The Old Curiosity Distillery was founded in a barn full of curious things, set in the lowlands of their enchanting botanical nursery just outside of Edinburgh. At the Secret Herb Garden they grow, pick, dry, and infuse all of their glorious herbs by hand so they know that they are 100% natural.
Old Curiosity Gins are colour changing gins; just add the tonic to watch the magic happen.
I headed out to the Secret Herb Garden and the Old Curiosity Distillery for a magical festive dinner from Edinburgh School of Food and Wine paired with gin cocktails, created by the Pop-Up Geeks and matched with amazing scents from Scotland’s only perfumery, Kingdom Scotland.
Old Curiosity have just opened their gin bar and we were the lucky ones chosen to christen it. They are still thinking on a name for it.
It’s a gorgeous homely, warm, welcoming space that can easily host a dinner for approx 28 people and has a view of the stills in the distillery.
We started off with this lovely wee cocktails. The Bees Knees. Old Curiosity Lavender and Echinacea Gin, Lavender Infused Honey, Green Apple Shrub and Pignolleto Sparkling Wine.
Then time to take our places at the table and pull a cracker or two with fellow foodies and drink enthusiasts.
Our paired cocktails with starters was the China Rose. Old Curiosity Apothecary Rose Gin with Vermouth and Lychee.
Starters – Juniper, beetroot and gin cured sea trout, Company rye, frozen cucumber salsa with herbs and flowers.
The colours on this plate where stunning. The sea trout was deliciously cured and ever so slightly sweet. I loved the cucumber salsa and granita.
We were then introduced to Imogen Russon-Taylor from Kingdom Scotland. Their perfumes capture the stories, experiences and dramatic contrasts of a land that enthrals the imagination. Imogen was initially inspired by her experience working with Scottish whisky brands – struck by the connection both between whisky and heritage and between whisky and perfume.
Imogen ignited the fire behind a new brand to ‘bottle Scotland’ and to use perfume to share old narratives in new ways as there were rich stories associated with perfume and natural ingredients in Scotland.
And so we got to experience the first scent of the evening – Albaura, a scent in tribute to the Scottish botanist and Arctic explorer, Isobel Wylie Hutchison. Inspired by the Aura and ancient name of Scotland, Alba. The freshness of snow and ice blended with berries and botanicals. Independent of spirit, this is a bold and pure beauty.
Top — Iced Botanicals
Heart — Arctic Poppy
Base — Atlas Cedar, Rock Moss & Ambergris
Mains – Herb-infused wood smoked lamb with seasonal vegetables and pine nut crumb.
Fantastic dish. The lamb was plentiful, pink, soft, succulent and very well smoked and seasoned.
This scent accompanying this dish was Portal. A transporting herbaceous and woody scent; a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland. Invitingly fresh and outdoor – an escape to a sylvan wonderland.
A transporting herbaceous and woody scent – a gateway to the ancient Caledonian forests of Scotland. Invitingly fresh and outdoor – an escape to a sylvan wonderland.
Top — Herbaceous Botanicals & Bergamot
Heart — Verdant Flora
Base — Vetiver & Scots Pine
Our last cocktail was the Winter Wonderland using the Old Curiosity Christmas Gin with Spiced Blackberry, Orange Bitters and Cranberry.
Dessert was Autumnal fruit, black pepper and rosewater fool. This was light, creamy with a fruity, tart and peppery coulis.
The last scent was Metamorphic, and this breaks all the rules about perfume. I fell in love with this scent.
Scotland has some of the most complex geology in the world and this scent is inspired by metamorphic rock that is spectacularly woven into the landscape. Complex, rich, with an intense metamorphosis on the skin.
Top — Black Pepper & Tobacco
Heart — Incense, Minerals, Islay Malt & Rose Absolute
Base — Amber Resin & Leather
Old Curiosity Christmas Gin is unfortunately sold out but you can still purchase their other colour changing gins – see the list below.
Lavendar and Echinacea – (light purple colour). Infuse the restorative qualities of Lavender with the medicinal powers of Echinacea, and breathe. If ever a gin could heal the soul it would be this.
Apothecary Rose – (peach colour) .Used in tinctures and tonics from eras gone by, the Apothecary Rose is subtle in fragrance and naturally floral in flavour. A romantic companion to our perfectly distilled gin.
Chamomile and Cornflower – (pale blue colour). An infusion of pure cornflower pigments, naturally a vivid blue, and the subtle notes of the chamomile flower. A calming tincture that embodies the magic of nature.
Damask Rose (limited batch Secret Garden gin) – (pale peach colour). To the four botanicals – juniper, coriander, Angelica root and Winter Savoury they add the freshly distilled Damask Rose. This is an ancient and true Rose, highly perfumed and prized for its heady aroma for millennia – by distilling the petals fresh you can capture its pure essence, soul, allowing for the most clean and precise rose aroma to be delivered to the palate possible. They also dry the hand harvested petals and use these dried petals to lightly infuse, this then creates a pale golden spirit that once tonic is added turns to the most powerful pink that brings the real colour of the petal back in a liquid form, truly a miracle of nature. On drinking this beautifully balanced and elegant gin you can understand why this Rose stands as a beacon for light, love and beauty – a rare opportunity to allow the palate to rejoice and live in awe of the beauty, power and magnificence of such an amazing flower.
Geranium and Mallow (limited batch Secret Garden gin) – (very very pale pink). Geraniums are a plant that is so rich in aromas, with scents of warm tropical air, fresh green tea and floral tones that are reminiscent of roses and jasmine intermingled; producing a rich, heady but beautifully balanced, soft texture and flavoured gin. Then the hand harvested and dried Mallow flowers are infused. These flowers can only be collected when the sun is out, and so opening the flowers completely to give a nearly clear spirit which then turns the most elegant pink when tonic is added. This is a gin that allows the senses to be completely stimulated and the palette to be in awe of the beauty, elegance, power and grace of the flavour of nature – truly a drink to savour.
Christmas Gin – sold out. To the four base botanicals they add freshly distilled Cinnamon, Ginger and Cardamom. Cinnamon has been in use since 2000BC in ancient Egypt but has since become synonymous with Christmas; the strong, mince pie spice on the nose is guaranteed to make you feel festive. Ginger has long been used in cooking and folk medicine due to its hot, warming aroma and taste. Cardamom completes the trinity of flavours, contributing strong, resinous fragrance and uniquely spicy flavour. Finally, they infuse freshly-harvested Poppy and Mallow petals to provide a soft, vibrant Christmassy colour.