Whisky and gin and rum… oh my! Westender writer, Amy Glasgow, investigates the recent rise in tours, tastings and pairings in our now flourishing craft spirits industry – right here in the West End. Not content with grinding our own coffee, baking our own bread, and crafting our own beer, it’s now the turn of spirits to experience the full hand-crafting makeover.
It’s no secret that in Glasgow we love our booze, but over the years our tastes have become more refined, moving away from bottles of Buckfast and cans of Tennents to indulge in more premium offerings. First came the rise of ‘craft’ beer, with Drygate Brewery opening in the east end and up-market off-licenses like The Good Spirits Company on Clarence Drive offering their customers a range of small batch and independently brewed beers from all over the UK and rapidly cementing themselves as Glasgow institutions. More recently, however, the west end in particular is becoming Glasgow’s centre for the latest trend in the lucrative alcohol market, craft spirits.
Scotland as a whole is known for its extensive number of whisky distilleries up and down the country, from Old Pulteney in Wick to Auchentoshan in Clydebank. Now though, The Clydeside Distillery is bringing whisky back to the heart of Glasgow. Located on the former site of the Queen’s Dock, the new distillery is built in the old pumphouse, which controlled the gate to the dock from which whiskey was exported to the entire world.
‘From the very beginning, we wanted the influences and history of the surrounding area to have a huge part of the project,’ says the team. ‘Every decision, from the design and colour scheme to the choice of furniture and interiors, has been done to reflect the historical and industrial influences of the surrounding area.’
A distillery first and foremost, the site is also a tourist attraction, ranked number three on TripAdvisor despite only opening its doors in 2017. With an extremely passionate and knowledgeable team behind it, the distillery is a celebration of the history of whisky, allowing its guests to gain an understanding of Glasgow’s strong connection to the liquid gold with their interactive experience.
‘Glasgow has a long and special relationship with Scotch whisky and our visitor experience brings this relationship to life with the sights and sounds of a fully operational Queen’s Dock from its heyday in the late 1800s.’
The Clydeside Distillery has received rave reviews, attracting visitors from around the globe and offering three distinct tours: the Clydeside Tour, Chocolate and Whisky Tour and the Distillery Manager Tour. It might be a few years before we see their first Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, but we think it will be worth the wait.
If whisky isn’t your thing though, that is not a problem, as it’s not just whisky that has been having a resurgence in Glasgow’s West End. Few can have missed that gin is having somewhat of resurgence, with small batch distilleries and independent companies launching their own ranges of the botanical beverage. One such example is The Garden Shed Drinks Company, which was set up by rugby players Ryan Grant and Ruaridh Jackson and their wives Kirstin and Maxine.
‘Kirstin and Ruaridh were living with us at the time, having just moved back from London and Ryan had paid a visit to a local distillery,’ explains Maxine. ‘He felt inspired and came home afterwards saying “I think we should try and make our own gin”. We thought it was a fun idea and got on board with it but we had no idea we would end up here!’
The award winning Garden Shed Gin is a classic London dry style gin made using a blend of 13 botanicals including home-grown blackberries, dandelion root and lavender. The gin is distilled following the west end recipe at Eden Mill in St Andrews and is available in The Good Spirits Co. shop in Hyndland.
‘Obviously gin is in right now, so that helps, but there are a lot of new brands doing very interesting and quite experimental things with their spirits and consumers are buying less of the big name brands. People always love finding unknown brands and introducing them to their friends and family,’ says Maxine.
It would certainly explain the influx of craft and small batch spirits flooding the shelves of not just speciality shops but local supermarkets. It seems that consumers are becoming far more invested in understanding where a product comes from and what goes into it. Scotland in general has a good reputation for its quality spirits, particularly whisky and gin, and we’re also known for being quite patriotic, so having a growing number of brands and spirits we can get behind and be proud of can only be a good thing.
This is certainly the sentiment that Zander Macgregor, co-founder of Wester Spirit Co. agrees with, ‘The rise of craft spirits has largely been down to the change in people’s attitudes to the food and drink they consume. Consumers are looking for a product that has been produced by a real person with a genuine story behind the brand.’
Wester Spirit Co. have pioneered commercial rum distillation in Glasgow, opening their distillery in November of 2018 with tours beginning in January of 2019. The Limited Edition Batch 001 bottles are unique and numbered, sealed with a wax top, to mark the first time rum is flowing in Glasgow in over 300 years. The demand for locally distilled products such as these is clear, with Wester’s first spiced rum quickly selling out. So what is it about Glasgow’s West End that attracts enterprises such as Wester?
‘We chose the West End to locate our new rum distillery because of the vibrant creative scene and host of independent bars, restaurants and cafes surrounding us, there’s a real sense of community. The people of Glasgow have certainly embraced the “shop local” culture and that is evident in the growing number of independent producers in the city,’ says Zander.
It can’t be denied that the west end of Glasgow has some truly incredible independent producers and there is certainly a much bigger focus on food made my hands and not machines, so why would the same not be true for drinks?