Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Flipbook - Page 66
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a herbologist, he established The Secret Herb Garden,
growing more than 600 varieties of herbs to supply the
restaurant trade and make natural products. With his
botanical background, a few years later Hamish began
experimenting with creating new gins from the
garden’s produce and founded The Old Curiosity
Distillery in 2017.
eginning with apothecary rose, an ancient
ingredient in tinctures and tonics, everything
about his gin was as artisan as could be – all
handmade in small batches, no machinery, and free
from any chemicals or flavour compounds. The
different gins also have a unique and charming
characteristic that is completely natural – they change
colour to pink when mixed with tonic water. With
creations such as Lavender and Echinacea, Geranium
and Mallow, and Lemon Verbena, although Hamish
steers clear of making any medicinal claims, they
could almost be inspired by Nicholas Culpeper’s
writings. With production at 100,000 litres a year,
Old Curiosity is now sold in such upmarket haunts
as Harvey Nichols and even produces an own-label
gin for Marks & Spencer.
The Stirling family had been farming since 1660,
growing potatoes, wheat, and barley on the 2,000-acre
Arbikie estate, near Arbroath in Angus, when six
years ago they decided to add value to their crops.
The distillery they created is a genuinely farm-tobottle operation. “We believe in drinking the way we
eat,” Iain Stirling explains. “Goodness from the
ground up.” And so they distil their own base spirit
and have full control over the provenance of almost
every ingredient, grown and harvested within a
bowshot of their distillery, which produces vodka and
whisky as well. “We only buy in the juniper at the
moment, but over the past three years we’ve planted
30 acres with juniper shrubs and will soon be
harvesting our own berries.”
spirit distilled from cereals, but growing peas means
no nitrogen fertiliser is needed and the negative
environmental impact on waterways, air, and soils is
avoided. Iain describes this as “regenerative farming”
since growing fields of peas supports pollinating
insects and soil quality and any residue left over from
the distilling process can be used as protein-rich
animal feed. Rest assured this is non-alcoholic and
there are no tipsy livestock! The pea base-spirit has
no pea flavour but is slightly sweet with a crisp finish.
As an example of a ground-up environmental
approach to distilling, Arbikie may well be setting the
course for the industry as a whole.
Whether or not the gin market continues to grow at
home and in the post-Brexit trading sphere, it is safe
to say that Scottish distillers are simply in-gin-ious.
ut it is their latest collaboration with Dundee’s
Abertay University that has the gin world
buzzing: the world’s first “climate-positive” gin.
Named Nàdar (“nature” in Gaelic), each bottle carries
a carbon footprint of –1.54 kg CO2e per 700ml bottle
– yes, that is a negative amount.
It’s all down to the most innovative and surprising
ingredient: the humble pea. Most gins are made from
Visit thescottishginsociety.com for events, reviews,
and an interactive map of more than 90 distilleries,
many of which can be visited. Travelling to Scotland?
Boisdale Life’s favourite gin bars are 56 North in
Edinburgh (fiftysixnorth.co.uk) and Gin 71 in Glasgow