Shetland Reel gin is produced by the Saxa Vord Distillery at the northern end of Unst, the most northerly inhabited island in the UK.
Price: ~ £38
Shetland Reel was set up by Stuart and Wilma Nickerson, and Frank and Debbie Strang, the latter pair having spent years regenerating a former RAF site at Saxa Vord into an award-winning tourist resort, and the former running The Malt Whisky Company, which has its own range of Scotch whiskies. Together they share a desire to produce exceptional spirits in the UK’s most northerly distilleries, located on the island of Unst in the Shetland islands.
The team took inspiration from their surroundings and, like many, use local botanicals to create unique gins that represent the heart of where they are distilled. Initially only available within Shetland, the gins are now available all over the world and the small, local team has grown alongside demand.
Interestingly, Unst is only accessible via another island: Yell, and as such is closer to Norway in distance and even culture than it is to much of Scotland.
Note: other botanicals I think are included but am not sure about are applemint and orris.
The bottle is the common wide and round shape with sloping shoulders and mid-length neck. It’s made much more interesting by the lovely blue tint at the base that fades up the bottom third leaving the rest clear. It gives the glass a very appealing hue that evokes a sense of freshness, clarity, and crystal clear waters. This is accentuated by the minimalist label on the front, tall and slim, and providing the bare essentials in information on a nice textured off-white paper. On the back is another label of the same size, giving a little info on the gin as well as the usual details. Overall it’s very plain, but pleasant.
Despite the strength, the nose is fairly subtle and for me gives of a bit of a vodka vibe: fresh and clean, though with a creamy undertone. Eventually the juniper makes an appearance, along with coriander and citrus which all blend into a fairly generic albeit pleasant gin profile. It has a nice tang, and an almost breezy essence to it, like a waft of sea air, which will no doubt be the bladderwrack. It’s not particularly punchy, and could be a little more dynamic for me, but it’s very nice and I’m looking forward to tasting it.
Neat, the strength is more evident as it goes down! There is far more flavour here than the nose suggests too, with some exciting twists and turns as the liquid coats the mouth. At first I get a gorgeously rich, warming, bittersweet and earthy flavour that’s almost like black tea. This is immediately followed up by bitter citrus and an almost aromatic spice finish, with classic gin notes running throughout nicely. It’s bold, rich, and very tasty.
Water brings out even more of those rich, earthy, spiced citrus notes that I am absolutely loving here. The profile is made a little more bitter by the addition, but not to any real detriment to the overall flavour. It’s a little more accessible with the dilution, though for me the tea profile becomes a little more stewed and vegetal, so I think I prefer it neat. That said, I do think the water accentuates the tea-like flavour, which I’m enjoying a lot.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Franklin & Sons Indian Tonic with a wheel of dried lime to garnish). The result is a lovely combination of fresh, earthy pine and bold citrus. It’s perfectly balanced between bitter, citrus, spiced, earthy, and sweet for me, and despite the strength it’s a very easy drinker! I still get hints of rich, tea-like flavours, now almost reminiscent of cola too, that add another level to what is already a great drink.
Ocean Sent is an excellent gin. I’ll confess I don’t know enough about bladderwrack to wonder whether it is this that’s providing some of those tasting notes, but I somehow doubt it. Still, there is flavour for days here, and the way everything is balanced is truly impressive, making me think it would work well in almost any cocktail. On the other hand, its price does pit it against some of the best in the biz, and the one thing I would say is that very, very good as it is, I don’t find it especially remarkable. It doesn’t quite carve itself a space in my mind to join the list of gins I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. If you get the chance to try it though, I highly recommend you do!
Remove half a feather if price is a factor
Ocean Sent is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.