Within the vast and wild Cairngorm national park, in the Scottish Highlands, lies the Kinrara Estate. An estate with a past and present bursting with life and colour. This is the tale of the latest addition to that history, the Kinrara Distillery, which opened in early 2018. And just like the estate’s first owner, the beautiful and captivating Lady Jane Gordon once did, the distillery is already turning heads.
Cradled deep in the rugged arms of the immense Cairngorm National Park lies the Kinrara Estate. A 12,000 acreage which was once summer residence to the eccentric and beautiful Lady Jane Gordon, a British Socialite of the 1700s.
Lady Gordon was known to possess a charm and wit that few other women of her time possessed, or at least, dared to reveal. She held extravagant parties and her great mansion became known as a shining beacon in the vast forest, attracting some of the most wealthy and powerful characters of the time – Sir Robert Burns and William Pitt can be counted amongst them.
Nowadays things are a little quieter, yet, tucked behind the doors of a previously derelict milking parlour, something is astir once again.
This time around it is neither the hubbub of a party, nor the shuffling of hooves, that can be heard. Instead, you’re more likely to catch the hum and bubble of ‘Wee Alice’, a copper gin still which belongs to the newly founded Kinrara Distillery.
According to Luke Fenton, who is Head of Sales and one of just three employees at the remote distillery, the 50L still which is used for the development of all of Kinrara’s new and wondrous gin concoctions, shares its name the matriarch of the family now living on the estate. In fact, he tells us, the concept of creating a distillery at Kinrara was initially born out of a desire to produce Whisky for this same family, who came to own the estate after it was sold in the 1960s, after being passed down to many generations of the Gordon family.
It was only last year when Stuart McMillan, the Distillery Manager and part owner, turned the idea into a reality by transforming the 200-year-old rickety farm steading into a gleaming micro distillery. Now, with phase one complete, the production of gin is well underway and the small-batch product has already achieved the feat of being shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious 2018 Scottish Gin Awards.
As well as drawing inspiration from its rich past, Kinrara’s location in a far-flung part of the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands has also hugely influenced what is produced there. Rosehips and rowan berries are foraged from the surrounding landscape throughout the year to provide a base for the gin. These are put to work alongside plenty of juniper berries and more exotic ingredients like coriander, cardamom and Spanish orange peel. The result is a gin that’s classically dry but with a contemporary floral and fruity twist and a signature taste of the highlands.
This abundance of natural resources couldn’t have amounted to anything, however, if not for the skill and knowledge of Kinrara’s only distiller, David Wilson, a graduate of Heriott Watt’s famous brewing and distilling course. David’s meticulous attention to detail, and ability to detect slight changes in flavour, means he is skilled in the art of creating precise cut points based on taste rather than yield. It is this process which makes Kinara so delicately smooth.
The landscape has also left its imprint on the brilliantly-blue bottle, which was created by Pocket Rocket Creative, and depicts the stunning Cairngorm mountains while perfectly capturing the unique way that the light falls on the stunning mountain range. The two-part faded design, from blue to white, is a world first and because each bottle is hand sprayed and enamelled, all of the bottles differ very slightly. As well as the standard bottle design, the distillery regularly creates additional ones by collaborating with local artists who design a limited number of bottles. Customers can purchase these designs and register themselves as owners on the Kinrara website.
As for the future of Kinrara, there are further ambitious plans to come, with the distillery aiming to expand into whisky and rum production by early 2019, when it is also hoped that a visitor centre will be created – allowing guests to learn about the distillation process and the estate’s fascinating history.
For now, Stuart and the team have some new gin flavours in the pipeline and will no doubt have a few awards under their belt very soon. We’re certain that if the beautiful Lady Jane Gordon were still alive today, she’d wouldn’t be able to come up with a better purpose for that old milking parlour on her estate.