The Essence Of Sloe Berry

Every Autumn, bounding hedgerows of the Scottish countryside welcome the flourish of the blackthorn tree's sloe berries. As the leaves turn brown, and the nip of an early winter frost begins, the plump, deep purple sloe berries bejewel our local woodlands.

Every Autumn, bounding hedgerows of the Scottish countryside welcome the flourish of the
blackthorn tree’s, sloe berries. As the leaves turn brown, and the nip of an early winter frost
begins, the plump deep purple sloe berries bejewel our local woodlands.


Where does the sloe berry come from?


Sloe berries are the ripe fruit of the blackthorn tree (or Prunus spinosa) which are most
commonly found blossoming in woodlands up and down Britain. The blackthorn tree is also
native to Western Asia and parts of North America. The shrub blooms a delicate scattering of
tiny white flowers in the late months of Spring. All in preparation for nature’s wild harvest of the
rich cloud of sloe berries on the cusp of Autumn.

When should you pick sloe berries?

 

photo of a bowl of wild sloe berries picked from the blackthorn bush

Traditionally when picking sloe berries from the blackthorn bush for distilling gin, you would wait until the first frost of the year. The theory behind this is that when hardened the cracks of the berry skin allow flavours and juices to run into the gin. However, sloes have many more uses such as jam, jelly and other alcoholic beverages which simply require the berries to be ripe and bursting with flavour like they are in the summer months.

 

How sloe berry reacts with our senses...

Despite its petite form, the sloe berry packs a powerful punch of flavour. Once ripe and picked
straight from the stalk, the berry has a mouth-watering tart taste. The sloe is a wild plum, so it’s
often a little too sour for most to eat au naturel. Once infused, most commonly in gin to create a
liqueur, the sloe exuberates deep, rich flavours of winter fruits. Like most berries, sloe berries 
do not possess a pungent scent unless the skin is burst, even then it only gives off a light
sweet fragrance.


What flavours compliment sloe berry?

glass of Highland Boundary's Coorie Doon wild cocktail using sloe and birch botanical liqueur on a table with pinecones behind

As the sloe berry boasts a tart tangy taste it often pairs well with sweeter flavours. Throughout
the winter months, a sloe berry-infused liqueur will often be served neat after dining. However,
the fruit of the blackthorn bush can be the secret ingredient to some of the most refreshing summer beverage - you’ve just not tried them yet!

Mix sloe gin with sparkling tonic water and a dash of lemonade to make the perfect summer’s day cooler whilst reclining in the garden. Or, for a more formal occasion, top up your flute of champagne with a measure of Highland Boundary's wild Birch and Sloe Berry liqueur for your very own Sloe Fizz! We’ve paired the infusion of sloe berry with our birch-bud spirit to create a seamless blend of Scottish botanical flavours in our Birch and Sloe Liqueur. This is a gorgeously unique combination of the rich, deep fruity flavours of the sloe berry with the long warm and
forest fresh-flavour of the birch. It makes for a beautiful botanical alternative to a sloe gin liqueur and a
fantastic cocktail ingredient.


Sloe berry and blackthorn tree in Celtic culture and ancient mythology


The roots of the blackthorn tree and its sloe berry fruit can be traced as far back as the days of
the early man. Throughout history, sloe berries have been accredited for having magical powers and played a significant role in natural and herbal medicinal practices. The blackthorn tree itself
is highly symbolic in ancient Celtic culture. The branches of the tree carried the connotations of
death and warfare. It’s even believed to have associations with Scottish witchcraft, whereby the
beginning of winter would be announced by the Cailleach (Goddess of Winter) who would
thrash the ground with her staff made of blackthorn.

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