A couple of weekends ago I was down in Fife for a wedding, but also managed to time my visit to the Kingdom with a visit to gin school – over at the beautiful Darnley’s cottage, situated right next to the picturesque Kingsbarns Distillery and Visitor Centre!
It was a beautiful day to do some distilling, and the buddleia in the distillery garden was laden with butterflies. However, we (being me and Michelle – North Hop Festival Director) had a job to do, distil our own gin at Darnley’s new gin school!
After introductions from Darnley’s distiller Scott and staff member Andrea, who ably kept us on track during the afternoon, we were let loose on looking at and smelling the many botanicals on offer, in order to create our own flavour profile.
I had given it a little thought before I arrived, and because I like citrus, clean and crisp gins (Kirkujvagr, Caorunn and Rock Rose are up there with my favourites), i settled on sweet dried orange as one, along with cassia and ginger – my thinking being that the spiced notes would make it a great autumnal gin to enjoy over the colder months!
Once the botanicals were chosen, they were weighed with precision and added to a mini-still with the base spirit and water, then heated to exactly 80 degrees.
At this point, the temperature in each still was kept constant by Andrea, while we were taken on a tour of the cottage by Scott.
The short tour showed off the unique local history of the gin, and the beautiful copper still in which Darnley’s gin is made, which includes a unique (almost disco like) lighting set up.
The botanicals for their varieties of gin are sourced from throughout the world – notably the Spiced edition which features botanicals from far-flung places as Indonesia and Morocco!
The tour finished with a tasting of all four Darnley’s gin varieties, which included the first in the new limited edition Cottage Series – ‘Very Berry’, made using botanicals all sourced from around the distillery cottage – elderberry, sugar kelp, sloe berry and rosehip. A very refreshing gin, the suggested perfect serve is with a grapefruit soda.
The Gin School experience ended with bottling and labelling our newly made gins, once the alcohol content was calculated.
We had the tough task of deciding on the edition names for the 70cl bottles of gin…although we were there as North Hop invited guests, I kept ‘on-brand’ for the blog and called mine ‘A Highland Blend’ whilst Michelle obviously named hers ‘Spirit of North Hop’ in light of the upcoming festival in Dundee!
I was invited to experience Darnley’s Gin School in my capacity as North Hop Highland Ambassador, but I can thoroughly recommend the experience for any gin fan – I would be absolutely thrilled to receive a gift like the experience I had!
It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon, the whole experience is really relaxed, and of course you receive a 70cl bottle of your very own gin to take home!
An added bonus is that if like me you have a whisky enthusiast partner, you can send them off to enjoy a whisky tour with Kingsbarns where they are three years into their whisky-making journey, or set them loose in the cafe and shop!
You’ll find Darnley’s at Spirit of North Hop in November and I for one can’t wait to see what treats they serve up!
I was a guest of Darnleys for their gin school experience in exchange for a feature on A Highland Blend, all opinions are our own.