I’ve been meaning to try these 10 experimental gin batches from Dornoch ever since they arrived in the post in the spring of 2017. I’m not hugely enthused about gin but this is gin made from 100% barley spirit at the Dornoch distillery of which I’m a crowdfunder.
The thompsonbrosdistillers.com website told us in March 2017: ‘Progress may seem slow, however as you know we are creating our Gin spirit from Scratch. We use fully floor malted Organic Odyssey barley fermented with flavourful brewers yeasts – Flavour is King!’
‘Next week we will begin sending out Crowdfunding T-Shirts and we hope to send the sample packs of Experimental Gin at the start of April. Bottles will also be available in selected export markets and certain UK retailers, there will be circa 450 of each of the 10 batches’.
The idea was for customers [and crowdfunders] to try these ten experimental batches and give feedback, helping inform and influence the recipe for Dornoch’s first official gin release Thompson Bros Organic Highland Gin. This duly happened in the following months and in due course, I received my complimentary crowdfunder’s bottle in June 2018 [see pic left]. Nearly two years on, it’s about time I cracked open those samples for my own personal interest in spirits and the Dornoch distillery itself.
It falls upon masterofmalt.com [who produced the sample kits] to provide some ingredients info as none were forthcoming, nor could I find any information elsewhere. [Note: I have no affiliation with MoM, nor any other business].
This contains Dornoch’s core botanical makeup of juniper, angelica root, cardamom seed, aniseed, orange peel, lime peel, coriander seeds, meadowsweet, pine needles and orris root. Ingredients of interest: meadowsweet, pine needles and cardamom being the most unusual.
- N,T,F: A sweet, fruity bouquet to nose, rounded overall with a sweet aniseed & gingery finish.
- C: A very congenial, rounded, one-size-fits-all gin, no doubt the populist choice.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #2 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Along with their core botanical selection, Batch #2 also features single botanical runs of basil, strawberry and black pepper!’
- C: With mild juniper levels overall, we’ve a sharper reveal than #1 with a more fruity and ginger-like finish.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #3 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Odyssey barley and their core selection of botanicals, alongside spirit botanical runs of black pepper, lemon peel and raspberries.‘
- N,T,F: Notes-wise, I picked out raspberry & strawberry sponge with the black pepper and the beginnings of a bitter thread at the finish. Of note was the soft mouthfeel, largely absent in the vast majority of the other experimental batches.
- C: Individual/idiosyncratic [English > Dutch perhaps?], this one shone out as being about the spirit. Recommended.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #4 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Batch #4 shows off the character of the gin excellently as it features a very low botanical content – 10 grams per litre charged (many producers use around 35-40 grams per litre charged!)‘
- C: Straight juniper-led gin with passing hints of basil and a citrus bitter finish. This for me is reminiscent of other dry gins on the market but with a less industrial < more ‘craft’ feel. Coming across more genever-like than any of the others, this could be seen as a Dutch > English presentation perhaps? Along with #3, recommended as a pair.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #5 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘,…a combination of some of the distillery’s favourite productions, along with a helping of lemon distillate!‘
- C: Similar to batch #4 but narrower in flavour and shorter in form with a touch of spice and a cinnamon dryness.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #6 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Using the core botanical blend, Batch #6 also features honeybush and cinnamon as botanicals, resulting in a subtle, creamy sweetness coming through.‘
- C: In comparison to the first five, experimental batches #6, 7 and 8 got grouped together for their relatively similar rootsy profiles. Of the three, this batch #6 seemed the most polished with a shrubbery nature reminiscent of cachaca cask woods, balsa wood,… [particularly Indaiazinha cachaca: WLP88]
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #7 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Batch #7 is a rather light expression,‘
- C: Sharpish and narrow with a soft bitter juniper thread. [No further notes].
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #8 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Batch #8 is their light spirit featuring their core botanical selection (plus cinnamon), combined with an oilier spirit which was aged in a 100 litre juniper cask for 8 weeks.‘
- C: A rather overwhelming dark rootsyness.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #9 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Batch #9 was made with a long, slow distillation, and features big ol’ helpings of lemon peel distillate and black pepper distillate.‘
- N,T,F: Floral, perfumed, concealed flora n fauna, plasticine.
- C: The most ‘mysterious’ of the set, this could be a gin for the treasure seeker.
Dornoch Distillery Gin  Ob. Experimental Batch #10 45.7% [5cl]
MoM: ‘Batch #10 was made with one of Dornoch’s very first distillations and had a rather low botanical content. They then filled that spirit into 50 litre ex-rye casks and matured it for 8 weeks.‘
- C: Almost medicinal/tincture-like, this was less appealing than some others.
What’s exciting about these early experiments is the ones I found more favourable [from the point of view of a whisky loving pianist], are the spirit-forward batches. With batches #3 & #4 the standouts in this respect, I mix the rest together.
Dornoch Distillery Gin Blend
- C: Whilst my crude blending has not been so beneficial for nosing, the palate speaks of sweet fizz, spice and citrus peel, a touch rootsy towards the tail.
I look forward to trying Dornoch’s new make and whisky in due course.