Whenever I get asked if I ‘drink (named fluid)’ I would often hesitate for a while before nodding in agreement, wondering if it was possible to be intolerant to a particular alcohol. I do enjoy a classic G&T every now and then, most commonly in a pub setting when I struggle to think of an alternative choice besides beer, which I am generally not so keen on.
The Edinburgh Gin distillery is a hidden gem nestled within Rutland Place, and in 2014 became the first in the heart of the capital in over 100 years, their creations taking inspiration from iconic Edinburgh landmarks.
They have a variety of tour packages available, from which we booked ourselves in for the Gin Connoisseur Tour on a fine Monday afternoon after a visit to the zoo, as you do.
We were first guided through the history and production of gin before getting a more intimate look at the distillery area. Pots of dried herbs and ingredients were passed around so that we could get a whiff of them – fresh juniper, coriander, citrus peel and orris root, and milk thistle for that extra bit of magic…
Now for a little bit of history…
Gin is believed to have first been produced in Holland in the early 17th century when it was largely used for its medicinal purposes. Juniper berries were later added by the Dutch to make it more palatable where it then started to become a popular drink.
British soldiers fighting in the Low Countries during Eighty Years’ War drank gin to calm their nerves prior to battles, hence the origins of the term ‘Dutch Courage’. Eventually the returning soldiers brought bottles of gin back to Britain here it then became a cheap and popular alternative to beer and ale.
Gin became vastly more popular When King William III, also know as William of Orange, occupied the British throne with his wife Mary in 1688. Gin production was encouraged and distilling laws were relaxed, which gave rise to hundreds of unlicensed distilleries across the country – unsurprisingly leading to the cheap production of crude, inferior forms, where it was more likely to be flavoured with turpentine (!) as opposed to juniper.
Widespread consumption among the poor and working classes soon led to various social problems, a period known as the Gin Craze – famously depicted in William Hogarths Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751).
The Gin Act eventually came into enforcement, leading to improved distillation techniques and became a more refined drink, and its popularity remains to this present day.
And the rest is pretty much history.
We were then ‘introduced’ to the two stills which create the gins, quietly working away behind the glass panels – Caledonia, a tall and elegant column still; and Flora, a rotund pot still. Their method is perfectly simple and inspired – ‘begin at the beginning, go on until you come to the end: then stop!’
And as all tour should end, we completed ours with a tutored- tasting session in a cave-like booth, where we sampled the different types of gin that they produced. The trio of glasses contained their delicious gin infusions: raspberry, elderflower, and rhubarb and ginger.
We also got to try the Cannonball Gin and the intriguing Seaside Gin, made with seaweed, scurvy grass and ground ivy.
And at the end we each got to select our choice of a 20cl bottle gin to take home with us!
I went for the Rhubarb and Ginger which I surprisingly began to grow more fond of with each sip – it also had a lovely shade of pink, and everyone knows how much I love pink…
I shall be having some rather gin-teresting evenings at home… (pardon the pun).
The Gin Connoisseur Tour costs £25 per person, or you can check out their website for other packages available. There is also the Heads & Tales bar should you be looking for an evening of cocktails and concoctions alongside some light bites.
And lastly, for the gin fanatics out there, a variety of Edinburgh Gin Club events are hosted throughout the year which may be worth checking out.
A taste of Edinburgh to to be missed.
The Cheekster, signing out x