‘Sorry we missed you!’ exclaimed the little red and white piece of card that greeted me on the doormat as I arrived home.
But this wasn’t the touching greeting card I had initially mistaken it for…I continued to read. ‘Your parcel is available to collect from your local Royal Mail depot. Please bring ID’.
I was left with mixed feelings. Pure unadulterated joy and elation at the knowledge that a package of unknown contents was sat waiting for me. Yet agonising despair at the idea of having to make the 2.5 mile journey to collect said bringer if joy (I’ve always been ‘slightly’ dramatic like that).
So off to the car I trudged, with the aforementioned piece of card under one arm and a tired, emotional 10 month old little boy under the other (don’t worry, he’s my son!). I had been tasked to not only make this a rescue mission of an unknown hostage of the postal service, but also to try and get an uncompromising toddler to sleep during the car journey.
I arrived at the depot to find no parking spaces. A good start I thought, as I abandoned ship somewhere in the next county (technically just round the corner…). I wrestled my, by now hysterical, son from his car seat, both socks removed and thrown in protest, and made my way in to the inevitable queue. After a lengthy wait, I was next to be served. I sighed a sigh of relief as I was asked for my delivery card and proof of ID.
I reached to my back pocket. I had no card…I had no wallet…I had no ID…I looked at the ‘less than friendly’ face of the ‘happy in his work’ gentleman that was staring back and me and realised…I had no chance.
Take 2! After the return visit home, re-parking in the next county, re-wrestling my son from his car seat (still no socks) and re-queuing in the queue…we were back to square one.
‘ID please’ said the clerk. ‘Ha ha! I won’t be foiled this time!’ I exclaimed, over-enthusiastically, as I presented my drivers license. It was then that I realised that there had clearly been a shift change, which would explain the bewildered look on the staff members face who had clearly never seen me before in her life. I stood sheepishly trying to style it out whilst she disappeared in to the abyss to locate my parcel.
Fast forward to me sitting back at the kitchen table, with a sealed brown cardboard box neatly placed in front of me. As I stared it down, I couldn’t help but help but wonder…I had hoped it would be…bigger?…
And much to my delight, it was! Well, kind of. As I reached in and fished out the bottle from within, I was delighted to find a bottle of ‘Biggar Gin’. Having been approached by one part of the gins founding duo, Stuart McVicar, I was thrilled to be holding the promise of a ‘Small Batch Gin, (with a) Biggar mentality’. A catchy slogan indeed, but the proof would be in the pudding…well…gin.
Biggar Gin is the brainchild of two brothers, Stuart & Euan McVicar, near the (somewhat ironically) small Scottish town of Biggar in the Tinto hills.
Biggar Gin set out with a philosophy for their gin to be ‘the combination of tradition and innovation and a sense of place’.
But what exactly does having a ‘Biggar mentality’ actually mean?!… The brothers explain on their website that it’s about a ‘small scale, rare, batch philosophy that reflects a passion, ambition and taste which is big’. Basically, they’ve set out to create a gin that reflects the locality and provenance of their local area, proudly giving a ‘bigger’ voice to the ‘Biggar’ location.
Contract distilled in small batches of 200 bottles at a time, at the Strathearn Distillery, locally sourced botanicals are at the heart of the operation.
So what can you expect to find in a bottle of Biggar Gin? Well, alongside the obvious starting point of juniper, you’ll be getting coriander seeds, cardamom, cassia bark, orris root, orange, nettles, pink peppercorn, lavender, rosehip and rowan berries.
And it’s the latter two botanicals that can be taken as case and point for locality.
Rowan berries are added to the gin to bring a balanced sweetness and slightly bitter profile. Having uncovered the joys of the rowan berry through both their mothers jam making escapades and via an Austrian friends introduction to a local Schnapps (isn’t that always the way that great discoveries are made?!) the Biggar Gin team was somewhat fortunate to have several traditional red-berry Rowan trees growing close to the distillery. Jackpot!
The use of local rose hips also brings tones of ‘super food’ to proceedings, as well as a caramelised, sweet perfume sensation to the spirit. Rose hips are chocked full of vitamins and are rumoured to ward off illnesses from the common cold all the way to arthritis. So if you’re feeling a little under the weather, and Lemsip just isn’t cutting it, perhaps reach for the bottle of Biggar! Whilst Stuart & Euan don’t claim that Biggar Gin will cure your ailments or provide health benefits, it can’t hurt to try ‘just in case’ can it?!…
You’ve got a lot of bottle…
So if the gin is going to be Biggar, I guess you’re going to be in need of a Biggar bottle?! So what exactly are we looking at here?…I’ll be honest. It’s actually very clever!
On the face of it, it’s pretty basic. A white paper label, wrapped around an unassuming stubby glass bottle, with black font. Hardly ripping up trees in the design awards right? Well, maybe not. But hear me out.
