In the back of the the Old Royal Dick Vet College of Edinburgh University, now an arts venue called Summerhall, there’s a burgeoning drinks set-up occurring. There is the excellent Barneys Brewery, wine and spirits courses are taught by the excellent Claire Blackler and, our subject today, the compact but exciting Pickering’s Gin Distillery.
I joined in a very informative hour and was certainly caught up in the enthusiasm of a tour around the Pickerings Gin facility. The distillery is situated toward the rear of Summerhall, across an area which used to house dogs kennels. It is to the two founders credit- Matthew Gammell and Marcus Pickering- that they had the vision to create the distillery around the space they had and are producing some great products from there. They have very complimentary skill sets with cocktail making, engineering, sales, branding and property renovation all being bases that they have covered between them. Through in a real passion for gin and innovation you have a great start.
The first attempts at making gin were carried out in a kitchen and sampled by friends. When these proved popular and a hotel got interested in taking the gin on it became clear the guys had a real opportunity to create something special. The Pickering’s Gin formula was then further enhanced by the discovery, through family connections, of a gin recipe from Bombay in India. By tweaking this to a more modern taste, and also to compliment the taste of modern tonic water, the Pikerings Gin was set.
There are two stills- Emily and Gertrude- which have grain spirit and the 9 botanicals added to them prior to distillation. The stills unusually are heated via a water bath type arrangement – think of a giant bain-marie and you have the idea. The stills temperatures are controlled by what is in essentially a domestic hot water system.
The upshot of this innovative heating approach is that Pickerings believe they have a gentler and more even heating regime which contributes to producing a silky gin spirit off the still.
The Pickerings Gin bottle also has a very distinctive square shape to it. This alongside a striking wax seal certainly makes it stand out on retailers shelf but also makes it fairly awkward to label. Again step in the engineering side with Mabel the Label machine created by Pickerings only having been retired recently. This is part of the ethos here – if you can’t find it make it and Mabel is a great example of this.
Pickerings have three core products to their range. Pickerings Gin that comes with the red wax top. They also have a navy strength version to mark their sponsorship of the Edinburgh Tattoo that is topped with a small bearskin and the 1947 variety which is spicier and more reflects the original recipe. On top of this they carry out a number of limited edition releases including oak aged and sloe varieties as well as producing for clients such as Cunard ships.
What is beyond doubt is the enthusiasms and vibrancy that is here in this small compact refurbished distillery and we await the next products with a great deal of interest.