A Biggar Mentality

The gin renaissance shows little sign of slowing. Sales of UK gin are predicted to reach £1.5 billion by 2020.

As an estimated 70% of production is in Scotland, this makes the industry a significant one. In fact, if the momentum continues, gin sales will outstrip sales of Scotch in just two years.

So, when another new gin batch is produced, the question arises, if the burgeoning drink production will keep going, or will it reach saturation point when every type of botanical has been infused and distilled? A botanical library exists at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, cataloguing 72 different plants and fungus which have been tested for gin production. Nothing is too weird to be considered, it would seem.

The Biggar Gin Company was founded by brothers Euan and Stuart McVicar, who grew up in South Lanarkshire not far from Biggar.  Other family members have been instrumental in the business – their mother Liz’s rowanberry jelly was the inspiration behind experimenting with rowanberries in the gin, while cousins and partners have helped with bottling and labelling and Stuart’s young sons have been roped into foraging!

Based at the foot of the Tinto Hills, a sense of place is important to this family business, as well as links to the community past and present. The company logo is a seated greyhound, and whilst the brothers are more Labrador loving, the canine depiction harks back to the 1800s when a coursing club existed in Biggar for “proprietors and resident gentlemen” who sent their greyhounds racing around the hills. When the fashion for coursing dwindled, the club turned into a social club with subs spent on fine wines and spirits instead. It seems that Biggar’s taste for the finer things in life continues with Biggar Gin.

The Biggar Gin mentality is about a small scale, rare batch philosophy that reflects a passion, ambition and taste. Just 200 bottles are produced at a time, and I was lucky enough to sample from batch no. 7. Rose hip is one of the botanicals underpinning Biggar Gin, giving caramel undertones and a sweet perfume. Two other botanicals – rowan berries and nettles – are particularly prevalent around Biggar, while exotic ingredients include pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cassia bark, British lavender and fresh orange and lemon peel.

The suggested accompaniment is a little fresh orange peel or slice of apple, with a premium tonic. With 43% ABV (alcohol by volume) this is a plucky gin with a clean taste.

Launched in April this year, Biggar Gin is already picking up accolades, rave reviews and awards, including the best London Dry Gin in The Gin Guide Awards 2018, and is recognised as one of Scotland’s best new gins by The Scotsman.

Looking to the future, the brothers said: “We are ambitious for Biggar Gin. While we only started to sell in April of this year sales have been climbing.  Winning best London Dry Gin of 2018 in the Gin Guide Awards this year was a great boost.   We have an initial target of sales of 10 to 15 thousand bottles per annum.  So far we have concentrated on the Scottish market but now have a number of stockists south of the border too. The Gin is available internationally through Masters of Malt and we have been discussing with distributors the possibility of exporting to Asian markets, where there is an increasing demand for quality Scottish Gin.”

Plans are underway for two new products based on the original recipe for London Dry Gin, hiring o some brand ambassadors and some additional help in the still room.

Having recently completed a cocktail master class, I am itching to get mixing Biggar Gin with a few other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, starting with a Clover Club (egg white, fresh lemon juice and raspberry syrup).

The recommended retail price for a 50cl bottle is £32 available online at www.biggargin.com


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