If you’ve ever wondered what a distillery would look like if it took a craft brewers approach and mentality, this is it. Industrious, experimental and progressive in what they are trying to make, the Eden Mill Gin range is on the rise and the team are ginsmiths worthy of your attention…
The Fife-based Eden Brewery became Scotland’s first combined brewery and distillery in 2014, when they branched out into making Scotch Whisky and Gin. Gin aside, the move represented a historic milestone regionally, as doing so meant that the team had brought whisky production back to the site for the first time in 150 years. Nothing had been distilled there since the Haig family produced grain whisky at the former Seggie Distillery between 1810 and 1860.
Cudos for bringing back lost heritage, but lets delve straight into the heart of the matter – gin! It’s got to be said, few gin makers are as fortunate as Eden Mill and few have all the elements that the team at Eden Mill have. They have a brewery, a distillery capable of making both Gin and Whisky, casks laying around and a garden on the edge of a picturesque estuary (from which they get their name), as well as a small team capable of turning around projects in double time. It’s a perfect recipe for stirring things up and creating innovative hybrids.
In this light, the Eden Mill team have started to harness some of their unique elements, namely the estuary and coastal setting where they have drawn from a variety of self-grown harvests and wild botanicals such as Sea Buckhorn. More on this later… However, unlike fellow brewer-come-distillers such as Adnams, Eden Mill don’t produce their own Neutral Grain base to use in their Gin. The type of the stills that they have (pot stills as opposed to the tall columns) would make the cost of doing so unaffordable. One for the long-term future no doubt!
Unusually for Gin makers – the team are not preoccupied by making a standard, flagship gin expression. The only commitment they’ve made is to not commit. The gins they currently produce are small batch and mostly limited editions, which encapsulate the very essence of St Andrew’s summers, winters, autumns and springs. When the seasons change and different flowers bloom, herbs thrive and berries ripen, so too do the ingredients that feature in their gins. The gins that prove to be successful will become part of their core range, but until then, it’s a loose term attached to the most popular creations so far.
A brave idea and one that captured our attention. It’s a craft brewers approach to distilling in that their attitude is not fixed on a recipe but more on an ethos. It’s hardly surprising either. The small team of five are responsible for production and are all brewers and distillers, so invariably the craft “batch” mentality has also transferred across.
The gins they create, five in the past six months have all used a vapour infusion method. Botanicals are suspended in the top of their 1000lt Portuguese stills in various recipes, producing an average of 700lts of Gin, bottled at 43% ABV. They used vapour infusion as their chosen method as they found that it gave the gin recipes they produced a lighter nose, but they are not opposed to experimenting for future recipes. The small batch, evolving nature that surrounds the distillery means that if the gin changes slightly batch on batch it is part of the charm. Nothing is set in stone, from initial concept idea to the end gin – or even the same recipe, just distilled differently.
Impressively, the time from inception to final batch is typically less than a two month affair, where a collaborative and organic process allows ideas to come from all areas of the distillery.
So what have they come up with so far?
The first release was Hop Gin. One of the UK’s first hopped gins and only made in batches of 980 bottles a time.
Using Australian galaxy hops as a botanical which is cold compounded after distillation (giving the gin a slight yellow hue), the team claim their Hop Gin marks an “evolution” linking the two crafts of brewing and distilling together. It’s little surprise to hear that with both craft gin and craft movements in full force, this expression has proved to be a huge hit since its launch and is set to become one of Eden Mill’s core products.
Moving past current trends, the real question is whether it’s any good. For us, the jury is out. On the nose, the gin is very, very hoppy. It’s difficult to describe a gin as having a zesty, beer-like head to it but in many ways the citrusy hops just burst on the nose. Juniper is subdued in the overall aroma bouquet but it’s warming undertones open up over time. It has a certain oiliness to the mouthfeel, and at 46% ABV, Hop Gin is assertive to taste.
It has a lemony and hoppy taste overall – other botanicals such as juniper, coriander and liquorice root are all dominated by the hops. It’s hard to see what could be made using it, or what cocktail would work with this flavour profile as a base. Fresh ginger, lemon juice and a light beer proved a great concoction (inspired by Hawksmoor’s Pete’s Shaky Brew) and so did a Buck (gin and ginger ale) but in a G&T, Martini and Negroni we found the gin tough going.
We have so much respect for their approach and their attempt to create something genuinely different, but in our opinion on this occasion, innovation has been at the expense of the overall gin. It’s brave and commendable, but we felt it was also a step too far into the world of beer and not particularly balanced as a gin.
Their second release was Oak Gin
The 42% ABV Gin has been rested in ex bourbon casks. Using the same base as the Hop Gin (minus the hops of course!), the gin is only rested for a few weeks at most so that the wooded effects don’t overpower the spirit.
