Built in the late twelfth century for King William the Lion to repel Viking invasions to Lunan Bay, Redcastle was a fortified house that now lies in ruin on the rugged-yet-stunning coast of Angus, Scotland. It’s a little piece of history and while the building may be no more, its legacy lives on to this day; in horses, a brewery and, now, a brand-new craft gin.
Created by John Anderson and Fiona Walsh, the tributary Redcastle Gin launched in July 2017 and, as Walsh explains, both founders have a connection to the area: “John’s family had farmed the land here for many years and the castle, and Baron of Redcastle title, came with the land.
“John has kept the Redcastle name, having successfully bred award-winning Redcastle Clydesdale Horses for over 30 years and decided to use the name for the brewery too. It seemed fitting and right to use the name for our new spirits division too.
“I have strong links to the area too, having spent many a happy childhood holiday at Lunan Bay, clambering up and over the sand dunes to reach the amazing beach below. It is a place I now enjoy visiting with my own family.
“It really is a hidden gem, if you haven’t discovered it yet I would urge you to visit.”
Exactly how these two Lunan linked individuals came to bring a gin to the market is pretty straightforward. All it took was a bit of experience, a can-do attitude and, most importantly, an idea.
“Following a year of maternity leave, I decided to go self-employed to offer support to smaller, craft distillers and brewers and I have been working alongside John since October 2016 to help develop sales for the newly established brewery,” Fiona explains.
“I was always keen to develop a gin, having seen the huge rise in popularity for Scottish gins. John and I got chatting in January and decided that we should pool our experience and resources to develop and launch a gin together and, seven months later, Redcastle Gin was launched!
“We both bring very different things to the business, with John having a great “just do it” approach and me providing the voice of reason in the background; it works surprisingly well.”
It takes more than just the right location, motivation and business know-how to bottle a great tasting gin though. Sometimes, a little bit of outside inspiration goes a long way. Though the gin’s title may pay tribute to the ruined structure with which it shares a name, the stimulus for the recipe is much more personal. The gin itself and its hand-selected botanical blend are a homage to the last Baron of Redcastle, a true Bon Viveur and – perhaps most notably – founder John Anderson’s Uncle Jack.
“We have been heavily inspired by John’s Uncle Jack, the last person to use the Baron of Redcastle title,” Fiona says. “From what John tells me, he was quite a character and the stories inspired me to select a lively blend of botanicals which reflects his spicy personality and true zest for life. Kaffir Lime leaf gives a subtle citrus note, and helps to bring out the other citrus based botanicals in the blend whilst pink peppercorn gives warmth and additional spice, without being too overpowering.
“The recipe was developed by me, with the help of our distiller who fine-tuned the quantities of our 13 hand-selected botanicals to get the perfect balance. We ran several trial distillations before we landed on our perfect blend and it was a unanimous decision, we knew as soon as we tasted it that it was the one.”
While Fiona has been very hands-on in the development of Redcastle Gin’s recipe, it has been a unique process to say the very least. She explains: “As I am due a baby in a few weeks, it has been interesting developing a gin using my nose as a guide, some tentative sips and a few trusted and enthusiastic tasters.”
Despite not yet being truly able to enjoy the fruits of this particular labour, Fiona was still able to let us know the best ways to enjoy Redcastle Gin.
“We have developed several ideal serve suggestions, the most popular of which is a large measure of Redcastle Gin, served over good quality ice in a Copa glass with Fever Tree tonic. Garnish with a few pink peppercorns and a twist of lime peel. John also enjoys our gin served simply neat, over ice.”
With a great-tasting craft gin under their belts, the duo behind Redcastle has absolutely no intentions of resting on their laurels. Expansion, innovation and being at the forefront of the next craft drinks movement are very much in the plans for Redcastle. Fiona not only lets us in on what’s in the future for Redcastle Gin but where she sees the next big boom in craft alcohol.
“As well as expanding the gin range to include some flavour expressions and potentially liqueurs, we are very keen to launch a rum. Having done some research, there used to be a Redcastle Rum on the market, which was distilled locally, and we are keen to bring this back. We feel that rum is going to be the next exciting spirit to develop within the vibrant Scottish craft distilling industry and we are keen to be part of that adventure!”
Originally published in Issue 8 of Flavourlys Magazine. Written by Kevin O’Donnell.