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  • Writer's pictureKerry Teakle

Stories & Wonders gin tasting tour at the Real Mary King’s Close

Stories & Wonders and Gin Tasting

Only available on selected Fridays and Saturdays during July 2022, as part of Scotland’s official Year of Stories 2022, if history and gin are your thing, you can join the team at The Real Mary King’s Close, who have teamed up with Edinburgh Gin to experience their new gin storytelling and tasting experience.

The Real Mary King’s Close

As well as learning about the authentic dark history of The Real Mary King’s Close with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide, this tour gives you the chance to sample four unique gins from the Edinburgh Gin range, each having a historical link to Edinburgh’s mediaeval Old Town, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Castle’s one o’clock gun and gin trade at the port of Leith.

Tales of imbibing

This gin storytelling and tasting experience also explains how ale, whisky and indeed gin played a crucial role in the city’s history, and economics, as well as being documented by satirist painter William Hogarth, who created a scathing commentary through his work, critiquing aspects of 18th century English society like corrupt politics, religion, and even the evils of beer and gin-drinking.

A pair of prints created by Hogarth in 1751, Beer Street and Gin Lane were published in support of the Gin Act, a parliamentary measure that sought to curb the consumption of spirits by raising the then very cheap costs of selling and buying gin. In an apparent attempt to encourage viewers to choose ale over more intoxicating streets, Beer Street depicts happy, healthy Londoners relaxing with a few brews after a hard day’s work, and by contrast, Gin Lane shows its citizens consumed by the evils of overindulgence – in the foreground, a gin-addled mother lets her child fall to its death, while an emaciated and inebriated ballad-seller ironically peddles pamphlets entitled ‘The Downfall of Mrs Gin.’

Plague doctor with a raven-beaked mask

Responsible drinking

However there’s no over imbibing here. To complete the historic tour, we are treated to respectable sample measures of four unique gins from the Edinburgh Gin range,

The Classic Edinburgh Gin and tonic features botanicals such as lavender, which was commonly used by the city’s plague doctors in their raven-beaked masks. The finest grain spirit is brought together with an original balance of 14 botanicals. The woody hint of pine buds, orange peel, aromatic lemongrass and floral lavender are all present. Fruity jammy flavour from black mulberries balances perfectly with the citrus from the orange and lime peels in the finish. Hazelnuts, thick with natural oils, add texture and a smooth mouthfeel. Garnished with a zest of orange peel, this was a refreshing drink.

Edinburgh Gin’s 1670 is inspired by the same time period as Mary King’s Close itself. We sampled this neat initially, but then with a dash of light tonic, which opened up the flavours of the botanicals. This gin was created in collaboration with Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, with the botanicals originally used, coming straight from the Gardens. Edinburgh Gin’s 1670 has emerged from a treasure trove of over 14,000 plants that are grown there - a special selection of plants, once sown in the physic gardens (originally at Holyrood Palace) by medical innovators, but now a source of biodiversity and conservation, and can be tasted within every sip. A floral, herbaceous yet peppery gin, it works well garnished with a little greenery, such as rosemary.

Any by far my favourite was the peppery, yet smooth, Navy Strength Cannonball Gin (57.2% ABV) which we again we sampled neat initially (overpowering for some tasters who jokingly asked for the ‘Gardez l’eau’ bucket) but improves with the addition of a light tonic, which brings out of the flavours of double amount of juniper, citrus yuzu, and Szechuan pepper (used many years ago as an anaesthetic in dentistry). A gin that certainly packs a punch, apparently it makes the perfect martini. This gin pays homage to Edinburgh’s wonderous seafaring past, links with Edinburgh Castle’s one o’clock gun and the history of gin imports at Edinburgh’s Port of Leith.

To complete the ‘Stories and Wonders’ gin tasting tours, we sampled a measure of Edinburgh Gin’s Pomegranate and Rose Liqueur. Inspired by grand bazaars, filled from end-to-end with delicacies and flavour, this delicious gin liqueur combines classic botanicals with soft, rose aromatics and exotic pomegranate. Rose is also commonly associated with the mediaeval plague doctors of Edinburgh. It’s a great drink to mix with Cava or Prosecco, and I’ve successfully used it as an ingredient in a crème brulee.

The one and a half hour guided ‘Stories and Wonders’ tour and tasting cost £35 per adult (aged 18 and over only) and is available to buy online at:

The Real Mary King’s Close, Warriston's Close, 2, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1PG

Edinburgh Gin, visit

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