Edinburgh Gin has come a long way from its humble beginnings being made in a shed in Inverkeithing, Fife by Alex Nicol and his wife Jane in 2010. Alex had a background at drinks giant Diageo though and by 2017 John Lewis wanted to stock the gin in every store. Spencerfield Spirits, the umbrella company that Edinburgh Gin was part of, was sold by Alex and Jane to Ian MacLeod distillers and they lived happily ever after.
The Juniper Revolution
Edinburgh Gin was one of the pioneering craft gin makers who exploited a change in legislation. The Gin Act of 1751 had been brought in to regulate small operators who fueled ‘the gin craze’ depicted in Hogarth’s famous cartoons:
The juniper revolution had begun.
The movement for craft drinks paralleled that of food. Provenance, and the story around it, became a pivotal marketing tool which continues to fascinate. When I attended an Edinburgh Gin tasting at The Garden Bistro in Saughton Park, our cocktails and dishes were garnished and made with ingredients grown a few metres away.
The park is a beautiful 34-acre space which includes a rose garden, statues, sundial, bandstand, hothouses, a skate park. The bistro café is mostly glass so you can enjoy the horticultural setting in all its splendour. A real gem.
Philip Kingscott, Experiential Ambassador for Edinburgh Gin, curates our evening and we begin with a G&T made with 1670 Gin. The garnish is basil which teases out the green flavours of this gin. It is a collaboration between Edinburgh Gin and the chief botanist at The Royal Botanic Gardens and weighs in at a hefty 43% abv. The G&T is top drawer and The Garden Bistro team serve us a delicious plate of Asparagus & Wild Rocket Arancini and sweet chilli dressing.
The Edinburgh Gin website is hyper-commercial and sales-focused whereas Philip is a knowledgeable and entertaining storyteller. There is a dash of stand-up in his presentation and when I learn about his background in theatre I am not surprised. Catch him at the fringe
A Sliced Charcuterie Plate is our second course and it is my favourite. Meat, juicy olives, piquant cornichons, hummus and crostini served on a slate are paired with Edinburgh Gin Gooseberry & Elderflower Spritzer. Mediterranean food meets an Scottish summer garden.
Seaside Gin is, as with the 1670 and Elderflower and Gooseberry, is a London Dry gin distinguished by key botanicals, coriander and angelica. ‘Seaside’ was born from a collaboration with Heriot-Watt University and makes a fab Dirty Martini. Its savoury, saline profile has been judged well to accompany Smoked Salmon, caper berries, lime crème fraiche and artisan bread.
The port of Leith
Philip continues his education between courses and we now know how the history of Edinburgh is entwined with that of Gin. James Lind conducted the first clinical trial by adding citrus to the spirit to prevent scurvy, pioneering botanist John Hope, the port of Leith; all have their place.
When we get to a Chicken Liver Parfait, pear chutney, Arran oatcakes paired with an Edinburgh Gin Poached Pear & Rhubarb Daiquiri, spirits are high and we leave having enjoyed a summer evening sampling the finest gins and food.
The Garden Bistro Located in Saughton Rose Gardens - 60B Ford's Rd, Edinburgh, EH11 3HR
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