An aromatic artisan gin from Northern Ireland

Shortcross Gin’s balanced botanical blend includes local wild clover

Shortcross is a classic gin with a heavenly floral bouquet
Shortcross is a classic gin with a heavenly floral bouquet

As someone whose go-to tipple is a classic G&T, I have never strayed far from the better-known names (one knows what one’s getting, after all). That is until I discovered Northern Ireland’s first craft offering: Shortcross Gin (£40 for 70cl), which is distilled in County Down, a mere 17 miles from where I grew up. As a frequent visitor to the province, I became aware of Shortcross not long after its 2014 launch, and have been loyal to it ever since.  

The recipe features juniper, coriander, cinnamon, elderberries and clover
The recipe features juniper, coriander, cinnamon, elderberries and clover

At its helm is husband and wife team Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong, a former property surveyor and engineer respectively. The couple always wanted to go into business together, but it was Fiona, whose family owns the 500-acre Rademon Estate, just outside Downpatrick, who came up with the idea of artisan distilling. “Many of my childhood memories are set against a backdrop of amazing smells from our garden, and after reading a book about the dying art of distilling in Ireland, I knew we were perfectly located to rekindle this special craft.”

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The self-confessed “gin enthusiasts” took six months to perfect the recipe: juniper, coriander, cinnamon, elderberries and their signature botanical, wild clover, are cut with fresh spring water from the estate’s well. One sip and I was sold; this is a classic gin, but with a heavenly floral bouquet and none of that eye-watering after-burn, even when sampled neat. And it’s not just me who’s singing its praises – recent accolades include a hat trick at the 2016 international Gin Masters awards.

The distillery is based at the Rademon Estate, just outside Downpatrick
The distillery is based at the Rademon Estate, just outside Downpatrick

The couple have gone from distilling a few times a month to almost daily, but never more than 400 bottles at a time. In February they experimented with a cask-aged gin (kept for three months in Bordeaux wine barrels), which went on to become Fortnum & Mason’s best ever selling “Spirit of the Month”. All the local sourcing, distilling, labelling and bottling (my own came personalised – a delightful touch) is still done in house. “It’s important for us to retain total control,” says Fiona, who recommends serving the gin alongside a good-quality elderflower tonic, a sprig of mint and a few chunks of frozen orange.

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Provenance is certainly a selling point for Shortcross, but as David points out, the second sales and awards are solely down to it being a “balanced, flavoured and aromatic gin”. Here’s hoping its first single malt whiskey – currently sleeping in barrels, but to be bottled in late 2018 – will be met with similar fanfare.

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