Driving a clapped-out bus, covered in gin signs, up to the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh is not for the faint hearted. But a nice sailor type told us to park behind the bins. Yacht is an understatement - it's big and sleek and British, but no sail! My partner in crime for today is my sis-in-law. Not that I had a choice if there is 'Royal' and 'Gin' in the same sentence then she's there. So from the quayside at Ocean Terminal and up onto deck for a sniff about.
The reason we're here is to seek out and try the Royal Yacht Britannia Gin. It is made specially for them by the Summerhall Distillery (see Episode 9). The team behind Pickering's Gin have had a great job in hand to balance 16 botanicals from around the world, each originating from a port visited by the Royal Yacht during her 44 years at sea. As one wag put it - "a million nautical miles in a glass". Pickering's are man enough for that job, with their experience of balancing classic flavours with strength and modern panache.
So let's get started ... ring the bell, sis, and we're off (nearly were too - you're not allowed to ring the bell!). Royal Yacht Britannia Gin is hand crafted and is a respectful 40% ABV of pure grain spirit and uniformed in a minimal style. The 16 botanicals include the usual suspects of juniper, coriander, and lemon. This gives us the three tier structure on which to hang the others and to fill out the taste. Add some lime, eucalyptus leaves and lemon myrtle to give some zing and fireworks to the upper deck, with liquorice, angelica and bog myrtle giving some bass down in steerage. The middle is where the magic works - heather, blood orange, pepper, cloves, lotus root and rose petals giving a string section to this orchestration, that gives sweet floral and lower citrus flavours. I know you're all counting and I have only mentioned 15 flavourings. The last one is orris and it stabilises and binds the flavours, besides giving a slight violet edge.
Time for the tasting, so get a big gin glass - this needs a royal measure. The first thing to hit is the citrus and then there is a floral level that leads down the stairs to warming baking spice. These all hover over the juniper and musky earthiness of the angelica and bog myrtle. The liquorice comes a little with the sweetness and the smoothness of the spirit makes this absolutely smooth. This is an ideal gin for those who love floral and light - but the fullness in the mouth from the other ingredients would make this an ideal 'sipping' gin to enjoy over ice.
A good quality tonic would be perfect - and I'd recommend Walter Gregor for it's hints of mint to accentuate the menthol freshness of the gin. Due to the smoothness this will make a great Martini or to be different and long try some rose lemonade.
I did have to laugh as we spotted a photograph showing supplies being loaded onto the Royal Yacht - case after case of Gordon's Gin and Lanson Champagne. That would have satisfied even Princess Margaret in her heyday. Which makes me think on mixing Royal Yacht Britannia Gin with Dubonnet with a slice of lemon - the royal aperitif for before lunch.
Time to disembark and get piped back onto the bus - We need to get a move on as we're now off to another Edinburgh must visit. It's Edinburgh Gin time.