You may have thought that the hand-crafted gin market, having run out of botanicals by now would be suffering from a Unique Selling Point shortage; but two brothers-in-law from New Zealand have proved there is no drought of new ideas by launching a black gin.

New Zealand’s Scapegrace Black Gin is the first blackish gin. Because of botanicals like aronia berry, butterfly pea, saffron, pineapple, and sweet potato, it turns purply black when mixed with tonic. The Scapegrace Distillery is located near the towns of Wanaka and Queenstown. 

Team of New Zealand's Scapegrace Black Gin

Says fellow co-founder Mark Neal: “The word Scapegrace means libertine and is sometimes used to describe someone unconventional, independently minded and doing things differently to the norm. Scapegrace Black very much falls under this mindset”. 

McLean's Gin Original 2022
McLean’s Gin Original 2022

New York has McQueen and Violet Fog, Australia Ink, Portugal Sharish, and Germany The Illusionist, conceptualized in 2015 by Tim Steglich and Max Muggenthaler. But the UK is the color-shifting gin hub of the world.

The Illusionist Dry Gin
The Illusionist Dry Gin

We have become used to pink gin, blush gin, zesty blood orange gin, lime, rhubarb, raspberry, and strawberry gins. In Lytham, Lancashire Sarah Dewhurst’s Lancashire Sandgrown Spirits makes Positively Purple Gin. 

Made in Seaford, Harley House Sussex Blue was one of the first English color-changing gins.“We got the idea for the Blue Gin in 2017 when my wife and I were making a birthday cake for our son” says Adam Cowley. “He is allergic to artificial colorings so we were trying to find a natural blue coloring for the icing; He was and still is an avid Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club fan. Our next-door neighbor was from Thailand and she suggested that we try the Butterfly Pea Flower as they use it for coloring food. I managed to get some and proceeded to make the blue icing for the blue and white stripes. We then decided to add a lemon drizzle to part of the cake to resemble the away kit colors. To our surprise, when we added the lemon drizzle, it started to react with the Butterfly Pea coloring, turning pink! Of course, our son was not overly impressed but that gave me the idea to make a Blue Gin. 

To my disappointment, after some research, we then found out that there were a few other Blue color changing gins available worldwide, but no UK-made ones so we decided to go ahead and produce it. After 6 months of trying to get the blue color to stabilize in the gin without using chemicals, we cracked the process. It was officially released in the summer of 2018.”

The Sussex Blue Gin is made from our five-time award-winning Pure Sussex Gin with the addition of the butterfly Pea Flower so altogether there are 16 botanicals present. The pH-sensitive butterfly pea flower is now the current “IN” or “IT” botanical. Explains Adam: “Adding any acidic mixer like tonic water or lemonade reduces the pH of the spirit, reacting with the anthocyanins and creating a color change.”

The UK is leading the way in color-shifting gins. Other blue gin makers include Yorkshire’s J.P. Adlams and Cornish Rock Blue Gin made with gardenia by Angie Malde and named after her late white Alsatian dog.

No. 3 Ellis Butterfly Pea Scottish Blue Gin
No. 3 Ellis Butterfly Pea Scottish Blue Gin

With his wife Jessica, Colin Mclean-chief ginologist at Mclean’s Gin in Strathaven, Lanarkshire made one of Scotland’s first magic, chameleonic gins for their wedding. “We created just 150 bottles, which was about as far as our cash flow could stretch at the time – however, it was so well received by our customers and the volume of inquiries for more production was such that we decided to add it as a permanent addition to our range.”

Something Blue is the fruit of the happy marriage and dexterous manipulation of tonka beans, bushy leaf, and the getting-more-popular-every-day clitoria ternatea flower. Carol Jackson who has a background in running large change programs in financial services makes Glasgow’s Ellis Gin; and Edinburgh’s Secret Garden in the form of its Lavender and Echinacea Gin.

Sparkling blue wine is made on the Isle of Wight at the Adgestone Vineyard which is the oldest continuously operating vineyard in the UK with subterranean cellars. Something Blue is a unique, lightly bubbling Cuvee. It is made using the Methode Traditionelle, laying on its lees for at least 18 months. 

The creator, former engineer Russ Broughton, originally worked in robotics with the Ford Motor Co. before working in the container port industry at Southampton and London Gateway. Russ now owns Adgestone Vineyard on the edge of the Brading Downs along with corporate lawyer, Philippa Jane.

Neither Russ nor Philippa had any previous experience working within the wine industry. Russ simply describes his discovery of the vineyard: “I was on holiday when I saw an ad in the local paper- “Vineyard For Sale. I went and had a look. It was a complete rundown mess. But, having renovated a few properties, and built a house, a garage, and two cars from scratch I thought “Why not?”

The Isle of Wight’s Adgestone Winery, which originally opened in 1968, was once a prestigious vineyard winning the Gore Brown Trophy for English wine in 1970. The original plantings of Seyval Blanc in 1968 survive (affectionately known as the “Old Ladies”), making them the oldest commercial vines in the UK.

Russ suggests everyone should “think differently, drink differently and think differently again”.