The ginaissance demands that each distiller has a story to tell and the one behind Darnley’s Original London Dry Gin is rooted in Scottish history. The Wemyss family, pronounced Weems for those who are baffled by the vagaries of the pronunciation of the English language, have lived in Wemyss Castle, perched on the sea cliffs on the Fife coast of Scotland for centuries. One of the castle’s claims to fame was that it was out of one of the castle’s windows that Lord Darnley, after whom this gin is named, first set eyes on Mary Queen of Scots in 1565, the start of an explosive relationship.
William Wemyss, the founder, has based the distillery in the nearby village of Kingsbarns, using a once derelict farm cottage next to the whisky distillery. In the gardens surrounding what is now known as the Darnley’s Gin Cottage they grow as many botanicals as the vicissitudes of the Scottish climate allow them to. Other botanicals are foraged locally, and the more exotic are sourced from responsible growers from around the world. They use a neutral grain spirit and pure Scottish water and for the Original gin just six botanicals – Juniper, coriander, angelica, elderflower, lemon and orris which are steeped in the base spirit, allowing the essential oils and flavours to be released before distillation. For the distillation process they use a 350 litre copper pot still known as Dorothy.
There is very much a local, sustainable vibe about the gin, enhanced by a rather impressive initiative that they launched recently. As part of Darnley’s sustainability strategy, they have launched a set of recyclable gin pouches, made from plastic material (grade 7), which is not only recycled but also weighs more than 50% less than a glass bottle to tranport. Customers are encouraged to order a refill in a pouch, which can be returned free of charge, and decant the gin into their original bottle. What a great idea! There is even a discount if you purchase your top up this way, although, curiously, the post and package charge is the same. You cannot win them all!
The bottle itself is made of clear glass, looks like a circular, dumpy wine bottle with rounded shoulders leading to a long neck and a wooden cap with a synthetic stopper. It is rather akin to Sipsmith’s in size and shape. The labelling makes attractive use of illustrations of botanicals and a mustard colour and makes play of its small batch and handcrafted status. The label on the back tells me that it is “a classic juniper-led gin that is smooth and elegant with fresh citrus and floral flavour”.
On the nose there is an enticing mix of pine, elderflower, and floral notes, while in the mouth, the crystal-clear spirit, which has an ABV of 40%, gives the drinker an initial hit of elderflower and citrus before the juniper and a rather appealing mellow spice kick in. The aftertaste is long and dry with the elderflower predominant.
For me it is very much at the floral end of the London Dry Gin, nothing wrong in that, but the heavy hit of juniper that is synonymous with the style is more muted, perhaps more Mary Queen of Scots than Lord Darnley. It makes for a very refreshing drink, which with an ABV of 40% is perfect for sipping on a summer’s evening. Care should be taken with the tonic chosen to accompany it as one that is too sweet can upset the taste completely.
Until the next time, cheers!