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Emma Hooper – Darnley’s

Darnleys Gin Interview craft gin 2
Darnleys Gin Interview craft gin
Darnleys Gin Interview craft gin
Darnleys Gin Interview craft gin 4
Darnleys Gin Interview craft gin 5
Written by Gin Foundry

The eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed that Darnley’s has had a bit of a reboot, dropping the view, slipping into a slinkier bottle and adding a Navy Strength to the roster. We got in touch with Brand Manager Emma Hooper to find out what motivated the changes…

You gave your packaging a facelift in April. What’s prompted this?

After seven successful years, we took time to reflect on how the gin category had evolved since we started out and what we were bringing to the table. The time felt right to move into the next chapter of our brand story and re-fresh the look of Darnley’s Gin in advance of opening Darnley’s Distillery in Scotland. The new look is designed to highlight the exceptional quality and character of our gin, reinforce our heritage, and quite literally illustrate the importance we place on botanicals and the flavour they bring to each gin.

It looks great, you’ve also expanded the range..! Can you tell us a little about the Navy Strength? Why did you go down the Navy route?

Our award-winning Darnley’s Spiced Gin was growing in popularity, especially within the cocktail scene, and this prompted us to consider creating a bolder version with the same botanicals, adding more juniper and an increased proof, 57.1%, which centuries ago was the minimum strength required to pass the gunpowder test set by ships’ officers for their daily ration of gin at sea! All Darnley’s gins are inspired in some way by our owners, the Wemyss Family. In this case the focus fell on Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, who had an illustrious career in the Royal Navy commanding ships around the world before rising to Admiral of the Fleet. Creating a navy strength gin in his honour seemed very fitting when it came to adding a new expression to the Darnley’s Gin range.

You just go by the name Darnley’s now. Has the view been obscured by the new distillery? Surely the views been made better!?

The old ‘Darnley’s View’ name refers to a historic fact from the ancestral home of our founders at Wemyss Castle in Fife. This is where Mary Queen of Scots first spotted her husband-to-be Lord Darnley, and so we named our gin in honour of this very momentous occasion in Scottish history. Since our launch in 2010 however, the gin has gradually become known more as “Darnley’s” so when we planned our re-fresh of the brand, we decided to go with the shorter name. We are pleased to report that the views at both our distillery in Kingsbarns and at Wemyss Castle are unchanged and remain as beautiful as ever!

We’d expect nothing less. You mention that you are taking distilling in house! How long has it been in the planning?

We felt it was the right time to bring production in house, more specifically, home to Fife, where the Wemyss family has lived and worked for centuries. We had identified a possible site in an old disused cottage next to our whisky distillery in Kingsbarns, and with whisky production underway, we became committed to investing further so that Darnley’s Gin could also be ‘made in Scotland’. It’s the right thing for our business, given our roots and heritage, and our passion for making the highest quality spirits for people to enjoy.

How have you navigated having to change the still to a different shape with a different set up while keeping the same flavours everyone knows and loves? Has it involved a lot of recipe tinkering to maintain the same outcome?

Our stills are en route from Frilli in Italy so once installed, there will be a period of getting familiar with the new equipment and navigating the impact this will have on our current method of distilling and perhaps even our recipes. We are still in the early stages of building our gin distillery, but the gin we produce will be absolutely faithful to the original high quality gin we have been making since 2010, with the aim of achieving the same character and taste of each expression… the tinkering will be the fun part!

When will your Kingsbarns site be ready and open to visitors?

In summer 2017. We are planning a gin tour and more in depth experience to complement our whisky tours, with details to be announced very soon on our website.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled. Seven years on from the launch of the original Darnley’s – what’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed within the gin category?

The biggest change is of course the huge boom in the number of fantastic new gin brands now on the market and Scotland’s growing contribution to that, 70% of gin consumed in the UK is produced in Scotland so we’re looking forward to playing our part! There is now so much choice which has shaken up the category in a very positive way, creating a new generation of gin bars, connoisseurs and enthusiasts who are driving sales and developing the category in a very exciting way for all of us. This proliferation was the catalyst for our brand changes, we want Darnley’s to continue to grow and be the gin of choice for people now and in the future.

Emma Hooper