RE-INVENTING THE RAVEN
The raven who oversees the Development Nest is a very stubborn bird. Give him a challenge that he can get his claws into and he will not give up. But for a “Pink”, he was going to need all his persistence and patience to face the challenge.
This is the story of HRAFN GIN ‘Cranachan’, and how it was hatched…
“PINK!” You could hear the squawk a mile off. The Development Nest had been set the challenge to create a pink gin, worthy of bearing the HRAFN name. No tall order to achieve if you have sampled a few pink gins in your time. The problem, you see, is that most pink gins are just an amalgam of a distillery’s standard gin with some flavourings and colourings added. If you are lucky these flavourings are natural in taste, if you are not… well let’s leave that hanging.
Yes, indeed, we did try adding a concoction of natural flavouring to our premium signature gin – ‘Thought & Memory’. Immediately this thought became a memory as we immediately knew that was not the answer. HRAFN GIN is known for quality, smoothness, and its deep lingering finish. Truth is, it was not a bad taste, it was just not up to the required standards to be called HRAFN GIN.
But why a pink gin; and why now?
The answer is quite simple. We had been asked. Asked by many HRAFN GIN supporters and customers at many gin shows and events to make a ‘Pink’ with the HRAFN GIN characteristics! And why now? COVID-19 Lockdown, so why not? The Ravens’ general beef with pink gin is that too often an existing standard gin, sometimes of a lower quality gin spirit, is often subjected to addition of artificial flavourings, colourings and with a pretty label applied. ‘Et voilà, pink gin’! Rarely distilled from scratch with intent for genuine quality, character and honest distinction as the base to hold and augment the “pink” elements. For the Ravens, this was not the way to pass the HRAFN GIN test. The true path would be far more complex, time consuming and challenging BUT it had to be fun. Just the way the Ravens like it. A new gin to be created. Specifically designed and crafted from the ground up to support the Ravenesque “pink” profile.
Challenge accepted, we left Raven #2 to his own devices. And, Boy, we were about to get our feathers blown off!
Time to ‘Re-Invent the Raven’.
PART I: 'TURNING AS RED AS A GHOST'
As Ravens poured over Granny Raven’s recipe books on Sweets, Puddings and Desserts a plan was hatched. Flying off across Aberdeenshire we procured the finest of locally sourced raspberries, heather honey, oatmeal, and new make malt spirit, (that’s whisky younger than 3 years old and so, technically, not entitled to be called whisky!) but its creamy, malty, mouth feel would give oomph to our new gin.
With bulging bags of our local provisions, each was inspected, sniffed, squeezed and tasted for the required quality. The decision was made to proceed to replicate in gin, Granny Raven’s favourite dessert. The king of all Scottish puddings! We were going to distil cranachan!
The following month resulted in the release of various aromas of delightful memories of summer breaks spent at Granny Raven’s. A lovely sticky aromatic honey haze; a heady, beak-busting oaty whiskyness; and, finally, an elixir of spirit soaked Scottish raspberries. This last, the principal and foundation for the flavour base of our Pink, was named Ghost: a secret process used for extracting the “berryness” from soft fruits. Ghost, so called, as it is a memory of raspberries, summer distilled. This particular Raspberry Ghost was a multi-stage process of steeping and distilling to fortify the raspberry intensity built up.
PART II: 'RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES'
Frantic phone calls and emails flew as the Development Nest engaged the Ravens’ selected supplier of fruit. We gasped, resigned to the fate that our beloved signature mandarin, would not be there to carry forward the new spirit. Exotic fruits arrived from the four corners of the world and the Ravens zested and peeled, then bubbled and steamed. Botanicals recalled and re-weighed. Recipes written in and scribbled out. A palimpsest of potions produced. Time passed. The distillations ebbed and flowed like the Thames – a London Dry Thames - until one tense night found the Ravens whooping and jumping with delight. The code for the new gin was cracked. Not only a gin tailored as base for the new Pink, but itself remarkable to stand on its own London Dry merit, absent the Pink. A chorus of “Hoorah” all round, not a one gin creation, but two abound. The alchemy was not in adding the Pink flavour to a gin, it was adding the gin to complete the flavour to form the Pink! The flavours came first, the gin created to follow.
Now we were excited.
Tasting the new London Dry for the first time was reminiscent of our first taste experience of HRAFN GIN ‘Thought & Memory’. The excitement and anticipation. This time, our eyes lit up as this fresh London Dry was so smooth and flavoursome. The taste unique, but familiar. Its signature botanical is Jara, a fruit from South East Asia. It is a semi-wild citrus fruit: neither lemon, nor lime, but similar to both. Bright, sparkling, ethereal, almost narcotic – all at the same time. We were intoxicated by the taste experience. This new London Dry has the hallmarks of HRAFN GIN’s expected characteristics: it was smooth, deep, and lingering, but it could fly high in a citrus stratosphere. It was christened HRAFN GIN ‘Valkyrie’, in honour of the supernatural warrior-maidens of Odin, who are of nobility and ride winged horses across the skies.
PART III: 'MIXING BUSINESS & PLEASURE'
The last stage in the development was in the blending of the Raspberry Ghost with the ‘Valkyrie’. A precise blending of ratios, unhurried to maintain all the flavours so that they layered together but are still discernible. This is where the building of the flavours over our slower distilling process, results in our characteristic deep flavour profile with a lingering finish. Like the King of Scottish desserts with its mix of layered flavours, from which this new pink gin offering takes its name: HRAFN GIN ‘Cranachan’ proudly joins the HRAFN GIN family.
The result is a light pink hue that is both delicate and deep. The Scottish Raspberries sing against the bright citrus zing of the Jara, while the aromatic tones of the Heather Honey sweetly embrace the traditional botanic spices, and the malt-washed oats give a creaminess to the taste that satisfies. Finally, the fresh taste of Raspberries returns and lingers on the finish.