Edinburgh's illicit gin trade laid bare in Old Curiosity underground tasting tour
Real Mary King’s Close, the five-star visitor attraction located underneath the Royal Mile, is teaming up with local herb and gin experts – The Old Curiosity Distillery – to offer unique gin-tasting tours.
Paying homage to the famous illicit gin trade of 18th century Edinburgh and the plague doctors who used botanical to ward off disease, the late-night tour will be an opportunity to learn about the origins of gin production in the city while enjoying a range of exclusive and specially selected Old Curiosity gins, deep underground in the historic city.
Visitors will learn about why the Dutch traded genever (gin’s precursor), the adventures of local smugglers, and the distilling innovations that led to Edinburgh’s lengthy love affair with the spirit.
They will get the chance to explore the life and times of Edinburgh’s first plague doctor – Joannes Paulitius – to discover why herbs were thought to protect the doctor from deadly plague epidemic and why he wore the distinctive beaked mask.
The late night 1.5 hour guided tours will cost £35 and will take place every Wednesday in August and Saturday in September. Accompanied by a gin expert, visitors will be given four gins to taste, including: Apothecary Rose, Lemon Verbena, and Chamomile & Cornflower, followed by a plague doctor inspired Lavender & Echinacea gin cocktail.
The Real Mary Kings Close general manager Paul Nixon said: “Given Edinburgh’s unique history and connection with gin, hosting an Old Curiosity Gin tour with their award-winning range, all made right here in Edinburgh, made perfect sense. There is a wealth of stories waiting to be told about the illicit stills, plague doctors and their connection with herbs and botanicals, including their characteristics, flavours and supposed magical properties.
"The Real Mary King’s Close is a truly unique attraction and this tour allows visitors to explore these underground streets in a totally different context - bringing history alive while discovering the fascinating origins of gin.”
The Old Curiosity Distillery is the most recent project from Hamish Martin, a herbologist and owner of the Secret Herb Garden – a 7.5-acre plot of land on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Each gin is made using botanicals grown, picked, dried and infused by the Secret Herb Garden team.
Francesca Martin, Events and Marketing Manager at Old Curiosity added: “We’re delighted to be partnering with The Real Mary King’s Close. We can’t wait to share the interesting history of gin and showcase our creations in a unique setting.”
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