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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Scotland

New Arrival of the Week: Darnley’s Very Berry Gin

This week Darnley’s Gin launched a limited edition gin distilled with local ingredients from the hedgerows and even from the sea. We went to Scotland for a little taste. ….

This week Darnley’s Gin launched a limited edition gin distilled with local ingredients from the hedgerows and even from the sea. We went to Scotland for a little taste. . .

In January we visited Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife to try its first whisky release, and very nice it was too. The distillery’s founders, the Wemyss family, also produces Darnley’s Gin which appeared back in 2010. In craft gin terms, this is ancient history.

Head gin distiller Scott Gowans talked me through the range. I enjoyed the Original and the cumin-accented Spiced Gin, but the one that really blew my hair back was a limited edition product – the Very Berry Gin. It’s a London Dry Gin made with Scottish hedgerow fruit including rose hips, elderberries and sloes. I loved its fruity flavour and the saline note that comes from using sugar kelp as a botanical, and couldn’t wait until it was available to the general public. Well the wait is over. It’s here.

Very Berry Gin

Very Berry Gin – note gleaming copper in the background

The range is named after Mary Queen of Scot’s first husband, Lord Darnley. She first met him in February 1565 at Wemyss Castle in Fife and was clearly quite impressed. A chronicle of the occasion wrote: “Her Majesty took well with him, and said that he was the lustiest and best proportioned long man that she had seen.” Blimey! By July of that year, they were married.

Unfortunately, despite his general dishiness, Darnley was also a violent drunkard. His behaviour, which included murdering Mary’s private secretary David Rizzio, quickly made him unpopular at court. Darnley was himself eventually murdered in 1567, some think at instigation of Mary.

His portrait sits in the gin distillery at Kingsbarns. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area not least for the theatrical gin tasting room. It seems like an ordinary room but at the touch of a button, a light comes on behind a wall-sized window to reveal the gleaming copper gin stills. Very James Bond.

Gowans uses both traditional distillation and vapour infusion to get those wonderful flavours into Very Berry Gin. When I tried it back in January, I immediately thought it would be great in a Negroni, but it’s also a natural candidate for a Bramble. Here’s a recipe which will get the most out of this very Scottish gin:

50ml Darnley’s Very Berry Gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
10ml crème de mure

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup with ice in a shaker, double-strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Drizzle crème de mure on the top and garnish with a lemon slice and a bramble, and raise a toast to one of Scotland’s top scoundrels.

Darnley's Very Berry Pack Shot crop

It’s very very berry

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Five new Scotch distilleries we can’t wait to explore

With around 30 new Scotch whisky distilleries in the planning or construction phases, it’s an exhilarating time to be a dram fan. Here, we’ve picked out five of the most…

With around 30 new Scotch whisky distilleries in the planning or construction phases, it’s an exhilarating time to be a dram fan. Here, we’ve picked out five of the most hotly-anticipated producers preparing to join the fold…

The last few years have been a ride, haven’t they? Scotland’s best-known distilleries are expanding, new players are making waves and old favourites like Port Ellen, Brora, and Rosebank are en route to resurrection.

While there are many more Scotch whisky distilleries in progress and no doubt plenty others to be announced over the coming year – we’ve picked out five we’re particularly excited about. What’s yours? Let us know where and why in the comments below…

port of leith distillery

Port of Leith Distillery (it doesn’t quite look like this yet)

Port of Leith Distillery, Edinburgh

We’ve had a soft spot for Port of Leith Distillery for a little while now. A whisky crush, if you will. Not only will the Leith-based site be Edinburgh’s first single malt whisky distillery for more than 100 years, but its ground-breaking design means it’ll be Scotland’s very first vertical distillery too. It’s expected to be up and running by autumn 2020, with the first whisky bottles slated for release in 2023, but that hasn’t stopped co-founders Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling from giving us a flavour of what’s to come. Last year the duo released Port of Leith Distillery sherry, sourced from Bodegas Baron in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and Lind & Lime Gin, produced at nearby The Tower Street Stillhouse which will later house the Port of Leith’s whisky development programme. Expect unusual yeast strains, fermentation experiments, and a whole new world of flavour.

