Gin distilleries used to be found across the British Isles, but, until recently, after decades of shrinkage, gin distilling was concentrated in London with just a few outposts in the Midlands, Scotland and Plymouth (flying the flag in the West Country). But Edinburgh, one of the gin capitals of the UK (given the number of fine gin bars there, not least Bramble Bar) was without a distillery. Until now, that is.
Located in an old animal hospital in south Edinburgh, the Summerhall Distillery is the first gin distillery in the city for 150 years and they have recently launched Pickering’s Gin. Based on a recipe found on a mysterious “fragment of paper” dated 17th July 1947, it is bottled at 42.0%ABV, has a neutral grain spirit base, and contains a mix of nine botanicals:
The gin is distilled in a 500 litre copper still named “Gert”, which is heated via a custom bain-marie system, designed to heat the botanicals without overcooking them.
On its own
Nose: Lime and coriander jump out immediately, followed by the juniper and then some spice.
Taste: This has a lovely, smooth texture with very little burn and a light, silky start, as well as a touch of lime, a little fennel and anise. The flavour then builds, bringing in a dry, slightly floral juniper and coriander, followed by a subtle twist of spice. The finish is of dry juniper and angelica – very classic. Overall, this is a very silky and sippable gin and, despite having a fair bit of spice, including cloves and cardamom, thankfully these are not too heavy and do not detract from the flavour of this particularly balanced gin.
Gin & Tonic
This is quite a light and airy Gin & Tonic, with the lime coming through well, accompanied by some coriander and some of the gin’s spiced elements. The finish is a mixture of earthy, bitter quinine and dryness from the angelica and juniper. Delightfully refreshing and with a lightness that makes it perfect for the afternoon.
Spice and coriander come through. This is also rather citrusy, with a fresh lift from the lime, making this a clean, crisp and excellent Martini. My garnish recommendation would be a lime twist.
A well-integrated and smooth Negroni that has a lively kick at the end, courtesy of a combination of the following flavours: citrus, dark chocolate, and an earthy, herbal bitterness. Although the Campari only comes through at the end, it provides a bitter and intense finish to the drink that lingers on and on.
Waverly Station Master
Rather delightful: the citrus notes contrast nicely with the smokiness of the Scotch, resulting in a wonderful smoky lemon-lime flavour. This is one of the more subtle Islay Scotch Martinis, but, nonetheless, I think that it works rather well.
Although Pickering’s Gin has a lot of classic characteristics, a more contemporary flair is also apparent with the use of lime. The result is a fresh and light gin that still has plenty of flavour and is equally pleasant drunk neat and in mixed drinks. My favourite drink was the delicious Gin & Tonic.
Pickering’s Navy Strength
Gin is booming in Scotland, with new distilleries opening and a number of new gins being released from existing establishments. Along with Sloe or Aged Gins, Navy Strength Gin (57-58% ABV) is a common second product for distilleries to release.
On its own
Nose: Green juniper and rich spice, resulting in a clean, but highly aromatic nose.
Taste: This has a thick and oily mouthfeel, and plenty of juniper come through, along with a little coriander and sweetness, before some sweet, slightly bready spice. This is particularly mellow for a Navy Gin, but has more power on the finish.
Gin & Tonic
Rich and bright juniper; fresh, with a touch of bitterness and sweetness. There’s then some warm spice – cinnamon and ginger – and a well-rounded bitterness at the end.
This is a cocktail with a lovely selection of big flavours: a mix of juniper and more subtle spice notes. Towards the finish, there are notes of chocolate and bright citrus.
Pickering’s Navy produces an intense Negroni – the extra ABV really carries the gin through the vermouth and Campari. There’s a touch of menthol bitterness on the finish, which is long and lasting.
Pickering’s Navy Gin is a bold and flavoursome gin with the distinctive spice element that is in equilibrium with the other botanicals, stopping it from becoming a “Christmas spice bomb” of a gin. The Negroni had excellent flavour, but my favourite drink was the Gin & Tonic, which had just the right level of spice – not an easy thing to do!
Pickering’s 1947 Gin
Pickerings 1947 is a limited edition (only 1,000 bottles made) gin that has been released to celebrate the 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The recipe is made precisely to the original recipe that their flagship gin is based on, which was dated 17th July 1947 and written in Mount Mary, Bombay.
It is bottled at 42% ABV.
On its own
Nose: Warm spice and citrus with a hint of light, woody salinity.
Taste: This has quite a thick texture, with an array of woody, earthy spice notes, such as cassia and nutmeg, as well as dry, oaky notes. The dryness comes through towards the end, accompanied by anis and a hint of black pepper.
Gin & Tonic
A pure and spicy Gin & Tonic from the first sip; thankfully not too sweet, with a nice citrus fruitiness on the finish.
Herbaceous, with sweet spice, before the dryness of the vermouth and complex flavours from the fruity floral dryness of the gin, resulting on a long, clean finish.
A lightly sweet Negroni with a hint of nuttiness, before the dry, herbaceous, bitter vermouth and a light, bitter-sweetness from the Campari. The finish is long and dry.
I find the exploration of old gin recipes to be fascinating and it’s great that more distilleries have the freedom to develop and release these historic editions. My favourite cocktail with Pickerings 1947 was the Martini.
Originally posted 15th April 2014