Descending the steps into the hidden home of Edinburgh Gin, the excitement was palpable. On arrival, we were lead to a cosy cave-like alcove with dusky lighting and low ceilings. The table was already laid out with 4 glasses each, all filled with mystery concoctions, so we settled in ready for our juniper berry journey of discovery.
Our affable gin genie for the night, Miquel arrived with 4 bottles of gin and a crate of fever Tree in tow and the master class commenced.
This intricate, Netherland orientated spirit has an almost tequila like scent to it. Bols can only be made in the Netherlands as it comes under the protected spirit category, grouping it with Champagne and Scottish Single Malt whiskey.
The taste alone can be quite over powering and was recommended by Miguel to be enjoyed straight (however I couldn’t quite handle it so sweetened it up with some Mediterranean Tonic!). It was an intriguing liquor with an interesting history which Miguel knowledgeably explained.
Hayman’s Old Tom
Hayman’s is a traditional English gin developed over 150 years. During the master class, we had the opportunity to try a Hayman’s Old Tom. It’s a slightly sweeter gin and as with most gins not one to be sipped straight.
After my initial gulp (and slight grimace) grimace, Miquel suggested we add a twist of lemon rind. I was dubious and desperately looking for the tonic, however after a quick swill the taste was transformed. The rind gave the gin a pleasant tang and was much smoother going down.
A gin that prides itself on its Hebridean heritage, The Botanist was the third of our alcoholic appetisers from the evening. This gin boasts foraged ingredients such as angelica root and cassia bark.
The tasting involved the same principle as before with the party taking time to inhale the gin which was slightly cinnamon scented spirit, before taking a sip (slight hint of liquorice? I’ll let you decide!). The recommended pairing for The Botanist was a slice of my favourite gin add-on, grapefruit. The grapefruit changes the flavour of the gin and gives it a refreshing summery taste.
The last, and only one of the four gins I had actually tried before, Gin Mare is a Mediterranean based gin with ingredients from Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Even the name is descriptive of the origins of the gin with “Mar” meaning “sea” in Italy and an inspiration for the drinks title.
The gin itself contains Italian basil and after letting a leaf of basil infuse in the glass it released the taste even further and with a dash of Mediterranean tonic it made for a delicious finale and I left feeling well educated….and ever so slightly drunk.
As if the 45-minute taster session wasn’t enough it also include your own GIY (gin-it-yourself). Think build-a-bear workshop except trade the cotton filled toy, for a gin and tonic filled glass. The menu boasts 72 different gins with many of them failing from Scotland and there’s an abundance of garnishes (fig, anyone?) and tonics to choose from- or the bar staffs will help match your G with the right T.
I went for premium Scottish Gin named Rock Rose, mixed with a refreshing slim line tonic, a sprig of rosemary and a fat wedge of grapefruit. It’s a relatively new gin, with the first batch being created in 2014 by Dunnet Bay Distillers in a traditional copper pot.
The gins are very reasonably priced and I was on a hen-do, so treating myself to one more seemed only polite. This time I chose to sample one of the Edinburgh Gin Distilleries own creations; an Edinburgh Valentine’s Gin. I let the masters do their magic this time and my drink arrived pleasantly garnished with juicy strawberries finished off with an elderflower tonic.
This was my first gin tasting experience (well, one that didn’t just involve me working my way through the local pubs optics) and I was pleasantly surprised that a few fun facts and some friendly advice did make a great side dish to my gin. The atmosphere was fun and informal with just the right amount of informational and an even better amount of gin.
If as we did, you have friends who aren’t gin fans don’t fear, the bar area has some comfortable seating (make sure you book in advance!) and plenty of cocktails, fine wines and beers to please everybody.
Heads & Tales Bar
Featuring the Edinburgh Gin Distillery
1a Rutland Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2AD