Though Ireland is often associated with stout and whiskey, another beverage may speak better to the locality: gin. It’s the fastest-growing spirits category among Irish consumers, thanks to increased domestic production. From Lough Erne in the north to Kinsale on the southern coast, there are now 22 gin distilleries spread across the Emerald Isle, most of which use native botanicals to showcase its terroir. Here are three to try.
The distillers here began making gin while their whiskey was maturing, but production soon became a separate, well-researched endeavor to create a flavor profile of the coastline. Located along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the longest defined coastal drive in the world, Dingle adds provenance to its Original Gin by macerating in botanicals like rowan berry, fuchsia, bog myrtle, hawthorn and heather sourced from surrounding County Kerry. It results in an herby, floral character that balances nicely with the baseline juniper and speaks to the area’s green, seaside landscape.
Glendalough is based in the Wicklow Mountains, an area that Kevin Keenan, the distillery’s co-founder/creative director, says is known as the “Garden of Ireland.” The company employs a full time forager to pick botanicals each distillation day, which ensures their freshness and has allowed for a seasonal range. Meanwhile, more unusual native botanicals, like ox eye daisies and water mint, are used to add complex layers to Glendalough’s Wild Botanical bottling. And its Ginteresting Series, featuring limited runs of the label’s most experimental infusions, has included gins made with local dillisk (seaweed) and wild blackberry.
Regional history is paired with regional botanicals to give this distillery’s gin a sense of place. It’s in County Waterford, which, in the Victorian era, was a major port for all sorts of exotic products. Shipping company White’s of Waterford was the country’s biggest spice importer at the time, and it “landed plenty of pickling spices for food preservation now largely unloved and unused,” says Peter Mulryan, the distillery’s founder. Though Blackwater relies on a traditional gin recipe, its No.5 bottling only uses botanicals that White’s imported during the 19th century. “One of those was myrtle pepper, and it’s fab,” says Mulryan. “It’s at the heart of Blackwater No.5.”