There’s a standing joke in the Small City office that if in doubt, add gin. Quite apart from the fact that there has been an explosion in our favourite juniper-based spirit, a staggering 70% of gin in the UK is produced right here in Scotland. We have quite literally distilled ourselves a second national spirit! Thankfully, a new generation of gin lover has ensured that demand is growing directly in proportion with supply and for every dusty bottle of Gordons you’ll find lurking in the back of your booze cupboard there will be three, four maybe even five, half-empty, hand-crafted artisan bottles.
Andrew Moss, chef-proprietor of North Port Restaurant in Perth city centre, has, like many other restaurant owners, spent the past two years rearranging his bottle shelf to accommodate the constant supply of new flavours and distilleries. That said, Andrew has been waiting patiently for someone to walk through the door with his own dream distillation; a River Tay Forager’s gin.
“There is just an insane amount of gins now, and I was sure someone was going to arrive at the restaurant one day with a perfect mix of foraged botanicals. Our menu is heavily influenced by the wild herbs and flowers that grow along the banks of the river and it seemed to me it was just a matter of time before I found the gin to fit.
Anyhow, it wasn’t to be and as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them join them. So I decided I’d give it a go.”
His first port of call was to contact Simon of Persie Gin, a wee local distillery tucked away into the hillside of Glenshee. Andrew’s polished chef’s palate has tasted a few gins in its time – “all in the name of research you understand” – and he regards Persie’s gins as some of the best around. He wanted his own gin to have the same punch of flavour and with the ever-enthusiastic Simon on board, he knew he’d get exactly that.
“There’s a couple of ways people make gin. You can make a basic gin and add flavour or you can distil the flavours into the spirit as you go - a bit like making soup. You get all the botanicals you want to include – juniper is a given as it’s the reason a spirit becomes a gin – and distil small batches of each, sniffing and tasting as you go.
Simon has built his whole ethos on this system, ensuring each batch is given due care and attention and I like that about him. He’s as passionate about his product as I am about foraging – it felt right from the start.”
Andrew drew on his knowledge of the river bank to come up with a blend of plants and herbs that would work with a classic gin base.With the famed gin flavour combination of aniseed and citrus as his starting point, Andrew drew on his knowledge of the river bank to come up with a blend of plants and herbs that would work with a classic gin base. Sweet cicely, lemon balm, nettles and sorrel gave the notes he wanted to create but as Simon had never used any of these botanicals before, the jury was out on how well it would work!
“It really was a bit of a wild experiment and if I’m honest, it’s not quite how I envisaged at the start! I’ve been cooking for 20 years and I always have a notion of how two ingredients will work together but it’s not the same with distilled flavours. They’re more pungent and that can bring an entirely different taste to the finished product.
Each botanical was distilled separately and then mixed together in various combinations until we got the right balance. I had to taste a lot of gin but I’m pleased to say it was worth the drunken mid-afternoon spent doing it. The gin is really good.”
The finished result is a warm, earthy flavour that will please lovers of autumn. Convinced that there’s a reason we all drink gin with tonic, Andrew has stuck to tradition and is serving his gin as a simple cocktail with fever tree and sliced green apple.
“The sharp, sweet taste of the apple is a perfect balance to the slight bitterness of the cicely and nettles. It tastes really good. And that’s the thing – there’s no point in me making a forager’s gin because the stuff grows near me. It has to taste good. It has to bring something different to the table and give people a reason to switch from their usual brand. I think we’ve done just that!”
If like every person in the Small City office you are desperate to taste Andrew's gin, then book a table at North Port. He doesn't have an off-liscence to sell bottles of it yet though so make sure you leave the car at home and go prepared for a couple or three!
To book: 01738 580867
We caught up with Graeme Pallister, 63 Tay Street's award-winning chef-owner, to find out what we should be thinking about for our seasonal dinners no
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