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A Visit to Ardlussa
This little piece may set alarm bells ringing among long-term readers of this blog but I’d like to assure you all that whisky is still the main focus of things around here. Gin really isn’t my drink. Or at least, Gin & Tonic isn’t my drink. Over the years I’ve done a few Gin tastings and found that I enjoyed drinking it neat much more than I did mixed. I think the tonic water might be the problem rather than the gin. I’ve been meaning to try it with soda for years but it always slips my mind. That said, a trip to Jura with the Islay Whisky Academy last year introduced me to the wonders of Lussa Gin, a lovely spirit produced at the north end of the island down a seemingly endless single track road.
Jura is remote. Famously so. You don’t really understand how remote until you go there, though. The island feels quite small at first because it doesn’t seem to take that long to drive from the ferry port at Feolin to the main settlement at Craighouse. I suspect many people don’t bother going much further. Why would you? The island’s hotel and pub, cafe and distillery are all located right there in the village. So is the vast majority of the 200 or so population.
It’s only when you travel beyond Craighouse that you begin to get an idea of the scale of the place. Jura is 30 miles long and the vast majority of it is completely empty. Of people at least. There are around 6,000 red deer and countless other species that call the wilderness home.
About 16 miles from Craighouse is Ardlussa and Lussa Gin Distillery. Its story began in 2015 when three plant-loving friends, Alicia MacInnes, Claire Fletcher and Georgina Kitching got fed up looking for work in Jura and decided to create their own. They explored the island for botanicals, even venturing out in a small boat to gather sea lettuce. Then they put it together with some spirit in a 10-litre still called Jim. What came out was Lussa Gin.
I enjoyed my visit to the distillery and took a bottle of their Gin home with me. If I remember correctly we took it to a Christmas party and it proved so popular it never made it through the night. During our time in Ardlussa we also got to try their Bramble Liqueur which really tickled my sweet tooth. They had none in stock at that time but as soon as it reappeared on their website I ordered one.
Lussa Gin’s Bramble Liqueur comes in a dinky 20cl bottle at 21.5% and a price of £20 (I’m reviewing Batch 4a).
Smell: Fresh and fruity. Reminds me a little of Sangria at first. Citric acid. Lemonade. Strawberries. Raspberries, Blackcurrant. Orange juice. Cherry flavoured throat lozenges.
Taste: Upon arrival there’s an explosion of fruity flavours. Lots of berries that almost overwhelm the palate. Then comes a little of that botanical gin. Even a wee bit of saltiness. There’s a freshness that points towards it being an island product. There’s almost an effervescent to it.
Thoughts: I’m loving this stuff. It’s very pleasant when consumed neat but I suspect most people would either use it in prosecco, as the folks at Lussa suggest, or mix it with something else. Personally, I found it worked an absolute treat with Lemon & Lime Sprite which complemented the fresh, zingy gin perfectly. I only wish I had a bigger bottle of the stuff, because that combo could easily become a go-to on a hot summer’s day.
Value for money: Annoyingly only comes in 20cl bottles and they cost £20 a time which would start to mount up pretty quickly if you were ordering multiples. Still, it’s an artisanal product made from hand-picked brambles at a tiny, independent, rural business. Who wouldn’t want to support that?
For more on Lussa Gin visit the website: