As the Scottish Gin Society team’s taxi drew up to The Secret Herb Garden the music, bunting and bustle of activity in the summer evening sunlight made us all smile with anticipation.
We were there to view The Old Curiosity distillery’s new Gin Garden – where the botanicals for their range of colour-changing gins grow – and to celebrate the launch of two new expressions in the range. It’s no wonder we were smiling, knowing that we’d get to sample the Geranium & Mallow and Damask Rose gins.
The Secret Herb Garden sits in the foothills of the Pentlands and opened its doors in May 2014. It was a dream project brought to life by the founders, Hamish Martin and his wife Liberty, who fell in love with the plot of land and saw the potential in the then run-down glasshouses that stood on it.
If you visit them today, you’ll find a thriving business encompassing a herb nursery, a restored vintage furniture showroom, a café and shop and a gin distillery.
They also find the time to host regular workshops and events.
After choosing our G&Ts we began the tour, led by the charismatic Hamish, who shared the first of many stories about how the business was sown and began to flourish. His determination and a passion for nature is infectious.
We started in the now-beautifully restored glasshouses, filled with a fantastic range of plants and flowers, that house seating for the café or a stunning wedding venue.
The tour continued to the harvesting rooms, where hand-picked flowers from the gardens are separated and dried, creating an amazing floral aroma.
The outdoor Gin Gardens are where Hamish’s true passion shines through. As we walked among beds of lavender, juniper and the biggest peonies we had ever seen, Hamish impressed on us his total respect for mother nature.
I’ll admit I started feeling bad about some of the weeds I had pulled earlier in the week when he explained herbal uses for many of them (such as a hangover cure of sticky-willie water.. yes, really).
Next, we got to view the new still room where the team were working with the shiny, new copper stills that will be producing the Old Curiosity range.
Finally, we settled at our tables in the late-evening sun to taste all five of the Old Curiosity colour-changing gins and listen to more wonderful stories.
We first sampled the existing range: Lavender & Echinacea, Apothecary Rose and Chamomile and Cornflower before moving on to the new expressions and my, oh my, they were worth the wait.
Geranium & Mallow is created with the same base as the existing range: lightly crushed juniper and coriander, angelica root and leaf and winter savory. To this, they add freshly distilled geraniums and hand harvested dried mallow flowers. The neat gin is perfectly clear, but when tonic is added it turns a delicate pink. The natural flavours shine through beautifully and this fresh and floral drink was a complete delight on a summer evening.
Similarly, the Damask Rose is made from the same base gin recipe, to which freshly distilled and dried Damask Rose petals are added. The slightly golden liquid magically transforms to a rose pink with the addition of tonic and there is no mistaking the aroma and flavour of the rose in this gin (which is incidentally stronger than the others at 46% ABV).
The evening was rounded off beautifully with delicious food from The Union of Genius, live music, great company and, of course, more sampling of the range of gins.
We left the enchanting surroundings of The Secret Garden feeling in touch with nature and the wonders of natural alchemy and want to thank Hamish, Liberty and their fantastic team for a great evening and wish them all the best for keeping this dream alive and sharing it for us all to enjoy.
You can buy the full range of Old Curiosity colour-changing gins by visiting The Secret Herb Garden (we highly recommend it) or via their online shop.