We shook the departure-lounge doldrums from a band of globe-trotting spirits aristocrats by roping them into our juniper-planting at Hepple.
Our distinguished band of friends consisted of Alex Kretena, bartender at large; Jamie Berger of Pitt Cue, London; Jim Meehan of PTD, New York; Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of Dead Rabbit, New York and Oisin Davis, Poachers Well, Ireland. There were the obligatory long walks to venerate and observe the juniper, arduous planting regimes and long discussions of the virtues of various techniques of distillation and extraction – the latter requiring a fair amount of “desk work” inside.
Their visit to Hepple was part of Tales of the Cocktail on Tour which brings together the world's drinks experts together annually - this year they came to Edinburgh. Here “New York’s Most Influential Bartender” Jack McGarry of the Dead Rabbit and our own Nick Strangeway worked together to present three cocktails. They used, naturally, a gin you might just have heard about before - from the North of England, an electric green label… Nick created a drink with robust flavours, coffee, bergamot and tonic water, where the gin had the fortitude to be the backbone of the drink not merely a player.
Back at Hepple, the Dead Rabbit team may just have got closer to a live rabbit than they have before as we took them out to see our ancient junipers. A special mention must go to Jamie Berger for outstanding work in the spade department: well over, what was it Jamie, forty young junipers? All beautifully dug, defended and documented in the juniper log. [Jamie has written a guest blog for us on his visit to Hepple: Jamie Berger's Hepple Notes >
Checks were also conducted in the distillery.
As much as the sun shone, the happiest place for many was by the fire. The assembled palates were as good as we could have found to taste our distillates and throw around some of the building blocks for things we are thinking about for the future.
We are building up a log of those friends we trust – almost our “insiders” – on our Still door. We’ll be adding names gradually over the next year or two, probably according to our guest’s readiness to put up with our demands to hard labour on the hill.
Many thanks to:
- Alex Kretena, Bartender at large
- Jamie Berger, Pitt Cue, London
- Jim Meehan, PTD, New York
- Sean Muldoon & Jack McGarry, Dead Rabbit, New York
- Oisin Davis, Poachers Well, Ireland