A Martini with Seven Crofts Gin

I received this gift for my birthday and immediately put it in the freezer to test out in a martini.

Seven Crofts Gin is produced in Ullapool in the north west of Scotland by the Highland Liquor Co. It’s a dry gin, with a beautiful, tactile bottle and lovely, evocative branding.

What does it evoke, exactly? The geography of Ullapool and its captivating surroundings of course. Ullapool is located in a part of Scotland I personally think is very romantic. It’s where the Highlands embrace the cold, clean waters of the Atlantic in a passionate fray of high peaks and dark sea lochs.

The bottle specifically mentions the local geology – responsible for crystal clear Highland water, critical to gin and whisky production.

It also refers to the local land, the sea, the mountains and the community. Community is essential to Highland culture. Centuries of inclement weather, challenging logistics and an inevitable need for self-sufficiency has resulted in warm hearths and collaborative approaches to getting things done.

The colour scheme of green fading into clear glass is also very reminiscent of the burns, streams and pools bubbling between the local rocks. This is the same clean aerated water that no doubt goes into the gin.

When I removed the bottle from the freezer to pour the martini I liked the way the glass looked as the frost formed over the surface.

I even liked the sticker on the bottle top, showing a patterned motif emblematic of where the Highlands meet the sea. The top itself was also very satisfying to handle, firm but light, not flimsy and with nice, reliable-feeling screw thread on the inside.

I poured a standard classic martini with a twist of lemon. I also poured two more for my aunties who were visiting for an aperitif before dinner at the Western Isles Hotel.

We all took a sip at the same time and reacted the same way: “wow!”. The botanicals are quite punchy – but smooth and warming. I tend to prefer quieter botanicals in a martini but the Seven Croft botanicals are certainly pleasing.

One flavour in particular stood out for me: the peppery sweetness. I think it was pink peppercorn – something I love and often use as a gin and tonic garnish. I would probably wear it as an aftershave if I could. In fact, seven crofts itself strikes pretty closely to what I would like to smell like myself.

This is a gin that has been created for a distinctive gin and tonic. Like most of the new brands of gin to have emerged over recent years, the unique selling point so often comes down to a stand-out botanical-based flavour profile and in most cases, that profile is based on how the gin tastes when tonic is added. Some gins have such a strong bouquet that they are too perfumed and overpowering to work in a martini, despite making a beautiful gin and tonic.

Seven Crofts gin is quite a powerful flavour for a martini but it is still lovely. It’s perhaps stronger than I would ideally like in my favourite drink but it’s very smooth and it doesn’t have an overbearing chemical bouquet that some gins produce in a martini so I do definitely recommend it. It would also make an excellent Vesper, with the flavour profile being toned down by the vodka, but only if you used a good quality neutral vodka to honour the gin.

Otherwise, though, I would save – and savour – this gin for a refreshing, flavoursome gin and tonic. Be sure to use good quality tonic as per the advice of the Gin Monkey! And really enjoy it because it’s a lovely drink.

It’s that combination of smooth, sweet pepperiness that really makes it stand out from other gin and tonics. It’s a drink that in a blind tasting session, you could probably quite easily identify it as Seven Crofts. It’s delicious.

I chose not to garnish it with pink peppercorns so as to avoid tautology of the flavour variety. The company actually recommends a slice of orange for a garnish but unfortunately I’m in the Hebrides so we don’t always have everything available in the shops. To be honest I was grateful for a lime! The sharp bitterness went well with the sweet pepper of the gin but now I’m curious if the sweeter, rounder flavour of the orange would bring the drink to a nirvana of perfect balance.

In terms of food pairings, or more appropriately, things to eat after Seven Crofts, some sort of Highland farm produce might be appropriate (some Easter lamb perhaps) but after drinking the gin I actually found myself craving mussels. Indeed I think it would go nicely with any seafood, and Ullapool is wonderfully located for that.

We had some foraged seaweed as a salad with a meal and I thought the briny-metallic-umami flavour went well with the sweet peppery gin.

I also had it before a steak with some more seaweed, this time lightly pan fried with salt, pepper and sesame oil for about 20 seconds on a high heat rather than being raw as a salad. I served it on top of the steak.

This worked well. Sea spaghetti tastes similar to samphire but in linguine form – it’s highly recommended if you can get your hands on it.

I also imagine the gin would go very well with North Ronaldsay lamb – an Orcadian delicacy from sheep that are raised eating seaweed. You could try the Ethical Butcher which supplies it – among a range of other delectable and sustainable produce.

To go in a different direction, I also had the gin just before a biryani and I felt that the flavour profile carried over very nicely. I think this gin would be very suitable with many spiced foods, South and South Asian food in particular. Maybe Thai-style mussels or a biryani with croft-raised lamb for instance.

Whilst writing this I realised that maybe not everyone knows what a croft is. It’s technically a piece of land, mostly used for living on and/or farming. Today it usually translates to a small type of traditional family farm, often for grazing livestock (mostly sheep or cows). It’s currently lambing season so it can be quite a busy time for crofters.

My amazing aunty and uncle actually have a croft of their own about 10 miles from Ullapool – but that’s as the crow flies – the various bays, mountains and sea lochs render straight roads virtually impossible in this part of the world.

Crofters, unlike large farms, tend to have a more organic, empathetic approach to their livestock and welfare. Most Crofters I know actually name their animals individually. My uncle and aunty had a sheep with such a notably distinctive baa that they named her Eartha in honour of one of the most delectable martini muses of all.

Crofters are also more likely to be custodians of our traditional culture (speaking Gaelic for example). Crofters tend to help out one another. There also tends to be more of a circular economy and an attitude of ‘mend and make do’ which always helps keep down the carbon footprint.

In short, crofts are wholesome. If you can buy from one it always tastes better and you should pay extra on principle to support this ethical, traditional way of life.

And remember to pair the food with a good measure of Seven Crofts Gin to whet the appetite!

Slàinte mhath from the black sheep of the family.

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