Long before I had the opportunity to try this gin, I was aware of it and my interest was peaked. Why? Because it stands out and demands attention from the back bar. It’s large text, whose letters can often only be seen as ‘Big’ when pictured front on, makes you want to know more. Ironic that a gin sat next to multiple ‘peacocking’ designs can shout so much louder, via more rudimentary means. A prime example of that ‘Biggar mentality’ on display perhaps.
The other thing you’ll notice is the Greyhound dog, the Biggar logo, that sits proudly on the robust wooden stopper and forms part of the wider branding. But this isn’t related to a distillery pooch or family pet. Rather, it is a doff of the cap to ‘The Biggar Coursing Club’ of 1821, who ultimately decided to sack off coursing in favour of creating a social club that focussed on the purchase of fine wines & spirits instead (now there’s a club I can get on board with!). The Greyhound remains a snazzy looking reminder of the history & heritage of the Biggar story.
I’d also agree with the Stuart & Euan that, from an aesthetic point of view, the image does present a calm, intelligent, dynamic and independent look. Much like myself…
The one thing I was less sure of is the paper tab down the side of the bottle, which tells you this is an ‘original recipe’. Yes, it’s different. But I’m not sure of its purpose? It felt a little to me like walking around without realising the tag from your underpants is on show. It just feels…a bit out of place.
That aside, I think it’s a brilliant example of using minimalism to achieve the maximum. Bravo!
Biggar Gin to taste
The brothers McVicar wanted to create a gin that ‘punches above its weight’. But does it? It was time to head to the weigh in to find out…
On the nose, there’s a big bunch of herbal greenery, with a citrus profile that’s suggestive of freshly squeezed limes. The perfume of lavender is certainly present (and pleasant), giving a floral edge to complement the herbaceous front.
Strangely, I note a slight saltiness of fresh coastal seaweed, with a suggestion of eucalyptus washing through the vapours. Despite neither actually being anywhere near the recipe card, it helps to provide a creamy vanilla sensation.
There is a resinous pine that hums throughout. But, given time to open up in the glass, it is the sweet warmth of the pink peppercorns that become most prominent scent on the nose.
Rose hip, orange and rowan berries bring a citrus zing that was initially more subtle than I’d anticipated, but it thankfully grows in strength when left to evolve in the glass.
On tasting neat; Whoosh! My breath was taken away, and the pallet feels instantly refreshed! There’s a subtle and mellow warmth to the gin, but with no nasty burn to linger. Those pink peppercorns and cassia combine to beautiful effect, delivering a sweetness that offsets the fiery nature of the zesty coriander. I can almost picture the pink peppercorns popping on my tongue as I sip the neat spirit.
The citrus of the orange and rowan berries wash over the tongue, with the upfront sharpness replaced by a freshness and cooling effect after swallowing. It is almost menthol-esq.
The citrus fruit is not quite as big and bold as I’d been expecting, and perhaps hoping for. Though that’s not to say it’s lacking without it – despite being a sucker for a citrus forward gin, there’s plenty going on here to keep me entertained! The fruit flavours are brilliantly balanced against a the dynamic duo of a coriander herbaceousness and the floral delicacy of lavender.
In fact, I was so preoccupied trying to pick out the profiles of the other botanicals, so impressively discernible as each one is, that I failed to realise the thing that really pleases me. The juniper is just quietly going about its business, gliding around the glass like a good orchestra conductor or boxing referee; an essential component to pull everything together, without making it all about itself.
When a light tonic is added, with a fresh orange garnish to pull forward those citrus notes, it makes for a striking G&T. The juniper is emphasised, with the piney oils almost coating the pallet. Though I would say that it presents more of a spiced finish than I’d been expecting. The garnish helps to cut through and give back a little more brightness. Though I do wonder whether I should just cut my losses here and go for a pink peppercorn garnish, and fully embrace the sweeter warmth of the gin that I’d enjoyed neat.
My takeaway from Biggar Gin is that this is a gin with a personality and reputation that is far larger than its tenure on the gin scene or scale of production suggests should be possible.
As a brand, they’ve nailed it. It is instantly recognisable. An impressive feat given that Biggar has only very recently ticked past the milestone of its first Birthday!
The thing that particularly impressed me is that, despite this not being my normal gin style of choice, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the balance of the botanicals at play. There are bold flavours, that traverse the spectrum of the tasting wheel. And when served as an ice cold G&T it really is delicious.
And as for the Biggar mentality? They’ve got it in spades. What Stuart and Euan have managed to achieve through attitude, personality and attention to the detail of their local surroundings, is make Biggar a little bit bigger on the map. It’s my hope that through 2019 you’ll start to see and hear more from the next ‘Big’ thing.
Many thanks to Stuart McVicar from Biggar Gin for my complementary bottle. Be sure to follow the teams journey over at @biggargin across all social media platforms and follow all the latest news at their website http://www.biggargin.com.
Go and wish them a Happy Birthday!
Speaking of Scottish gin, are you ready for the inaugural International Scottish Gin Day on 3rd August this year? Make sure you’re following the teams to keep up with all of the latest:
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