Chapter 1 - The Beginning
We're Colin & Jessica McLean. A Mechanical Engineer and a Junior Doctor who decided it was time to try something new. But why gin? Now there's a story.
I (Colin) always had an interest in making booze. It started with wine and beer. Were they any good? Let's just say my mum still has a bottle in her cupboard from over 3 years ago, and not because she's a collector. On Christmas day 2015, I carefully unwrapped a gift from Chris and Naomi; my mother and father-in-law to be. Inside that reindeer-clad paper I discovered a "make your own" gin kit.
The kit gathered dust in the inconspicuous cupboard of our South Glasgow tenement flat until February 12th 2016. 2 days later, Jessica awoke to a gift that - we were both rather stunned to find - was mighty tasty. And so it began.
Chapter 2 - The Early Days
On Christmas day one year on, our closest family awoke to a little Kilner bottle of what would become McLean's Signature gin; a recipe 9 months in development. Day turned to night and Buck's Fizz to G&T's. "You should sell this." said Auntie L. "Agreed." said uncle Z, as he wrestled the almost-empty bottle from her hands.
And so, we did.
In September 2017; following some pretty drastic learning curves and an almost incalculable number of 12 hour days, McLean's Gin landed on it's first shelf. Only days later, we took on our first gin festival - finding ourselves sandwiched between 2 of Scotland's biggest gin producers. We didn't even have a table-cloth, but this small detail didn't do much to detract from peoples enjoyment of our proud creation. Whilst we thought people might have been horrified at the prospect of our "Cupboard gin", most were thrilled by our story and more supportive than we could ever have wished for.
Chapter 3 - The Seasonals
...and then there were four.
We loved Signature (in fact, we very much still do), but with it's up-front kick of rich aniseed, we quickly discovered that it isn't necessarily everyone's cup of gin. Luckily, we had amassed close to 50 botanicals; from the fresh Rosemary we'd picked up from our little tenement garden to the Voatsiperifery Peppers that had somehow found their way to our cupboard from Madagascar. After some very extensive tasting and trialling which - take it from us - was a real nightmare...we proudly unveiled;
Classic Citrus, with it's notes of rosemary, bay and just a pinch of ground black pepper- for the classic G&T lover.
The striking violet Floral, with a beautiful bouquet of rose, hibiscus and orange blossom, a touch of soft cardamom and a dusting of hand-harvested fennel pollen (more extravagantly "Spice of Angels" and more expensive than gold). Did we mention it turns pink with a splash of tonic or lemonade?
And last but certainly not least; "Christmas in a Glass"; our Spiced gin with a rich, woody nose and a smooth finish of cinnamon, clove, pine and ginger. Can you hear the fire roaring yet?
Chapter 4 - Taking the Cake
Christmas sure caught us off guard; not least because The Evening Times' piece on "Scotland's Smallest Gin Producer" spiralled into television and radio appearances, as well as some interesting Harry Potter comparisons (we're eternally in your favour, Catriona!). the 12 hour days turned to 15 hour days and the 5 day weeks to 7.
(3 months earlier); "I wonder if we could make a Cherry Bakewell gin?" Jess pondered as we devoured one ravenously, half-way up Ben Lomond on a blustery September afternoon. "We can certainly try" I replied. By late November, we were selling more McLean's Cherry Bakewell than we could physically produce (possibly the consequence of trying to produce 5 different gins; 8 bottles at a time; whilst still working "full time" jobs). We woke on Christmas morning, stronger than ever and thrilled that hundreds of people would be waking up to a bottle of McLean's under their tree.
Chapter 5 - New Beginnings
"...I do." she said.
To celebrate our marriage on 2nd June 2018, we released a limited run of 150 bottles of our proudest creation to date; Something Blue. Selling out in a matter of days, we clearly weren't the only ones to enjoy it. Something Blue saw us pack up the car early from a gin festival in St. Andrews; every single drop that we had left sold out, with several people already asking when we'd be re-releasing it. It's nomination for Speciality Gin of the Year at the acclaimed Scottish Gin Awards seemed like a good enough reason to us, and so Something Blue is back for good.
This one came at a time of change; not only did we celebrate our wedding, but with very mixed emotions, we left our Battlefield cupboard behind for pastures new. We'll never forget the times we had there and will always cherish the quite-frankly-unbelievable local support that saw us working from dusk 'til dawn, but in order to fulfil our plans for McLean's, the time had come for change.
And now, I type this from the comfort of our purpose-built gin-lab on the edge of the thriving village of Strathaven.
To be continued...