An East Coast culinary trip meant we had time to stop off and try a gin or two along the way. Especially when 75% of the United Kingdom's gin is currently being produced in Scotland, during this gin boom, which is said to be similar to what vodka went through back in the 80's. Edin Mill, St Andrews has been on our radar for a while since the release of their traditional copper pot-stilled gin with a wide range of interesting fusions and flavours.
The gin tour began with a gin and tonic on arrival at the distillery come shop and warehouse, the tour then ends with a tasting experience of three more gins which the premises create. Each were very different, and were served with specially selected mixers and garnishes. The gin tour costs £10 per person and runs twice daily at 12pm and 4pm. The tour shared the teams passion for their produce and lasted approximately an hour, and here is a quick review of how we found the tour and gins.
The shop and tasting areas have a rustic warehouse come quirky functioning customer friendly feel, where the gin tour can take up to fourteen people at each sitting. We sat surrounding the original bourbon casks as the guide explained the brand and produce as we sipped on the first tasting of the day, which was the 2016 golf gin and the latest release from the site. This had the key botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, Scottish tea and heather. On the nose this was fresh, crisp and came across as a soft gin. The guide explained the inspiration was from the home of golf, where the first batch was soaked with original golf clubs in 2015, this was then reinvented in 2016, using the botanics found around the golf course.
We were informed that for a gin to be classified as a gin, it has to be at least 37.5% alcohol, and be predominately juniper flavoured. Eden Mill's core botanicals are juniper berries and angelica root. Ironically, whilst Scotland is going through this gin boom, the juniper berries are going through a crisis, where a bacteria is killing the crops. Therefore Eden Mill are importing some of their berries from Bulgaria. The only gin to be using only Scottish juniper berries is CrossBill from the Highland Distilling.
Rachel, our guide explained as the tour started, that the small, independent distillery are going to be expanding since the demand for the produce has been phenomenal since launched. Everything is still done by hand, which even includes the capping of the beer. Eden Mill have the primary aim of seeking the lost art of distilling and brewing, to craft authentic, small-batch spirits and beers.
Eden Mill is said to be Scotland's first single-site distillery and brewery. This statement means that the team have married modern techniques and understanding, with traditional methods. This is seen through the valued appreciation for barrel ageing which is used not only in the whisky process but also in the beer and gin creation process.
The team cap the bottles of beer by hand.
St Andrews is famous for being the home of golf, hence the release of the latest gin to the Eden Mill collection. The site itself actually has a brewing and distillery history, and Eden Mill has revived this industry, being the first to make whisky on this site in 150 years on the banks of the River Eden. Before this it was John Haig who opened a whisky distillery on the site in 1882. However, gin itself originated from the Netherlands, and was used as a painkiller during the first world war, and this is where the term 'dutch courage' originates from.
The traditional copper stills which the gin created in, using a botanical basket, giving the gin a unique character. The Eden Estuary is utilised in the process, along with as many as possible fresh botanics from near-by fields, forests and the coast of St Andrews.
The brewery process taking place in an area much smaller than we had imagined, proving the small batch philosophy is sustainable.
The packaging and labelling process, which is also all done by hand.
The tasting event at the small bar finished the tour nicely, where our brilliant guide spoke us through each gin with its specific Fentimans mixers and garnishes. So here is a note of the three gins we tried and our thoughts on them:
This had key botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, lemon balm, citrus peel and seabuckthorn berries. On the nose this had a strong citrus scent, where the guide explained the delicate spice of coriander and clove should become apparent with a sweet fruit finish of subtle pear, lychee and melon on the palette. This gin was garnished with pink grapefruit and served with Fentimans grapefruit tonic water. This was our favourite gin of the day and we even bought a bottle at the end of the tour.
This gin is more floral with key botanicals of juniper berries, angelica, coriander, rose petal, hibiscus, elderberry, goji berry, raspberry leaf and rhubarb root. This has been the most popular in the gin sales, which was released for valentines but the sales keep flooding in. It has a warm spice hint on the pallete, along with the sweetness which evokes touches of rhubarb and custard sweets with floral hints. This gin was served with raspberries and Fentimans pink lemonade, which made the gin sweet and crisp. This is a very nice gin, although due to the sweetness we don't think we could enjoy more than a couple at a time.
This is a cross over of gin and whisky, and originally it was put in barrels for 6-7 months, but this wasn't long enough for the desired whisky infusion. The team now chop barrels and put this in with the key botanicals of juniper berries, angelica and aged oak chips. On the nose this has warm oaky notes, where the added vanilla sweetness has hints which allude to bourbon. On the palette a warming whisky like note along with spiced fruits, this is a gin like we have never tried before. If you love whisky and gin, then this is the perfect combination for you, although we were unsure of the unusual combination. It was served with chilli and Fentimans botanical water.
In short, we had a fantastic tour, with a special shout out to our tour guide Rachel who had a wide range of invaluable knowledge. For £10, you get four gins and the tailor made tour, this is a fantastic price, so if you are in the St. Andrews area, give it a try.
We left with the goodies below, where the cocktail box came with a gin goblet and the cocktail collection described below.