky casks, this beer is indulgent, with rich coffee and chocolate notes and hints of berries and peat.
Mills & Hills (Fyne Ales, Cairndow)
A strong, treacly imperial stout.
The Cone (Top Out, Edinburgh)
A masterfully crafted IPA in the American tradition. This is punchy resinous and packed with flavour.
Bomber IPA (Tempest Brewing Co, Galashiels)
A juicy and light IPA.
Marmalade on Rye (Tempest Brewing Co, Galashiels)
Bold in flavour yet well balanced, this beer is juicy and sweet with plenty of orange Hop bitterness and a little bit of spice from the rye.
Ossian (Inveralmond Brewery, Perth)
Light, floral and very sessionable. A classic golden ale.
World Odyssey (Fallen Brewing, Stirling)
Punchy papaya, pineapple melon and mango hints make for maximum refreshments and offset any bitterness.
Platform C (Fallen Brewing, Stirling)
Perhaps the best IPA in Scotland at the moment, Platform C has lots of citrus fruits at first taste followed by a piney resinous finish.