Darnley’s original is a London Dry gin from Fife, where a derelict farm cottage next to Kingsbarns distillery was converted into a gin distillery by the family who have lived and worked there for centuries.
Price: ~ £29
The Wemyss family have been involved in making whisky at Kingsbarns in Fife since John Haig built a distillery on their land at the turn of the 19th century by converting a near derelict farmstead. Fost forward a couple of centuries and the family are still there, but with a new dream of distilling gin alongside. Like before, a derelict building was restored and converted into a distillery, and Darnley’s gin was born.
Keen to continue their push for sustainability, the family grow and forage as many botanicals as possible on their land sourcing the more exotic from growers around the world. The real inspiration came from all the elderflower that grows wild in the grounds of Wemyss Castle, the family’s ancestral home.
Known as ‘The Floral One’, Darnley’s is made in a 350l copper pot still named Dorothy by Head Distiller, Scott. Tucked away inside the ‘gin cottage’ the botanicals are steeped in the base spirit, allowing the essential oils and flavours to be released before distillation.
The bottle is a clear round glass shape with a fairly long neck. The body tapers inward towards the thick base, giving it a pleasant line accentuated by the minimal labels. The front being a nicely cut design featuring the name of the gin surrounded by illustrated botanicals in pale hues of grey and peachy-yellow. Below that is a smaller rectangular label in matt yellow, with a little description of the gin, vol., ABV, and batch number. On the back is a nicely shaped white label giving a blurb on the inspiration for the gin, as well as the usual info. There’s a band of matt yellow across the middle with some text about it being a Wemyss spirit, but it’s barely readable which is a bit of a shame. Overall it’s a simple, understated, and pleasant bottle, though it lacks any real stand-out features.
There’s little wonder this is dubbed ‘The Floral One’ as that soft, classic elderflower aroma is right there alongside the other botanicals. There’s an ever so slight muskiness to the floral notes, and for me the angelica root and orris do a lot of heavy lifting too, giving a light but earthy feel with what I consider a slightly powdery edge. There’s nothing here that stands out beyond the overall profile of a very classic gin with plenty of elderflower, but that is by no means a criticism. It’s a simple botanical mix, and it smells like it’s been balanced perfectly. At times I get the impression of an almost chamomile-esque floral note, and even hints of sage, but fundamentally this is a very ginny gin with a good hit of elderflower on top.
Neat, the liquid is lovely and smooth, but less sweet than the aroma suggests. The lemon comes through more here than on the nose, but the ‘big four’ are definitely what make up the main body of the gin, giving it a dry, earthy pine flavour. The elderflower works well with the lemon, with the pair balancing out sweet and bitter notes, without taking anything away from the juniper, and the dry, earthy flavours from the other botanicals. After a little while I get a hint of herbaceous flavour followed by a pinch of pepper, before the flavour comes back around to the lemon, and ends with a soft, powdered floral element.
Water fills out some of the deeper, earthy and herbal notes, as well as fleshing out the lemon a bit for me. It’s a nice change, but there is also a loss of the brighter notes of pine and elderflower. It’s quite different and I don’t think as nice, with a touch more pepper and sage, even a hint of dry wood. There’s a good amount to explore here in my opinion, but the journey is a different one, and may be less suited to some.
Finally, a G&T. Now if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that I tend to go for a 3:1 ratio on tonic to gin… however on Darnley’s website, their perfect serve is 50ml gin to 75ml tonic, a mere 1.5:1 which for me is pretty much unheard of! So I’m going to try their perfect serve first, and we’ll see.
So, with 1.5:1 Franklin & Sons Indian Tonic, and a lemon wheel to garnish, I have to say the result is pleasant, but genuinely a little confusing. I can say for certain that this is not in need of any more tonic, and it does taste nice, but there’s something a little off-putting about the experience, though I’ll get to that at the end. First I’ll say that the flavours work really well. The lemon comes through nicely, and balances well with the juniper and elderflower. It’s dry but a little sweet, and has a well rounded flavour, though again there is nothing that really stands out here. It’s a good gin and tonic.
I’m a fan of Darnley’s gin. I think it’s a simple profile done well, and will no doubt prove very versatile, so in that sense I’m looking forward to trying it in a number of drinks. But… that G&T keeps nagging at me, and I think the reason is because I want my G&T to be a fairly long drink, which necessitates a gin that can stand up to a good glug of tonic. That’s where this gin falls down for me. The thought that the perfect serve is half the minimum amount of tonic you can buy bothers me. Normally I’m all for savings, and knowing I could get double the G&T to my tonic might appeal to some, but for me it suggests a gin that can’t take much dilution, which is a cause for concern I think. So here’s what I did… I poured myself another G&T but this time at a 3:1 ratio… and it was actually really good, but at the same time, there was clearly less gin flavour there overall, so I guess it’s a compromise that’s up to you. Overall I’d say it’s a good, classic gin with a floral edge that’s made well and worth trying.
Darnley’s is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.