Inspired by the Picts – a tribe believed to be some of the first settlers in the Scottish Highlands Greenwood Distillers call home – as depicted by Theodore de Bry, a 16th century engraver and publisher. Produced by two master distillers – one British and one French. Influenced by the art of perfumery and combining old and new production techniques. With liquid (currently) produced in London and Cognac but blended and bottled in Scotland. The story behind Theodore Pictish Gin is every bit as complex as the spirit itself.
The stunning gift tube pulls these seemingly disparate elements together, featuring Carlotta Saracco’s modern reworking of de Bry’s painted warriors surrounded by intricate illustrations of the ingredients used to create the gin. The elegant simplicity of the 16-sided bottle, meanwhile, belies the depth of the contents with only those facets themselves offering a subtle reference to the 16 botanicals within.
Those botanicals are inspired by the plants the Picts might have collected on their hunter-gathering travels. However the Founder, Barth Brosseau, and Master Blender Andrew Rankin, also worked with olfactory expert Barnabe Fillion to add complexity by adapting the theory and structure of fragances to the distillation process, so it’s little surprise that some of the botanicals are more commonly seen in perfumes.
One such unusual botanical is bourbon vetiver. Nothing to do with the spirit of the same name, bourbon vetiver is a tropical aromatic plant native to Indonesia with long, wide, green leaves. Its scent is described as elegant and complex: woody, spicy, green and lightly smoky.
The remaining botanicals may be more familiar but the production method certainly is not. The multi-stage process sees juniper, coriander, pink pepper, chamomile, lime, orris, cardamom and lavender distilled in classic London Dry style to create a base. Ginger, on the other hand, is double-distilled separately (a method that originated in cognac production) to extract its full warm and spicy flavour. The more delicate, fresh botanicals – such as honey and fresh pine needles – are also handled separately but using the more modern rotavap vacuum-distillation method. After distillation and blending, damask rose water and bourbon vetiver essential oils are added and the liquid is infused with oolong tea to balance the natural sweetness of the gin.
The oolong tea is immediately apparent in Theodore Gin’s delicate, slightly golden hue. The dry, almost astringent, tea is also evident on the nose alongside juniper and a floral sweetness from the damask rose.
Neat Theodore Pictish is complex with herbaceous juniper, slightly sweet floral notes and a very dry finish from the oolong tea. I didn’t, however, really pick up any pomelo. A drop of water revealed very subtle citrus notes and a honey sweetness although the gin still retained the dryness of juniper and tea. The water also opened up a delicate, softer gin with a good depth of flavour and a pleasing mouthfeel. This tantalising gin makes a very tasty G&T. Indian tonic water draws out the sweetness even more but Theodore also works well with aromatic tonic. A cocktail this cracking needs no garnish but the makers recommend a pink grapefruit twist and it also works really well with a more tropical combination of mango and thyme.
With the gin house at Ardross Distillery nearing completion, full production of Theodore Pictish, under the watchful eye of Andrew Rankin, should soon move to the once dilapidated 19th century farmhouse on the shores of the Black Loch, and overlooked by Ardross Castle. And then, but only then, will this complex and complicated Pictish Gin also be able to call itself truly Scottish too.
Purchase Theodore Pictish Gin from Master of Malt at £38.45 for 70cl (43% ABV).
With thanks to Greenwood Distillers for the complimentary bottle of Theodore Pictish Gin.