Boulder resident and semi-retired newspaper man Randy Miller knows what kind of gin he likes, but few places in the U.S., let alone Colorado, make the spirit to his liking. So Miller decided to distill his own gin — in Scotland.
"I wanted to make a gin I loved, and it turns out every gin I love is in Scotland," he explains, adding that most people don't realize that Scotland distills 70 percent of the United Kingdom's gin (think Gordon's, Tanqueray and Hendrick's). One of the key ingredients that makes Scottish gin such a winner, he says, is the water — and for that you have to go to the source.
Miller and his wife, Linda, travel to Scotland a few times a year on vacation to soak up the peace and beauty of the Highlands, one of his favorite destinations in the world. On a visit three years ago, he thought up the idea of making his own gin, and soon afterward he found a distillery in the region willing to work up a recipe for him.
Unfortunately, that first effort didn't pan out because the distillery couldn't create exactly what Miller wanted, and another attempt fell through when the maker loved his ideas but didn't have the capacity he needed to distill the gin for the market. But they sent him to a small farm distillery in the Scottish Highlands, where Miller finally found the right fit. After one miscalculated batch, they nailed the recipe of what is now Scottish Kings Gin.
"Most gins are about having a distinct flavor, but I wanted my gin not to have something unique about it, save for having the best balance of flavor you can find," Miller describes. "I knew I wanted basil and that herbal flavor, and floral, so I have rose petals, and I knew I wanted cardamom in the spice category."
With these profiles in mind, Miller sought to create a gin balanced with all six points of the gin tasting wheel: juniper, citrus, floral, heat, spice and herb. The flavor of his gin is crisp, smooth and citrus-forward, with a nice floral backbone. There's no sharp juniper bite and no singular essence that overpowers the others; "balanced," in this case, is the perfect word. Scottish Kings, at 46 percent alcohol, an intentional choice, is also higher than the more typical 40 percent.
"We didn't go to make an expensive gin; it's just what happened due to the procedure," Miller says of his bottles, which retail for about $58 each. "This is a real farm-to-table gin, and everything is done by hand."
The label for Miller's new brand marries his love of Scottish culture and Colorado roots. The image, designed by
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Boulder-based firm Moxie Sozo, depicts Robert the Bruce and the unicorn and thistle symbols of the Scottish side battling English knight Sir Henry de Bohun (represented by a lion and rose). On the neck label, there's a spider, a symbol Robert the Bruce chose to illustrate his persistence. Scottish Kings, says Miller, was his own great act of persistence, at least over the last three years.
When not busy creating booze, Miller still runs six papers in Telluride and Tuscon, and maybe, he says, he'll acquire more down the line. But for now, he is happy in semi-retirement, working on getting Scottish Kings out to the public — and sampling a fair share of it. The gin hit the shelves in January; so far it's only available in Colorado and New York, where Miller daughter lives. He hopes to soon add Texas, where his son lives.
Try Scottish Kings in Denver and Boulder at restaurants including Ultreia, Frasca Food and Wine, Arcana and Colt & Gray. You can also procure your own bottle at liquor stores such as Mondo Vino in Denver and Hazel's Beverage World in Boulder. Visit the Scottish Kings website to find more locations and information about this carefully crafted, imported Scottish gin.