Ireland is well-known for making tasty drinks, but it’s usually whiskey and stout that get the attention. There is, however, another spirit that is increasingly on the radar of Irish distillers and consumers: gin.
The gin boom in the UK shows no signs of abating, with new creations appearing every week, and the gin craze is just as lively on the other side of the Irish Sea – both north and south of the border. You might be forgiven for thinking that Irish gin is a modern-day creation, but far from it – gin was made in Cork as far back as 1793, and now, a host of new distilleries have cropped up and are making their mark.
One of the pioneers of modern Irish gin is Rademon Estate Distillery in Crossgar, south-east of Belfast, which makes its Shortcross Gin using local botanicals such as wild clover, apple, and elderberry. About an hour’s drive further north is The Copeland Distillery, awarded a gold medal at the 2020 IWSC for its Cask Finished Navy Strength Gin, which is rested in ex-oloroso sherry barrels. Moving to the south, Lough Ree Distillery, located between Galway and Dublin, makes a range of gins and, again, harness local botanicals: in this instance, peat, which adds depth and a gentle wisp of smoke.
It’s not just the botanicals of Irish gins that are inspired by the local flora and fauna, but the base spirits, too. Bertha’s Revenge from Ballyvolane House Spirits is made using alcohol made from Irish whey (milk), while Jackford gin, inspired by farming in Wexford, takes a potato alcohol base. Both of these are produced on the south coast of Ireland, which is something of a hub for distilling (including whiskey) thanks to producers such as West Cork Distillers and Midleton Distillery. Method and Madness Gin, made at Midleton, harnesses Irish gorse flowers in its make-up.
Further up the south-east coast is Waterford, where you can find the fabulous Blackwater Distillery and its renowned founder Peter Mulryan: both a distiller and a teacher of distillers. Blackwater’s range includes Wexford Strawberry Gin, which is flavoured both by the maceration and distillation of Irish strawberries.
For those who enjoy the more fruity side of gin, the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin yields an exceptional Rhubarb Gin using distilled rhubarb to capture its rich complexity. It’s delightful served with tonic or in a gin sour, or for an indulgent treat, a splash of cream soda.
This is just a whistle-stop tour of some of the excellent gins coming out of the island of Ireland; they are well worth exploring.