Micro gin distillery plan for Royal Dick building

Marcus Pickering, left, and Matthew Gammell plan to produce a gin blend from an old Indian recipe. Picture: Greg Macvean

Marcus Pickering, left, and Matthew Gammell plan to produce a gin blend from an old Indian recipe. Picture: Greg Macvean

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IT is the traditional tipple of hard-pressed housewives and feted as the drink that “built the British Empire”.

But now “mothers’ ruin” – or gin – is enjoying a mini production revival in the city with a major distillery planned.

Masterminded by two city entrepreneurs, blueprints have been drawn up to transform the “dog’s cages” room of the former Royal Dick Vet into a mirco-distillery where handcrafted gin will filter through into the taps at Summerhall bar.

Business partners Marcus Pickering, 39, and Matthew ­Gammell, 38, hope to concoct a unique gin blend using a huge 500-litre copper still and old Indian recipe handed down through generations.

The locally-produced liquor is being billed as “high quality” and 42 per cent proof but amateur gin-makers will also get the chance to create their own brew at the Summerhall plant – if planning chiefs “chink glasses” with the ground-breaking project.

A former senior butler at Skibo Castle, Mr Pickering is an expert mixologist with an intimate knowledge of high-class spirits. He said: “Micro-distilleries are very fashionable at the moment and are popping up all over Britain with new flavours and new ideas.”

Gin became synonymous with India at the height of the British Empire when officers would add it to a quinine cocktail – known to ward off malaria – to make the drink more palatable.

Mr Pickering, who will be constructing the distillery by hand, said their brew will be based on the same gins the colonials enjoyed on their verandas.

He said: “We are not reinventing the wheel, we are bringing back to life a great gin that’s been around as long as Plymouth Gin.

“We’ll start small and get the gin absolutely perfect.”

It is thought some walls at the Royal Dick Vet may have to be removed to allow sufficient room for the huge copper still that is being delivered from Portugal. The gin-makers insist the walls would be rebuilt once the vast still is in situ.

Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trades Association, said: “It shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. I know from craft breweries and smaller whisky distilleries that there is a move on here and it’s very popular. It will be a good use for the space and I wish them all the best.”

Edinburgh has a long history of gin production. Back in 1777 there were eight licensed distilleries and it is estimated that there may have been as many as 400 illegal stills in Edinburgh. Production fell out of fashion but is currently enjoying a micro-boom thanks to the drink’s fashionable ­connotations.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com