Clutha Distillery

Clutha Distillery

Clutha Distillery, Glasgow

Situated at Glasgow’s Pacific Quay development on the south side of the River Clyde, Douglas Laing’s project Clutha – meaning Clyde in Gaelic – isn’t just a single malt whisky distillery. Oh, no. The £10.7m building will also house a bottling complex, visitor centre, whisky laboratory, whisky archive, bar, bistro, and corporate head office. The family-owned business plans on producing whisky with a heavy sherry influence that will differ from traditional Lowland styles: think macerated fruit, dark fruit, chocolate and cocoa character. Last year, third generation family member Cara Laing told MoM to expect a “down-to-earth, very honest distillery” that focuses on “everything from the barley to the finished bottle”.

Cabrach Distillery

Cabrach Distillery as it will look when finished

Cabrach Distillery, Moray

While the stills at Inverharroch Farm in the Highlands – home to Cabrach Distillery and its accompanying heritage centre – are new, the 150,000-or-so bottles of single malt they’ll produce each year will “made with historical methods” according to “the blueprint of an early 19th-century distillery”. The project, operated by The Cabrach Trust, aims to essentially produce Cabrach whisky as it would have been produced in the area in 1820, when wild, remote and rural Moray was at the centre of illicit whisky-making and smuggling. Cabrach Distillery is expected to release its first mature bottling in 2024.

Ardgowan Whisky Distillery

Ardgowan Whisky Distillery visualised by digital artist Tom Barnett

Ardgowan Distillery, Inverkip

Lowlands liquid with a maritime touch is what the good folks at Ardgowan Estate (around 30 miles from Glasgow, FYI) plan on serving up at their site, which will nestle across a cluster of ancient farm buildings on their Bankfoot site. The original Ardgowan Distillery was founded in 1896 in Greenock, and made grain spirit and industrial alcohol until it was destroyed during the Second World War. A £12 million distillery and visitor centre, Ardogowan 2.0 will produce three separate whisky styles – heavily peated, lightly peated, and unpeated – which will be available for sale as four, five, and seven-year old drams. In September 2018, the team released their inaugural whisky, the Ardgowan Expedition: a 20-year-old blended Scotch made with liquid that has travelled to the South Pole and back.

Ardross Distillery

Shadowy figures lurking at Ardross Distillery

Ardross Distillery, Inverness

Located in the Averon Valley, 30 miles north of Inverness, Greenwood Distillers’ Ardross Distillery is set on a 50-acre farm complex that dates back to the 19th century. The two-storey still house, tun room, mash house, milling area, blending and product development lab, vaulted cask storage area, tasting room, marketing suite, offices, and staff accommodation will split across steading buildings, farmhouse and cottages that once made up Ardross Mains Farm. Keen to get distilling, the folks at Greenwood recently unveiled Theodore Gin, created with guidance from olfactory expert and perfumier Barnabe Fillion. Our very own Jessica popped along to the launch in London read all about it here.

That’s it, folks! Five new Scotch whisky distilleries we’d love to visit. Which next-gen distilleries are on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below, on social.

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Are these Britain’s smallest gin distilleries?

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s…

Some people build a garden shed and store a lawnmower in it. Others think, ‘I could make gin in that’. We like those people. Here, we celebrate five of Britain’s smallest gin distilleries – proof (geddit?) that great things come in small packages.

What makes a distillery ‘small’? Still capacity in litres, perhaps, or the number of batches produced each week? Or do you judge each site quite literally, by floor space? These things don’t exist independently of course the folks at Beefeater aren’t running one of the world’s best-selling gin brands from a garden shed but they spark competition among small-scale operations that choose to use their size as a selling point.

For the sake of this listicle, we’ve considered a mix of the aforementioned factors to determine the ‘smallest’ all-round sites. It’s important to remember that we’re not Guinness World Records inspectors, we’re just a bunch of people who really, really like spirits. We did not traverse the UK with a clipboard questionnaire and a juniper-sensitive Basset hound. Nor did we break and enter any distilleries with a measuring tape and jug to confirm or dispel any claims about capacity.

