A New Scottish Gin Hits the Right Classic Notes

© Lucas Allen
By Justine Sterling Posted November 06, 2015

The best new gin for gin purists is now available in the U.S.

I don’t remember the brand of the first gin I ever tasted. I was sixteen and it was in a gin and tonic that my father was drinking. He warned that it might taste like a lemon-soaked napkin—the kind you get after eating ribs—and it did, but in the best way. There was bright citrus and a flavor that, at the time, I referred to as “soapy” (I would later learn that what I was actually tasting was juniper). I loved that it was clean and crisp, and also that it was deliciously straightforward.

Today's new gins aren't simple. Distillers, especially upstarts, lately steer clear of the classic, juniper-heavy profile. I’ve tried saffron-infused gins and aged gins and smoky peaty gins and gins made only with flavorings grown in Northern California. And while I’ve (mostly) liked them all, there’s a special place in my glass for a boldly simple gin. That's why I'm so excited about Makar, a Scottish gin that boasts just eight botanicals: juniper, lemon peel, rosemary, coriander, angelica root, licorice, cassia bark and black peppercorns. It reminds me of my initial gin experience: citrus-forward—as if someone expressed a lemon peel into the gin before giving you a sip—and very gulpable.

Makar's pared-down profile makes sense when you learn the gin’s origin story. The recipe came from Glasgow Distillery co-director Mike Hayward’s grandmother, Annie. Though she was a gin lover, Annie wasn’t a fan of the gins of her time, so she started making her own using botanicals she discovered while traveling the globe. In honor of his resourceful granny, Hayward took inspiration from her recipe and named the distillery's still after her.

Now available in the U.S. for about $35 to $40, it’s a solid buy and a welcome break from the ultra-complex, trendy gins on the market right now. And if you happen to be a nostalgic Scottish granny craving the familiar flavors of an old-world spirit, it'll do the trick.

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