On the banks of the Spey is the town of Fochabers, then up a grand entrance and sweeping drive stands Castle Gordon. But it's not the castle that we are interested in, so let's turn right and follow the track to the Walled Garden. Walled Garden is a bit of a misnomer - Castle Gordon's walled garden is Huge. In fact, it's reportedly the largest in Scotland spreading to 8 acres and it is here that we want to come on the start of our Magical Mystery Gin Tour of Scotland.
The Walled Garden has been loving restored, to a plan by acclaimed garden designer Arne Maynard, and grow produce for an excellent restaurant on site, a maze for the spatially disorientated, greenhouses and loads of plants.
These plants include some that are used in the botanicals for Castle Gordon's award winning Gin. A gin that has livery finer than any footman ever wore at the Castle - a back label showing through the spirit and front transparent decal.
The gin is flavoured with mint and lavender from the Walled Garden (along with the usual suspects botanicals) but this grape spirit based gin is made off-site, so don't expect to see or be shown around a distillery. This is very much a pilgrimage to the holy Site of the Botanicals.
Now, let's go on a tangent - gin botanicals need to have three levels of taste: Top, Middle and Bottom notes. Similar to perfume where the initial smell is like the Top Notes, the intermediate smell is the middle and the lingering base smell is the bottom notes. This triple tiering gives a gin a fullness and roundness of taste - if one of the tiers is missed out or poorly balanced you'll notice it! It's like something is missing and the gin becomes unbalanced. Have we got that? - Yes. Good, let's get back to Castle Gordon.
The nose is fresh, light and yet floral that mixes down into the juniper without any disharmony - excellent. The mint works as a top note giving freshness and a clarity to the gin, surprising as this function would normally be done by citrus. But the mint gives a fresh zing that is tempered by the lavender giving a medium and base body to the gin that is floral and earthy at the same time. This earthiness provides a tenor to the bass of juniper and leads to a gin that is exceptionally well balanced, symphonic and light. No mean feat to achieve such symmetry with lightness.
This lightness and finesse makes splashing it with tonic problematic - you'll ruin the delicacy. If wanting a tonic chose a light one and by that I do not mean any slimline, diet nonsense. Something like Fever-Tree Elderflower, or their Naturally Light. A sprig of mint will suffice instead of lemon.
Then again you could get adventurous and make it into a dry martini and garnish with a head of lavender or scorched rosemary to keep it light and emphasise the mint top notes. If you prefer something more musky then try this recipe:
twist lemon peel, to garnish &/or crystallised lavender
Place the Castle Gordon gin, Earl Grey & Lavender tea, lemon juice, sugar syrup & egg white into a cocktail shaker & shake well, till you feel the consistency ‘thicken’. Then strain the liquid into a Martini glass & garnish with a lemon twist and/or a crystallised lavender flower.
However, my personal favourite is easier to make and is the Moray Mojito:
50ml Gordon Castle Gin
7 Mint Leaves
2 Lime wedges
25ml Sugar Syrup
50ml Cloudy Lemonade
1 Mint Sprig
1 x Tall glass
1 x Muddler
1 x Spoon
1 x Knife
1 x Jigger
1 x Chopping Board
Clap the mint in your palms to releases the aromas and place at the bottom of the tall glass. Chop your half lime into pieces and place on top of the mint. Add your sugar or sugar syrup on top of the mint and lime. Muddle gently to release the lime’s juices. Fill your glass 3/4 full with crushed ice (important to use crushed Ice to ensure maximum flavour). Pour in Gordon Castle Gin and top with the cloudy lemonade. Stir everything together well and top with further crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of mint. 2.2 units of alcohol per serve.
Sod it, make a whole jug - you know you'll finish it.
There is a 'farm' shop within the gardens selling this delightful gin as well as some other alcoholic treats that we thoroughly recommend - Gordon Castle Raspberry Gin Liqueur, Whisky Cask Cider and their Ghillies Brew Ale.
So, we end our visit to Castle Gordon, fun wasn't it. Next time we meet in Episode 3 we will be travelling to Arbikie Estate just outside Arbroath and Montrose.