Kirkjuvagr, Orkney Gin

Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin was created by husband and wife team Stephen and Aly Kemp. Orkney Distilling Limited was started in February last year and they developed their first product, Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin in the months following and released to the market in August 2016.

“Reflecting the boldness of our Norse ancestors, the clarity of our seas and the purity of our air, Kirkjuvagr is a hand-crafted Orkney gin for the modern, discerning gin enthusiast.”

Kirkjuvagr is pronounced {kirk-u-vaar}. It is the thousand year old Norse name for the Gin’s town of origin, Kirkwall and the name alone immediately connects you to the Orcadian way of life and the botanicals story below takes you even further into its 1000 year old history. The brand also immediately conjures up the Norse / Viking heritage and delivers a striking bottle to capture your imagination.

As with all gins there is an array of botanicals, but the key one for Kirkjuvagr is the calamondin. These little citrus fruits are intense once dried and offer a unique and vibrant citrus edge to the spirit that explodes the moment you add a twist of orange peel to your drink. Kirkjuvagr also contains Orcadian grown Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, Bere Barley, Aronia, Borage flower, and Angelica to name a few.

The Angelica was grown from seed overlooking Kirkwall Bay (The word  Kirkjuvagr literally means ‘Church in the Bay’, and so the growing location is very symbolic of the brand). The seed came from the village of Pierowall on the island of Westray.  Westray was a landing point for sailors coming from the North due to its position on Orkney’s North-Western periphery. For them to be able to use this within their distillation is fantastic, and offers an important connection to their 1000 year old Viking heritage.

So how does it taste? Well, that really is the important question and we must say that it went down very well indeed. It genuinely gave you a feel of the sea, with a refreshing and crisp feel about it.  Sherbert and lemons provided the sweetness and a touch of saltiness brought out the sea. We did try it with the recommended orange peel to bring out the calamondin fruit and it was great, but we also had a few with lemon peel and some thyme which was equally as refreshing.  Just use your imagination and who knows where it will take you!

Kirkjuvagr has set the bar for other gins to follow and we’ll certainly be looking out for it on our travels across Scotland.

Edinburgh Gin, Connoisseur Tour

What better way to start our Edinburgh visit but with a tour of the Edinburgh Gin Distillery.  Only five minutes walk from our apartment and nestled beneath the stairs at Rutland Place, the Edinburgh Gin Distillery visitor centre offered us a unique chance to discover the gin experience in a real working distillery.

A small-batch distiller and multi-award winner, Edinburgh Gin has been at the heart of the gin renaissance from Scotland’s capital. The tours available include the Gin Discovery, Gin Connoisseurs and the Gin Making Experience with prices starting from £10. We chose the Gin Connoisseur Tour largely as it ended with your very own tasting session in your own ‘Gin Haven’.

Lasting about an hour we had the pleasure of listening to Laura explain the history of gin from the traditional ‘jenever’ spirit through to it becoming popular in the UK when William of Orange, occupied the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones and finally all the way up to present day and the Gins that we now know and love.

Laura was great and really friendly and informative, even handling a few curve ball questions from the inquisitive guests. It would be unfair to retell her story, but it was fascinating and included the distillery process and a hands (and nose) on experience of the vast selection of botanicals, many Scottish, that make their way into the different types of Edinburgh Gin.

Edinburgh Gin recipes are inspired by Edinburgh’s gin-making heritage and surrounding landscape and Laura takes you through this history with great passion. The tour ended with our very own tasting experience in our gin haven? where we tried out the core range, namely Edinburgh Gin, Cannonball Edinburgh Gin and Seaside Edinburgh Gin.

With expert advice from Laura she tantalised our taste buds and shared with us the best way to serve, garnish and mix your gin with various flavoured and plain premium tonic waters. We also sampled a few of the liqueur ranges which went down equally well. Included in the visit (for both of us) was our own 20cl bottle of Edinburgh Gin – now, sadly, no longer with us!

This was easily one of our most favourite attractions and here it was in our very own capital City.  If you are gin lovers this is an absolute must visit attraction and if not you will be after your visit!

(Some pictures courtesy of Edinburgh Gin Distillery)

The Range

EDINBURGH GIN (43% ABV) – A juniper forward London Dry style gin, given a unique Scottish identity with its carefully balanced blend of 14 botanicals.

CANNONBALL EDINBURGH GIN (57% ABV) – Inspired by the famous One O’clock Gun, this navy strength libation has an intense flavour, defined by distinct juniper, citrus and szechuan pepper.

SEASIDE EDINBURGH GIN (43% ABV) – Distilled with foraged seaweed, scurvy grass and ground ivy from the Scottish coast, the unique gin boasts a sweet yet refreshing salinity.