Moray Distillery - AVVA
Moray Distillery Ltd is situated in the small Scottish city of Elgin, in the heart of Speyside. Whilst the region is known around the world for its whisky production, the gin industry is beginning to make itself heard too.
Owner, Jill Brown, previously worked for the Scottish government before the lure of the spirits industry enticed her into setting up her own liqueur business, Berry Good. The business is still thriving and is based around the cold-compound method of production. Her successes led Jill to start dreaming of opening a distillery and creating her own gin.
The area surrounding Elgin is abundant with would-be botanicals. Taking inspiration from her heritage and the environment, Jill uses several locally-sourced botanicals in her gin, including dandelion, rowan berries and red clover flowers. The woodlands and grassy valleys merge into the spectacular scenery of the coast, affording a foraging luxury.
Similarly, the wealth of whisky producers in the area was a blessing in plain sight. Whilst many new gin distillers spend hours trawling the internet and conducting extensive research about where best to source their still and distilling equipment, from which country and how to transport it home, Jill is incredibly fortunate to have several highly esteemed coppersmiths, (and electricians) on her doorstep. Hand-crafted by Speyside Copper Works, Jill could see the progress being made and her still taking shape as the company is located a mere three streets away.
With a 250 litre capacity, Jessie-Jean, (J-J) is a beautiful bespoke copper pot still. Named after Jill’s two grandmothers, her christening links nicely to the story behind the Avva name. Wishing to extend the family theme, Jill researched “grandmother” and came across the Hebrew meaning of “to ruin or overturn”, (which gently nods towards gin’s Mother’s Ruin heritage) and the Indian Dravidian language where Avva means “respected elder or grandmother”.
Elgin Cathedral, the “Lantern of the North” is an iconic piece of medieval architecture. Although it is in ruins now, its prominence and elegance remain. Building began in 1224 and Elgin Cathedral was the principal church for the bishops of Moray.
With influences and inspiration like this, it’s easy to see why Jill chose the cathedral’s circular stained glass window as her logo. Through a stroke of luck/fate, the cathedral’s main wall sees 10 windows underneath the circular one, incidentally reflected by the 10 botanicals supporting juniper in Avva Scottish Gin.
Elgin Cathedral brought skilled work and wealth, helping the city to expand and prosper. Jill hopes to replicate this by drawing on the skills of local trades and supporting the community with her sense of heritage and provenance. Avva Gin is more than just liquid in a bottle; it has been crafted from the Speyside landscape.
Whilst the liquid inside the bottle is obviously of utmost importance, consumers do genuinely “buy with their eyes” first. Attention to detail and genuine care about the design of the bottle and its labelling cannot be underestimated. Avva Scottish Gin comes in a traditional apothecary-style bottle with a wooden-topped cork. The closure is debossed with the stained glass window logo. The paper label is traditional in design with detailing picked out in copper to reflect the copper still. The gorgeous colour scheme not only links to the cathedral but draws on the amazing clear blue skies of Moray in the summer.
One of the exciting aspects of Avva Gin’s initial release was that the first batch was available for purchase on Moray Distillery’s website and you could choose which bottle number you wanted. Yes I chose Bottle 26 because my birthday’s on the 26th… It’s a nice gesture though, especially in this current gin-boom age where collectors are starting to appear and a first batch bottle is of significance.
Juniper from Macedonia
Coriander Seed from Scotland and England
Angelica Root from China
Orris Root from Morocco
Lemon Peel from Spain
Orange Peel from Spain
Red Clover Flowers
The first section of traditional botanicals form the basis of Avva Gin, whilst the remaining Rowan Berries, Dandelion, Nettle, Mint and Red Clover Flowers are all hand-foraged by Jill’s nearest and dearest. The majority grow on her grandparents’ farm in Caithness and it becomes a family affair to get outside and harvest them during the season.
Jill explains the importance of using locally-sourced botanicals in a lovely way: “It’s the transformation of what many consider weeds, which are gathered and preserved to allow year-long use.”
Many of these botanicals are obviously best when they’re in season, so in order to maintain consistency, Jill preserves some stock by drying and freezing too. The frozen botanicals are slowly defrosted and brought up to room temperature prior to distillation, (just like you would with any other ingredient before cooking).
Each botanical was initially distilled on its own to gauge its individual flavour profile. Jill then developed several recipes and ran multiple trial batches until she was happy with the finished result.
J-J is filled with neutral grain spirit made from wheat and undergoes the one-shot method of production. The botanicals are not macerated prior to distillation as they are held in a vapour basket, not in contact with the spirit. Approximately 200 bottles are produced per batch.
Jill has been very lucky in that pretty much all of the trial batches have come out tasting delicious – it made her job harder to pinpoint exactly what needed to be altered for the final recipe. It’s certainly not a bad problem to have though!
Aromas: Bright, full refreshing juniper and citrus coriander with delicate floral notes on top. A gentle hint of earthiness underneath.
Palate: Rich and silky in texture. Quite light. Soft floral juniper and gentle berry notes. Succulent depth with a solid juniper core and gentle warmth on the finish.
With Tonic: Bright lifted coriander and sturdy juniper. Good weight with rich cardamom and gentle floral tones.
Garnish: Lime works brilliantly.
Not the most in-your-face style, but a really well-crafted and very enjoyable, understated product.