How did it all start and what's is the inspiration behind 1881 Gin?
I wanted to share my passion for craft spirits. And what better way than to get my hands dirty and get involved with a gin distillery, focussing on premium spirits using quality local botanicals. Each of the four gin varieties produced at 1881 Distillery outline an event from the hotel’s long history. Using flavours and aromas to transport the drinker into the Hydro’s story, from fresh berry flavours by one of the seventeen tennis courts in the 1930s, to wisps of smoke to commemorate the tragic fire of 1905.
Can you tell us about the distillery, distillation process and botanicals used?
We operate a small distillery in the previous swimming pool area of Peebles Hydro – now a hotel, but once a hydropathic spa and treatment centre. Built in 1881 it’s situated to draw on the nearby Shieldgreen Spring, reported for its healing and cleansing properties. Our 150L copper still, named Felicity, made the journey from Germany to Peebles in the summer of 2019, and was commissioned and running by that October. We utilise a core set of 12 botanicals in each of our gins, four of which are native to the Peebles area. These botanicals give a piney-resinous flavour, backed by warming spices and fresh citrus which, along with the smoothness provided by Felicity’s reflux column, makes for a very smooth and sip-able range of gins. Local water and local botanicals coming together to form a local gin that’s for everyone.
What can people expect to experience when they visit the distillery for a tasting?
We offer multiple guided tastings throughout the day, but the star of the show has got to be our 1881 Gin School. We offer 26 glistening 1L copper stills. Our guests tour the distillery, enjoy a tasting and find out about the history of the Hydro, the inspiration behind our gins, followed by the chance to design their own gin from scratch. By choosing their botanicals, with help from the distillery team and our comprehensive botanical handbook, each guest can create their own unique bottle of gin to take home with them. Of course, we keep the recipes so we can always make you another bottle if you love it. The 1881 Gin School is also available as a part of the Hydro’s wedding package. Giving you the chance for your own gin to be used as your wedding favour.
How would you describe your gins in just three words?
Smooth, Fresh, Peebles.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
All of our gins are super flexible, but for me the Navy Strength gin is best served with a splash of tonic, a dash of bitters and a squeeze of citrus. I really like the Subtly Smoked gin served over ice too.
Which other gins do you always have on your gin shelf?
Aside from 1881 gins, it has got to be Barra Atlantic Gin, by the Isle of Barra Distillers. It’s a long-term favourite of mine, best served with a big wedge of juicy pink grapefruit and tonic water to help the carrageen seaweed shine.
Any exciting plans you can share with us?
I like to think that big things are on the horizon – new recipes, limited editions and sharing the love for premium spirits in our gin schools. What’s not to be excited about?!
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