With the opening of Summerhall Distillery in 2013, Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell not only established the first dedicated gin distillery in Edinburgh in over 150 years but also placed Edinburgh firmly on the craft distilling map with their marvellous Pickering’s Gin.
Both avid gin enthusiasts, Marcus and Matthew decided to create their own distillery in Summerhall, a hotspot for the local Edinburgh arts scene. The microdistillery was constructed in two rooms within the former kennels of the animal hospital on the original site of the School of Veterinary Studies and next to the Royal Dick Pub (which now benefits from Pickering’s Gin on tap piped directly from the distillery!). With an engineering background, Matthew oversaw the works and the installation of their 500 litre copper pot still sourced from Portugal and christened ‘Gert’ after Matthew’s great grandmother. Gert has since acquired a sister still, Emily, allowing the pair to keep up with the ever growing demand for their gins from gin enthusiasts across the world.
The inspiration for Pickering’s Gin was an old gin recipe from the time of the British Raj, first written down in Mount Mary, India on 17 July 1947. The fragment of paper on which the recipe was written was kept by the Pickerings as a family secret for decades until 2013 when they started distilling at Summerhall and is now proudly framed above the doorway in the distillery.
For their first gin, Marcus and Matthew adapted the original 1947 recipe to suit a modern palate, increasing the amount of juniper and citrus and toning down the heavier spice notes to bring the flavour profile a little closer to the classic London Dry style. The nine botanicals they use are juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and cloves, a blend of traditional and modern flavours while retaining a distinctively spicy character. These botanicals are macerated in grain spirit for 24 hours in the still using a very unusual and innovative ‘bain marie’ style heating method designed by Matthew himself drawing on his engineering expertise.
The custom designed water bath system ensures that the botanicals are heated gently and evenly, maximising the freshness of the citrus flavours as well as the earthy spices. The gin is then cut to a bottling strength of 42% with 5 times filtered Edinburgh water, yielding only 650 bottles per batch, all of which are bottled and labelled by hand at the distillery. The result is an outstanding gin with a brilliant balance of juniper pine, cinnamon, liquorice and cardamom spice with fresh lime zest.
Since releasing their first gin, Marcus and Matthew have added two more superb gins to their range. In 2014, they became the official gin sponsor of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and launched Pickering’s Navy Strength Gin, unofficially christened the ‘bearskin’ gin by Marcus and Matthew due to its commemorative bearskin hat. Using the same botanical recipe as Pickering’s Gin but bottled at a very healthy 57.1% ABV, this is a robust and full bodied gin with pronounced spice.
Encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of Pickering’s Gin, Marcus and Matthew have also faithfully recreated the 1947 recipe that served as their original inspiration in Pickering’s Original 1947 Gin. This is an altogether spicier affair, with much more emphasis on coriander, clove and cardamom, less pronounced citrus flavours and no angelica. Absolutely cracking when paired with a traditional style ginger ale!