There has been a deep rumbling in Deeside recently, steamrolling it’s way to the top echelons of Gin production in Scotland, with Esker Gin, Twin River and Ginkhana. One distillery, however, has set their bar of production slightly askew. It would be a disservice to the others to say higher as all the above are releasing fantastic gins, but Lost Loch Distillery, near Aboyne, is certainly doing things differently.
My first interaction with the company came before the formation of Lost Loch, when Peter Dignan came into the Inverurie Whisky Shop with a Liqueur made to an old family recipe – Haroosh. Peter’s enthusiasm was clear from this first meeting and we quickly signed up to stock the drink. We’ll speak more about Haroosh in a second.
Peter was obviously very keen on distilling something. His passion behind making the Haroosh, a bramble and honey whisky drink, was infectious, but marrying a recipe and creating something unique was high on the agenda for Peter and his partner in crime, Richard Pierce.
They are an intriguing double act. By saying opposites attract would maybe come across as a bit strong but Peter’s out there, creative (and sometimes whacky) approach contrasts and compliments Rich’s laid back, methodical mind perfectly. Think Pinky and the Brain, but with Pinky being the one wanting to take over the world!
With a passion for alcohol and history, the two have now added two new products to their range since the opening of the distillery in 2017, situated on the grounds of the Deeside Activity Park. The first one is the one that gained the interest of the world – creating Scotland’s first Absinthe – Murmichan.
Honey and Brambleberries are a staple in all of the Lost Loch spirits, and they add a hugely complimentary taste to this famous Swiss drink from the 1700’s. Absinthe automatically makes me think of the famous Van Gogh portrait, his ear bandaged up after a session on the renowned strong, hallucinogenic spirit. I both loved and feared the idea, interested and hopeful that it would be a success but at the same time wondering what the hell they were thinking!
Enlisting the help of Absinthe enthusiast Dylan Carey, an American studying at Herriot-Watt University, the pair added a new level of infectious fun and intellectual madness.
The distilleries mantra of new, unique products created using locally sourced ingredients and leaning heavily on history for inspiration is probably not a new one, however, the length that they are willing to take the motto certainly is. Before I knew it I was amongst the first people in the world sampling the early recipes for Murmichan – and very much enjoying the flavours! (A Taste Review is at the bottom of the page).
The name Murmichan is an old Scots slang word for a Wicked Fairy, tying in nicely with the Green Fairy nickname given to absinthe centuries ago. This has become a theme for the Lost Loch team, with Haroosh being named after a High Spirited Scots Gathering.
After the launch of Murmichan, which went down very well and was sought after throughout the continent, Pete and Rich set their sights on the Gin scene. A decision made partially on passion of heart, but also on business sense. Gin is the spirit of the moment and to not at least try to capture the consumers would indeed be folly.
Again, history, honey and brambles became the core of the spirit and, after months of trial, error and retrial, eeNoo Gin was born. A wonderfully fruity, sweet and smooth gin with yet another interesting backstory. eeNoo again is taken from old Scots but is by far and away the most recognisable – certainly in the spoken language if not the written. To put into a sentence “You’ll have a Gin eeNoo“, the word translates into English as “The Now” – at once, at the present time or right now. It was a perfect name – tying in the current gin trend in Scotland with their own rise, and highlighting, as their bottle states, there is “Always Time for Gin”.
If you ever visit the Distillery you will find it looks out onto a small loch (lake), which is part of the Adventure Park, and you will wonder if they actually found the Loch that the Lost Loch Distillery takes its name from. In fact, Loch Auchlossan was the original Loch on the site, dating back thousands of years, predating Human inhabitation in Deeside. The Loch was drained in 1944 so that the ground could be used for crops for the War Effort and thus, the loch was lost. The distillery now sits on what would have been the East bank of Loch Auchlossan.
There is certainly a fun, infectious and joyful approach to distilling by the guys at Lost Loch Distillery. With new products in the pipeline, including a Whisky Cask Aged Absinthe (personally I cannot wait for this one!),a Gin School and Contract Distilling. They may already have made history, but they are certainly not resting eeNoo, expect many a Haroosh to be had sampling the products and future releases from these guys. Just be wary of a tap on the shoulder of a Murmichan – and keep your ears away from sharp objects!
Haroosh is made using a young Angus and Dundee Distillers whisky, infused with honey and brambleberries. It is bottled at 25%. Highly recommended as an after-dinner drink, or add some hot whisky with melted honey to make a wonderful Hot Toddy on a cold day.
Nose: Sweet Honey is obvious, almost overpowering all other aromas. Subtle redcurrants and oak.
Taste: Sweet, smooth, fruity and delicious! The first thing that comes to mind is Hot Toddy Nectar. The Whisky and honey combine wonderfully on the first taste, then the full fruity explosion takes away any notion that this may actually contain alcohol. Very dangerous indeed.
Finish: The honey lingers more than the fruit, but this, in turn, leaves a slightly dry, almost tanning finish. You will not be able to stop at just one.
Murmichan Absinthe is a distilled spirit, created in much the same way as Gin, using a host of botanicals including Star Anise, Green Aniseed, Fennel, Mint, Lemon Thyme, Heather, Bramble leaves and Honey. Much like Gin needs to contain Juniper, Absinthe must contain Wormwood – Lost Loch have used Grande and Roman Wormwoods in Murmichan, bottling at 64% ABV. They have used water from the famous and historic Pannanich Wells of Deeside, famed for their magical healing qualities to create this new and innovative drink.
Nose: A waft of Aniseed immediately makes this spirit unmistakable. Upon further investigation, though there are sweet notes, the mint and honey come through in time, and the citrus notes of the Lemon Thyme linger on the nose.
Taste: Surprisingly mild compared to what my previous Absinthe endeavours recall. The honey sweetness compliments the wormwoods dry, crisp flavour. Each sip reveals something slightly different. Simply divine to sip and savour, much like a whisky. Also like a whisky, a small drop of water opens up more sweetness. A citrus tang is certainly more evident upon dilution.
Finish: Dry and sapping. The ‘absinthe’ aniseed hit lingers longer than most flavours, with the exception of maybe Thyme. Not many sweet notes hang around.
A gin created with an eye on sipping. Take your time with this as there are lots of things going on. Created using Local Bramble and Raspberries, Deeside Honey and Heather Flower. The Juniper is imported from the Italian Highlands, and steeped together with other traditional gin botanicals Corriander, Orange and Lemon Peel, Liquorice and Angelica Root. In an interesting and coincidental story, the history of eeNoo is far deeper than you might think. In 1839 an Inuit by the name of Eenoolooapik, or Eenoo for short, arrived in Aberdeen aboard the whaling ship Neptune. He spent much of his time in Deeside trading skills with the locals, which included showing his Qajaq (canoe) skills on the River Dee. Eenoo returned to his homeland in 1840 aboard the Bon Accord, but died in 1847 leaving a son Angalook. (perhaps a name for a future Gin Edition….)
Nose: Sweet summer berries, think raspberry ice cream. Very little spirit hit. It is light, refreshing and enticing.
Taste: Smooth and refreshing. The raspberries are evident, as is the honey. It gives a real sweet edge to the gin but is balanced perfectly with the juniper and orange peel which come through quite quickly. It is a superb sipping gin. Clean, fresh and not spirituous at all. Add some tonic and fresh Raspberries for a real Summer Explosion. I personally recommend Lamb and Watt Original Tonic.
Finish: Short but sweet. The flavours melt away quite quickly, leaving a hint of juniper but not much else. This is not a bad thing, as it simply means you look forward to your next sip quicker!