Scotland is not just all about Harris Tweed, leaping salmon, haggis and Single Malt Whiskies anymore… Scotland has found a new gem in the form of artisan gin makers, and they don’t get any better than Persie Distillery, which is nestled at the foot of Glen Shee in Perthshire.
The first confirmed records related to the production of gin date from the early 17th century in Holland, where it was produced and sold by chemists as medicine; although it is claimed that a form of gin was first distilled in Italy, possibly as long ago as the Middle Ages.When William of Orange occupied the throne of England, gin became vastly popular as heavy taxes were imposed on imported spirits. This act rapidly increased the volume of British gin being distilled and helped William raise the money needed to indulge his passion for war.
In the winter of 1731, the annual frost fair was introduced. As soon as the Thames had frozen over, hundreds of small stalls would appear all along the river, many of which would be selling hot gin and ginger breads. You may have seen William Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ cartoon depicting the evils of gin, where gin drinkers were portrayed as being chaotic and debauched. This helped lead to the Gin Act of 1751, which sought to control and restrict the rate of gin consumption.
But it really is best to forget the bad old days, where gin was euphemistically known as Mother’s Ruin, as it made a huge comeback when it virtually became the saviour of the British Empire in the reign of Queen Victoria. The expatriates and armed forces in India were struggling massively with outbreaks of malaria. It quickly became known that a treatment could be found in the bark of the Chinchona or ‘Fever’ tree. However, this bark was notoriously bitter so it was often mixed with lime and sugared ice together with a healthy slug of gin – the first manifestation of the famous ‘gin & tonic’ so loved around the world today.
When Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond in Casino Royale in 2006, 007’s favoured tipple suddenly changed to the classic Vesper – a gin based cocktail described in the original novel by Ian Fleming. Gin was chic again. Fast forwarding to 2014, Simon Fairclough a gin enthusiast decided to set up a gin distillery business in the former Persie Hotel at Bridge of Cally. Simon experimented with a number of different gin flavours, before creating what is rapidly becoming a classic: Persie’s Sweet & Nutty Old Tom Gin. This wonderful gin is fabulous on the rocks or with ginger beer, which helps create Christmas in a glass all year round!
Having decided to create a new gin, the Persie Distillery was finally opened to great acclaim in August 2016, with an official launch party hosted by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength! All the water used in the distillation process is locally sourced, sparkling and pure. The surrounding countryside of beautiful rolling moors and mountain-rivers is a wonderful environment to enjoy watching the sun dapple and dart across the heather while sipping a heavenly Persie Gin. Simon started his career almost 35 years ago working with iconic whisky brands such as Johnnie Walker, Cardhu, Talisker and Jura. Obviously, it would have been very easy for him to have followed the Scotch route but Simon had other ideas. As he said when I interviewed him: “I wanted to try and create something new and distinctly different. Most of all, I wanted to avoid being held back by the old tradition and process of Scottish whisky production. I really had a burning desire to try out new ideas and to establish a brand that was uniquely personal to me and the heritage of Persie at Auchenflower.”
Simon clearly has drive and determination in abundance, but it was the combination of his refined palate and amazing nose
for aromas that has made the Persie experience what it is today. The process of creating the right smell, taste and experi- ence is a crucial and fundamental part of the Persie process and all who are involved are passionately committed to the cause of creating better gins.
In order to hone in on the best flavours, Simon and his wife Chrissie, first set up Gin Club Scotland, which is the world’s first touring gin club. Over the following months and years Simon and Chrissie were able to test over a hundred different gins and tap into the tap into the feedback and reviews of 4,000 dedicated gin drinkers in order to properly ascertain what the discerning gin drinker might be missing.
Gin Club Scotland also allowed Simon and Chrissie to travel all over the UK to establish a diverse range of views on gin formulas, all the while taking the opportunity to team up with other artisan distillers and independent pubs, restaurants and hotel owners. The mission…. To create the perfect gin! To be sure of success every detail of the Persie Gin process had to be exactly right. So, to start with, getting the ideal Still in place was absolutely vital. After months of research Simon finally plumped for a handcrafted and very beautiful German made Copper Still. Not only is it stunning to look at, but it has also helped make Persie Gin so distinctive, while creating a very special experience for visitors to the Persie Distillery.
All three Persie Gins in the current line-up are handmade in small batch quantities and are subject to the most stringent quality controls. The ingredients are all hand selected using a range of carefully chosen Botanicals and then blended with love to create three very special gins with unique and distinctive characteristics. Persie’s Zesty Citrus Gin offers an explosion of locally hand-zested Lime and Blood Orange, with subtle notes of Pine, ensuring the freshest and zingiest of fla- vour combinations – so good in fact that it won the Scottish Field Gin Challenge for Best Gin under £35 and was a finalist in the Scottish Gin Awards. Meanwhile, winner of the Silver Outstanding for best Gin & Tonic at the International Wine and Spiritis competition, Persie’s Herby & Aromatic Gin with its beautifully fragrant scent of garden herbs, full of bay, rosemary and basil can whisk you off to Tuscany in an instant!
Finally, my personal favourite is the Persie Sweet & Nutty Old Tom, winner of the Silver Award for Speciality Gin at the Scottish Gin Awards, with its vanilla, butterscotch and almond flavours, which for some reason always reminds me of log fires, lazy Labradors and Christmas!