Launched in 2013, Pickering’s Gin was the first new Gin distillery in Edinburgh in 150 years, bringing the tidal wave of craft distilling burgeoning across the UK to the historic city.
Founded by Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell, the distillery is based in Summerhall Art hub, in a space that used to be the kennels of the Small Animal Hospital at the former School of Veterinary Studies. The team now also consists of David Quinnell who acts both as their distiller and as Sales Manager for the distillery.
While Pickering’s Distillery is still very new, their story actually started several years ago with Marcus and Matthew gaining an interest in Gin over many years. Avid fans of making shooting gins (Sloe, Blackberry etc…), Marcus’ interest in gin and the distilling process took hold whilst he held the role as a Senior Butler at Skibo Castle, where he mixed cocktails and took local distillery tours.
It didn’t take very long for the distillery to be rejuvenated. Armed with an engineering degree and 8 years’ experience in the property renovation and construction sector, Matthew Gammell oversaw the space being converted from it’s veterinary roots, with water, electricity and heating all whipped into shape in no time.
The recipe for Pickering’s Gin is based on an original Bombay recipe dated 17 July 1947. Kept as a family secret for over 66 years, it only resurfaced in 2013 when they began distilling at Summerhall. The gin today is a modern recreation of this original recipe, as the duo changed the balance of the botanicals and altered the recipe to suit more modern tastes. For example, they increased the amount of juniper compared to the original, which would have been spicier and rootier.
With 9 botanicals – juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and cloves – the gin treads a fine line of being both classic but with a huge depth of flavour. Interestingly the lime and lemon peels are dried, not fresh, before being added to the mix.
To create the gin, the botanicals are macerated for 24 hours with neutral grain spirit in a 500 litre Portuguese made copper still, nicknamed Gert after Matt’s great grandmother. It is heated in an usual way (less often seen in Gin) whereby the heat is applied by means of a “bain marie” system designed and built by Matthew Gammell. The still sits in a custom-built water bath so that the heat can be applied indirectly and so, can be done very gently and slowly.
The result is an earthy and dry gin bottled at 42% ABV. With fresh, crisp piney notes from the juniper – it’s a classic gin with a twist. With the core flavours present upfront, fennel looms in the background, so too does the cardamom but it’s brought back by the lime. There’s a strong finish with the spice lingering to leave a full bodied and balanced gin. It’s not often that we notice it, but it’s worth noting that there is a velvety, weighty mouthfeel to Pickering’s Gin.
For their 7th Batch, they launched a Navy Strength Pickering’s Gin edition to celebrate the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – the bottles are adorned with a bearskin helmet similar to those worn by guards in their ceremonial military uniform (don’t worry, the caps weren’t made from actual bearskins!). With the same botanical line up, the flavours are similar although there is a pronounced increase in the overall spice of the gin due to the higher ABV. Juniper is more prominent and so too are the coriander seeds. It’s still as well balanced however and is a good gin to pick for a Pink Gin cocktail.
With craft distilling picking up in Edinburgh and across the UK, there is lots of potential for Pickering’s Gin to flourish in years to come. Already, they have found a vocal audience keen to show their support and national retailers looking to stock them. 2016 should see an increased distribution over the UK and with new batches being created on a more regular occurrence already (number 17 was being bottled during Dec 2014, just a year later and they were well past the 50’s!), expect to see more of Pickering’s Gin. They have a solid platform from which to work, with the provenance and ability to show consumers where and how it is all made. In doing so, Pickering’s have the authenticity to establish themselves as real contenders in the British craft gin scene in years to come.
The gin itself is different. It’s not just another gin on the market and Pickering’s has a strong identity, both in flavour and brand aesthetic of its own. It’s memorable, for all the right reasons. While it’s still early days, keep an eye out for it and give it a try when you do come across it – you may just find yourself picking up a few bottles…
For more information about Pickerings Gin, visit their website: www.pickeringsgin.com
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