A beGINner's guide to gin - Part 2

So I am hoping that you've read Part 1 of my guide, and are now ready to explore a bit further into the world of gin - but still not committing yourself to lots of expenditure (yet!)

So after your initial Gin Journey with JD Wetherspoons, it's now time to move onto a specialist gin bar ... a quick bit of research on Google should provide you with some local options.

In Glasgow the bars are plentiful, and Gin 71 has proved so successful that it has opened a second branch as well as another in Edinburgh. It also nominated in the Scottish Gin Awards in the 'Scottish Gin Bar of the Year' category alongside 56 North , Heads & Tales and One Square (all in Edinburgh).

However you'll also find some local bars which provide a great selection of gins to expand your knowledge - and my personal favourite is Rennies in Johnstone, Renfrewshire. I also really like The Venue in Perth following a visit this week.

Right - now you've found the venue, what are you going to have to drink? You should expect a long & bewildering list of gins to choose from, so let me make some personal recommendations.

First of all, I would try Brockmans Gin which goes down extremely well in the Lafferty household!

This drink should be served with a twist of grapefruit peel (or a slice of grapefruit) and a couple of blueberries though personally I like it with orange too. Top it up with a light tonic, and you'll get both the aroma and taste of citrus and wild berries, and as I say I find it absolutely delicious.

To move slightly out of your comfort zone, and onto another personal favourite, it has to be Makar Glasgow Gin.

There is only one garnish you should accept with this gin - green chilli. Don't panic, it's just a small slice, but it will really help draw out the spiciness within this gin - I absolutely love it.

Not everyone is going to like this gin I suspect, but please do give it a go.

So what else should you look out, on the vast gin list they will offer? Well, Caorunn ("Ka-roon") is very accessible and easily drinkable, so I would certainly recommend it

This gin should only be served with one thing - light tonic and a slice of red apple (not green!), though it is also a good base in for cocktails as well. It is produced by the Balmenach distillery which was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to be licensed in the production of Scotch whisky. The distillery is situated in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, at the foot of the Haughs of Cromdale, and once again is an example of traditional distilleries looking to gin as an alternative product range due to the ageing process required for whisky. I don't think you'll be disappointed with this gin.

Now it's time to venture away from Scotland, and over the Atlantic to see what the USA has to offer in terms of gin. The answer is quite a lot, and definitely more than you might expect. My first recommendation would be Brooklyn Gin which is a personal favourite of mine

This gin is distilled using 100% fresh citrus peels and hand-cracked juniper, and by hand-cutting the citrus fruit, and releasing the essential oils in the juniper berries, it provides an intense flavour which I really enjoy.

Brooklyn is one of the earliest US craft gins, having been on the market since 2010. (Note - contrary to name, it is not distilled in Brooklyn, but a bit more upstate NY at the Warwick Vallery Winery and Distillery)

Aviation Gin is another US gin that I would recommend (and I find myself unexpectedly liking more & more of the American offerings recently).

Aviation has a more pronounced lavender flavour rather than juniper (yes, you are being taken out of your comfort zone here!). The botanicals used in the distillation process are cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise seed, sarsaparilla, juniper, and two kinds of orange peel.

I'd recommend this with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and garnished with orange and/or cardamom.

Back to over Europe now for another favourite of mine which I discovered whilst in Barcelone last year (see my Bobby Gin post for one of the bars we visited). Nordes Gin is produced by Atlantic Galician Spirits in Spain and seeks to differentiate itself from the many conventional juniper-forward gins.

The base spirit is distilled from locally grown AlbariƱo (or Cainho Branco) grapes, and the12  botanicals include juniper, ginger, hibiscus, eucalyptus and liquorice, resulting in a unique and intriguing gin. Try it garnished with some fresh raspberries (which the specialist bar you're in should certainly have!)

So by now you've reached Stage 2 in your Gin Journey, exploring some of the many different gins available in an ever-growing market. The bar you visit should have a large offering so feel free to explore, take notes of what you like & you don't like (inevitably there will be some you're not keen on) and don't be afraid to ask for advice.

In Part 3 of the beGINner's guide, I'll be exploring the different options for Tonic (or not!) so look out for that coming soon. Don't forget, at this stage, it's all about trying various gins before making the commitment to purchase a bottle which doesn't come until Part 4!

Part 3 - Tonic (or not?)
Part 4 - The supermarket
Part 5 - Specialist retailers
Part 6 - Subscription services