Any gin fanatic in Edinburgh will know of Pickerings Gin, the small-batch gin with their distillery right in the heart of the city at Summerhall. Co-founder Marcus Pickering, alongside his business partner Matt Gammell, distil and bottle their famous spirit in the old animal kennels of what was once the Old Dick Veterinary College.
This is Edinburgh caught up with Marcus to find out what inspired him to start making gin and uncover some of his favourite Edinburgh hidden gems...
When I hear the words ‘This Is Edinburgh’, the first thing that springs to mind is…
Arts, culture, history, wind, rain- and a great tradition of drinking gin.
What inspired you to start making gin and what’s unique about Pickering’s?
Neither Matt or I have a background in distilling, but did have a passion for drinking gin. When the space became available in Summerhall, we decided that as I had an old family recipe for the gin, and Matt an engineering degree, we’d give it a go.
What makes us special is that Pickering’s is based on an original Bombay recipe, handwritten on a fragment of paper dated 17 July 1947. Kept under wraps in my family for 66 years, we decided to fine-tune the recipe and create a smooth, soft and incredibly flavoursome gin. We also designed our own bain marie heating system around our still Gert to make our gin smooth enough even to drink neat. I suppose the other thing that makes us stand out is our location- how many other gins are stored in the old dog kennels?
How do you like your gin served?
Our gin is remarkably soft so you can even drink it neat over ice with a slice. If neat gin isn’t you bag, our signature serve is a Gin and Tonic- with a good quality tonic (we like Fever Tree) and a slice of pink grapefruit.
My personal favourite drink is a martini- with Pickering’s, dry martini, orange bitters and a twist of pink grapefruit.
Why did you choose Summerhall for the home of your distillery?
Matt I have been heavily involved with the transformation of Summerhall into an Art’s venue from day one and when refurbishing the space, we both thought what a great place it was for a distillery. Summerhall already had a brewery with Barney’s Beer and we thought it was crying out for some gin as well.
It’s also a great place to be based- there’s all sorts of companies that call Summerhall home - from artists, printers, chocolatiers and greengrocers. It’s a fabulously creative setting and straight in the heart of the city.
What’s great about the drink scene in Edinburgh, and where’s your favourite place for a late night tipple?
What’s great about Edinburgh is the variety and number of great bars- particularly those making really great cocktails. After a long day, I like sitting on the terrace at the Raeburn down in Stockbridge.
What do you think’s behind the increasing popularity of gin, especially in Edinburgh?
I think the re-emergence of smaller distilleries across the country has a great deal to do with the recent popularity of gin- gin has really come at a time at which people became tired of drinking the same mass-produced drinks and were after something a bit more unusual (you just have to look at craft beer as well).
With this expansion has come a lot more creative use of ingredients and better production meaning that gin wasn’t just the overpowering juniper and citrus of the brands of the past, but complexity in line with a good rum or whisky. Plus, it’s a very versatile spirit- great for a refreshing gin and tonic but also a great base for classic cocktails- something with a great following in Edinburgh.
As Edinburgh hosts so many great food and drink events, can you pick a favourite?
We have been a part of a lot of brilliant events this year- the Juniper Festival and the FestivAle, both held here in Summerhall, were particular highlights for us.
What makes you particularly proud to live/ work in the city?
I don’t think you can be based where we are and not be very proud of the Festival. To be known as a city of creativity and innovation is something that really works in our favour now that we’re exporting overseas.
As a local, my favourite hidden gem is…
The bacon roll served in Valvona and Crolla, in a warm roll with fresh cherry tomatoes. Expensive, but the best in town!