Once upon a time the Summerhall Distillery was part of the Edinburgh Vet School - The Royal Dick, stop sniggering! Now it is an arts venue with a distillery, the Summerhall Distillery, home to Pickering's Gin. The gin is based on a Bombay recipe, apparently kept a secret since 1947 and this Distillery is the first gin distillery in 'Auld Reekie' for over 150 years.
The original gin release was in 2014 and took a sub-asian gin recipe and tweaked it for the more modern tastes and palate. It is high on citrus and on spice - as you expect in a Bombay Gin. It is smooth and contains 9 botanicals: juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, star anise, lemon, lime and clove. The high and middle notes are well stuffed and give a lovely percussive tone to Pickering's.
We are here, though, to try another of Pickering's expression. The mighty Pickering's Gin Navy Strength - coming in at a whopping 51.7% Vol (Navy Strength Gin is always over 51%). It was released to coincide with Pickering's sponsorship of the Edinburgh military Tattoo. It's cap is covered in a dinky bearskin hat too. The botanicals are the same as in the Original, but with the higher proof the middle notes give a greater and deeper depth - spicy and warm, especially the cinnamon. The gin is kept in check with the famous Pickering's smoothness and it is clean and most certainly powerful.
Pickering's use dried citrus peel, rather than fresh. This gives a more musky and concentrated taste to the high notes - think marmalade rather than the fresh zing of lemon and lime. and with the high ABV I think this is an ideal gin to salute the Navy with a classic Pink Gin. Give an old fashioned glass three drops of Angostura bitters, swirls and then tip out the excess. Give yourself a good double measure of gin. If you like a stiff upper lip then drink neat, otherwise some ice or a little water will soften the cocktail.
Now, lets go off at a tangent and explain Navy Strength. It's a great wee story.
Back in the 18th century when half the globe was pink, the Royal Navy sailed the 7 seas helping to colonise those who wanted left alone, being rude to natives and generally going "OH, I Say!". Gin was considered a panacea for all ills, so while the seamen gobbled their Grog the officers we're quaffing gin - especially Gimlets (gin and lime cordial) to ward off scurvy. If malaria was about then to make their quinine palatable, they mixed it into their gin - hence the start of a Gin & Tonic, or so they say.
The gin was precious and so kept locked up with the gunpowder for the cannons. Now if the gin leaked into the powder and it was below their preferred proof of 57% the gunpowder would fizzle and smoke, but not go BANG. Therefore to keep the guns primed and ready for action against Johnny Foreigner they insisted on Navy Strength and to give PROOF that it was up to snuff it was mixed with gunpowder and lit - an explosion was good and an attempt that ended in defeat was bad.
Back on the bus - time to pick everyone up and set off again on the gin trail with a visit to Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith. We are going to have a tasting of another of Summerhall's products - a gin with a royal connection.