The ex-bourbon casks announce their effect in the light straw-like hue the gin has, as well as in the added sweetness and slight wooded touch it adds to the gin’s finish. To taste, Oak Gin has a much more balanced profile than the hop infusion, it is better integrated and adds a new layer that compliments the underlying gin.
Tasted neat, warming spice, soft vanillin’s and caramelised citrus play on the surface while juniper and coriander seed drive the spirit’s core. There is a cheeky fruity twist to finish whilst the barrel ageing adds some depth to the finish. Great for a Negroni.
Original Sea Buckthorn Gin
With a name like this, we were left in little doubt as to what to expect and as fans of this little tart, coastal berry – we were excited to say the least. Sea Buckhorn is unusual and not often found in gins, but its unique taste is one to seek out (Rock Rose Gin contains this ingredient all be it in significantly less proportions).
Delicious acerbic berry like qualities are abundant in this Original Sea Buckthorn Gin. For those who love the tang of slightly under-ripe blackberries, you will love this Gin. The signature botanical is a perfect balance to the juniper and coriander seed. It adds freshness to the overall ensemble as well as a fruity berry note on the nose.
This gin is a perfect example of taking unusual, locally sourced botanicals and matching them with more typical flavours to create a gin packed with vibrant flavours and character. It’s a real discovery and one we strongly recommend you try for yourself, particularly in a G&T where the caustic nature of the gin cuts through the bitter edge of quinine impeccably.
Launched in spring 2015, the recipe for Love Gin includes more typical core botanicals (juniper, coriander seed, angelica) and eight more exotic flavours, including rose petal, elderberry, rhubarb root, marshmallow root, goji berry, raspberry leaf and whole hibiscus flowers. The hibiscus is infused after distillation.
This combination gives it a pale pink colour and a mellow, softer flavour. This is an easy sipping, yet complex gin that’s worth seeking out.
Launched in summer 2016, Golf Gin was created to coincide with the Open at St Andrews. The flavour has a much more pronounced spice in the form of Hickory (a nod to the old wooden golf clubs) alongside refreshing lemongrass. We haven’t tasted it at Gin Foundry yet, but we’ll update this page once we do.
So what will they make next?
At the time of writing – they are trying out Lemon Balm from the nearby Botanical Gardens; Redcurrant, Rowanberry, Coriander leaf, Nasturtium and Liquorice. Exciting to say the least!
Not just intriguing inside the bottle, Eden Mill Gins have serious shelf appeal. Although, many would claim the choice was intentional given that the outcome is quite eye catching – the ceramic bottles they use (with swing top caps) were originally intended for a premium beer they were making.
Having purchased the bottles for the project, the maths simply didn’t add up as the beer would be too expensive to be retailed and therefore weren’t used. A few months later, they were re-purposed for bottling the gin, mainly because of the convenience of already being on site and not costing anything else! Unintentional and fortuitous perhaps, but the result is undeniably unique and gives the range a distinct personality. With continued tweaks improving the labelling and bottles, the range is looking better and better as the months go on.
It’s refreshing to see a genuinely innovative approach to what a gin range could be like and how to go about keeping a distillery filled with excitement and interesting new projects. While it does prevent the distillery ever being a fixed bottle in a gin fan’s collection, the idea of seasonal gins that will vary slightly batch on batch allows for curiosity and new interest to flood the distillery’s new launches.
Perhaps they will adopt more of that craft brewers approach and create seasonal varieties based off particular styles (in the same way that craft brewers make variants on IPA’s, Pale Ale’s etc. as opposed to having a constant homogenised single bottling). We certainly wonder what an Eden Mill interpretation of an Old Tom would be and how that could evolve over time? Whilst our inner geek demands an answer to what is transient and what will be around in a few years to satisfy the OCD within, it is also what has us on the edge of our seats!
Perhaps, when seen in this light, Eden Mill’s biggest coup is being the only ones to be betting on fluttering consumer habits. Now the Gin category is saturated, taking a gamble on consumers being more promiscuous and trying new gins rather than having a favourite that they stick to could well be a master-stroke. By constantly making new and small batch releases, it’s a sure fire way to keep interest and a potential return customer, as even if some may not enjoy a particular gin, they’d be happy to try another and will find something they really get animated about.
Eden Mill currently employs seven people, but recent investment is expected to take the headcount at the growing business up to 20 before 2017. Don’t be surprised to hear a lot more from this burgeoning team – they will definitely be making waves as they go. We are already looking forward to seeing what they get up to next and urge you to keep an eye fixed in that direction as without doubt, Eden Mill will have a gin that you will enjoy – no matter what your preferences.
For more information about Eden Mill, visit their website: www.edenmill.com
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