Without further ado, here we’ve unearthed five of the UK’s smallest gin distilleries right now… well, the ones we know about, anyway. Have you noticed a curious juniper-y smell wafting out of your neighbour’s conservatory? Or perhaps your postie has started a side hustle? Share any fledgling distillers we’ve missed in the comments below!

Shed 1 Distillery

Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett with their shed

Shed 1 Distillery, Lake District, Cumbria

Peer inside Andy and Zoe Arnold-Bennett’s 7ft x 7ft garden shed on the outskirts of the Lake District and you won’t find a rusty tandem bicycle – you’ll unearth something far more interesting: bucketloads of gin. Established back in October, 2016, the Shed 1 range consists of three core bottlings: Giggle in the Ginnel, Fancy Frolic, and Cuckold’s Revenge, with 36 x 500ml bottles produced in every run. The duo is partial to a seasonal tipple too – their most recent limited edition bottling, Shed Loads of Love, combines “rose petals, lavender and strawberries with a delicate hint of chilli”.

Second Son Distillery

Second Son gin from Cheshire

Second Son Distillery, Norley, Cheshire

Established in 2016, Second Son Distillery which claims to be the smallest licensed distillery in the UK is the brainchild of former pub landlord John (depicted on the label) and graphic designer-slash-gin-aficionado Anna. Together the business partners distil, label and bottle their three creations – Cheshire Gin, Winter Spiced Gin, and Summer Edition Gin – in 250-year-old pub The Tigers Head on the edge of Delamere Forest, producing just 32 bottles per batch. You can bet the place serves a cracking G&T, too.

Duck and-Crutch Kensington

The tiny still at Duck and Crutch in Kensington

Duck and Crutch Distillery, Kensington, London

Such is the London property market that a Kensington shed could be marketed as a studio flat and no one would bat an eyelid. Instead, couple Hollie and George (and to a certain extent, their dachshund Meryl) kitted out their 6ft x 4ft space with a lovely shiny copper still and launched Duck and Crutch gin, featuring vanilla pod, fresh lemon, Darjeeling tea, fresh thyme, orange peel, cardamom pod and nutmeg botanicals. If you like a punchier gin, Duck and Crutch releases 33 bottles of Kensington Overproof Dry Gin each month, which comes in at a respectable 57% ABV.

Culpeper Gin

Culpeper Gin, serving suggestion

The Nicholas Culpeper Pub & Dining, North Terminal, Gatwick Airport

If you’re looking for an excuse to book your next holiday, we’ve found one. But you won’t need to travel thousands of miles to sample The Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin more or less straight off the still in fact, you need not even go through security. Named in honour of the 17th century English botanist, herbalist and physician who once lived nearby, this creation is produced in the world’s first airport gin distillery. The still is named Judith after Culpeper’s ill-fated fiancée, and makes just 12 bottles per run. N’aww.

Carnoustie Distillery

Note clan tartan

Carnoustie Distillery, Carnoustie, Scotland

At this point I’m starting to feel like the only person in Britain who doesn’t own a shed, but even if I did, I can’t promise I’d use the space as wisely as the father and son distilling team behind Carnoustie Distillery. From white chocolate-flavoured vodka to toffee apple rum liqueur (and, of course, gin) Billy Duncan and his son Jory create a variety of craft spirits in a 10 ft x 8 ft distillery in their back garden the bottles of which are bedecked with the Duncan family tartan and motto. At the age of 21, Jory is thought to be one of the UK’s youngest distillers.

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Raise a glass! Scotch whisky distilleries attract more visitors than ever

An incredible 1.7 million of us headed to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2017 – were you one of the growing numbers of whisky tourists? Checking out a Scotch whisky distillery in…

An incredible 1.7 million of us headed to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2017 – were you one of the growing numbers of whisky tourists?

Checking out a Scotch whisky distillery in the flesh is the dream of many – and more of us than ever are making a journey to Speyside, Islay, the Highlands and/or beyond. Over 1.7 million people checked into a Scotch distillery in 2016 – that’s an impressive 8% year-on-year increase.

Even more excitingly, over half of the 123 distilleries across Scotland now welcome members of the public – a thrilling figure if, like us, stillhouses and maturation warehouses rank as highly as far-flung beaches when it comes to dream holiday destinations.

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