We sat down for a G-Interview with Gordon Castle's Angus Gordon Lennox about the inspiration for his crisp and elegant gin and the overall Gordon Castle brand.
What's the story behind Gordon Castle Gin?
It starts with the story of Gordon Castle Estate. The House of Gordon is one of Scotland’s oldest families and the estate, completed as one of Scotland’s largest houses in the 1770s by the Duke of Gordon, lies nestled in the Spey valley, in the heart of whisky country. It was a traditional sporting estate, particularly famous for its salmon and it was where I spent much of my childhood, playing in the grounds and the garden.
I took over the running of the estate in 2008 with my wife Zara and aimed to turn it into a multi-faceted attraction for the community and visitors alike. One of our biggest projects has been the renovation of the eight-acre walled garden where I spent a lot of my childhood. Once completed, it will be one of the largest kitchen gardens in Britain, with 259 espaliered fruit trees; vegetables and salad to keep us going in Summer and, of course, herbs and flowers.
The Gordon Castle brand is all about using the produce of the amazing garden to make things. It's not just a beuatiful place to spend time in, but a working garden where nothing goes to waste. We have everything from hand creams, soaps, shampoos and body wash to beer and cider, honey, chutney and, of course, gin! All made with ingredients grown in the Scottish highlands.
Tell me more about how the walled garden inspired the gin.
Like everything we make, it's about provenance and history; crafting an exclusive range focusing on nature, luxury and quality. With the abundance of rare and high-quality herbs in the Walled Garden, it seemed a natural progression to develop a very special gin using some of those botanicals. We wanted to be able to grow our own botanics – watch them flourish and grow and then patiently distil them to make the gin.
Tell me more about Gordon Castle Gin?
Gordon Castle Gin is crisp, elegant and refreshing with a lovely clean palate. Subtle notes of lavender linger in the back of the nose and within the mouth. Garden mint comes into focus on the nose and in the mouth helping promote the clean and refreshing character. It has a beautiful and differentiated bottle and is bottled at 43% to give it a little extra oomph. A classical gin with extra finesse, not a gin with zany ingredients to catch the eye.
And what herbs specifically have made it into the gin?
The secret recipe has only 12 botanicals to keep it clean, fresh, un-muddled and direct. We use grape spirit, not grain, to give it extra smoothness. There are 2 botanicals grown in the garden, lavender and mint, which give it warming herb notes and a crisp clean and refreshing finish.
What has the reaction to it being like so far?
People just love it…..They say it looks fantastic, tastes fantastic, and has a wonderful story behind it.
How did it feel to win the World Spirits Competition Gold?
We, of course, share the views of others in loving our gin. It is, however, particularly fantastic to receive third party acclamation in the form of gold medals from all over the world. And it’s not just a pretty bottle that has done it…the awards are handed out on the basis of blind tasting so it is particularly special to know that the spirit itself is world class. We also keep an eye on what other perhaps better-known brands achieve and we are delighted that we surpass them much of the time. Quality will eventually out!
What other products are available using ingredients from the walled garden?
We have over two hundred products containing ingredients from the Walled Garden or inspired by the wider estate. These fall into four categories:
Food and drink including our award winning gin, raspberry and plum gin, apple and pear cider, whisky cask cider, salad dressings, jams, chutneys and honey, herbal teas, raspberry shortbread, garlic or rosemary oatcakes, fudge and many more.
Bath and Beauty products, all natural and made using essential oil from our on-site still, and definitely without any artificial fragrances, colours, parabens, glycols, sulphates, phthalates, petrochemicals or animal testing. Glass, china and homewares, some made under a Licensing agreement with Halcyon Days, others engraved on-site.
Produce from the Walled Garden and Estate, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs, but also wooden chopping boards and other wooden items.
Can you tell me a bit more about the hand cream?
Our flower garden hand cream combines sweet almond oil and nutrient-rich magnolia essential oil, for softer hands together with essential oils from the plants grown in our bountiful Walled Garden. It’s all natural without any artificial fragrances, colours, parabens, glycols, sulphates, phthalates, petrochemicals or animal testing.
I have no idea what most of those are.
That's why they're not in our hand cream.
What’s your typical day like?
Very busy whilst trying to keep some time for the family. There is no such thing as a typical day. I wear a number of different hats, whether they be for this new business, the traditional estate business or some other interests I have.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
The variety and the challenges that every day brings
Aside from Gordon Castle, what’s your favourite gin?
I like the more traditional gins…not the ones trying to do something off the wall with rose petals, seaweed or suchlike. So, my favourite “other” gins are Broker’s, Tanqueray No10 and Portobello……although I haven’t drunk much of those since we launched GC gin!
How do you prefer to drink your gin?
As a very dry martini…straight up with a twist of lemon and a scorched rosemary garnish.
If you're intrigued, you can pick up a full bottle of Gordon Castle Gin from our gin shop. Plus, for the month of December 2016, every bottle comes with a free 75ml tube of Walled garden hand cream.
You can also find out more about Gordon Castle and the other Walled Garden products on their own website.
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