Darnley's Gin School and Distillery Tour
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
The views in this write up have not been influenced by anyone at Darnley's and are all our own.
Last week, we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit the distillery where Darnley’s gin is made in Kingsbarns, Fife - the East Neuk of Fife. It was a frosty Scottish morning and we were greeted with tea and cake in their cute cottage café. We were then introduced to a lovely lady called Dot who took us through to the Gin School.
The Gin School is set in a gorgeous room filled with mini stills and pots of botanicals. Dot talked us through the distillation process and the botanicals used in Darnley’s Gin. We then got the opportunity to smell and choose botanicals for our own gin. A nice touch was that some of the botanicals are grown in the cottage garden right next to the gin school! After a lot of deliberation (and one or two disagreements between Mr & Mrs Bandit), we settled on eight botanicals: Extra Juniper, Meadowsweet, Marigold, Coriander, Orris Root, Lemon Balm, Rosehips and Cubeb. The mini copper still we used was called ‘Skye’. Once the gin was distilling, we left Dot to oversee it and met with David for the Gin Tour and to find out more about the history of Darnley’s.
David talked us through the history of gin, the story of the Wemyss family who have a long history in Whisky distilling, and the story of Darnley’s gin. We also got the chance to see ‘Dorothy’ the 350 litre copper still used to make Darnley’s gin. We then tried some of Darnley’s gins and tried to guess the botanicals– Original, Spiced, Spiced Navy and their new Smoke & Zest gin. Mrs Bandit’s favourite was the Spiced Navy and Mr Bandit enjoyed the Smoke & Zest which is completely different to any gins out there and has a strong smoky flavour.
With a G&T in our hands, we went back to the gin school to check out how our gin was doing. We arrived at just the right time, the last few drops were just coming out and Dot showed us how to read the hydrometer to work out the ABV of the gin we had distilled - which was 41.6%. The trickiest part of the whole process was settling on a name, do we go with a Scottish theme, a Gin Bandits theme, name it after the mini bandits? In the end, we settled on ‘The Neuked Bandit’ which was a nod to Darnley’s being in the East Neuk of Fife and also keeping on the Gin Bandits theme. We also heard a rumour that ‘Neuk’ means something completely different in Dutch….
We were advised to wait at least 48 hours before trying our gin to allow the flavours to settle. We tried our gin off the still on the day and it had a tea flavour to it, we were then worried that we had used too much Meadowsweet, but luckily since then the flavour has changed a lot allowing the juniper to shine through along with the floral/sweet notes. The even more exciting news is that Darnley’s keep a copy of every gin school recipe so we can call up and request for it to be made again for us.
Huge thanks to the very welcoming Dot and David for all of their time and knowledge, and thanks to Emma and Kirsten at Darnley’s for organising.
If you're visiting Edinburgh and want to make your own gin, Darnley's is about an 1 hr 20 minute drive away. It's also just a stone throw away from St Andrews, so it's well worth making the trip.
For more information on the Darnley's Gin School please see here
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