We’d arrived home at around 2pm on a cold November afternoon in 2014, and found ourselves sat agasp on the driveway. Something was wrong with the house!…
Having just arrived back from our Mexican Honeymoon adventure, after nearly 24hours of travelling, I had lost track of whether the bleary eyes were from the Margaritas or pure exhaustion. And as we sat there open mouthed and with straining eyes, playing the worlds most confusing game of ‘spot the difference’, it hit us.
THE FRONT DOOR’S GONE!
Well. It at least wasn’t our front door as we’d left it. Our once white (ok – aged, very off white…) entrance way was now a very definite dark blue!
After triple checking we were at the right address (tiredness is a funny thing!) we started to jump to ‘obvious’ conclusions. By the time we had finished our Columbo-esq deduction of the ‘clues’ we had convinced ourselves that not only had we been broken in to, but that said thieves had clearly broken the door on entry. Having reflected on the damage caused, the crooks had clearly found their conscience and decided that, despite robbing us blind, some DIY was in order… I like to imagine two burley blokes trundling off to B&Q, our TV and Microwave still in their boot, as they worked their way through colour charts & argued their respective cases for whether we’d prefer ‘Seabreeze Green’ or ‘Mellow Yellow’. And after 2-3 hours of debate, and numerous sample pots, they had landed on ‘Ocean Blue’. I imagine they gave each other a warm embrace on completion, hoping we’d appreciate their handy work on our return, as they drove off in to the sunset in my wife’s car…
We entered the house in trepidation. Only to find a note:
‘Front door looked a mess. So your Dad’s painted it. Love you. Mom x’.
Whilst our own DIY SOS anecdote may now be a source of entertainment at family gatherings, it does make for a nice segway in to my latest blog. Though I like to think that these guys were more aligned to the ‘Jungle Red’ portion of the colour chart…it’s time to open the door to Scotland’s latest gin offering; Red Door Gin.
Red Door gin was launched in July 2018 by the ‘Gordon & Mcphail’ family owned Benromach Distillery. And with over 120 years of whiskey making experience under their belts up in the Scottish Highlands, where they have been producing award winning single malt whiskey, it’s probably fair to say that the team have got their booze game on point. And having got whiskey pretty well nailed on, Red Door Gin marks a new chapter in the distillery’s proud history.
I first came across the gin at a tasting event at the Yorkshire gem ‘Blackerhall Farm Shop’, where I met Ben Bowers from ‘Gordon & Mcphail’. Gin sample firmly in hand, Bowers explained to me the painstaking work that has gone in to getting Red Door Gin over the line and on to market. He explains how it was the appointment of David King as Sales Director, previously of San Francisco’s ‘Anchor Steam’, that raised a very important question; ‘where’s the gin?!’. When met with shrugged shoulders, the team set about finding a remedy to that wrong.
Nice one Dave! (May I call you Dave?…).
And for me, that’s the key point of difference here. You see, where other whiskey/spirits companies may have created a gin out of necessity, so that the money could roll in whilst their other products age & mature, Red Door Gin is a labour of love from a company that didn’t ‘need’ to create a gin. They wanted to. And in doing so, they’ve applied distilling skills honed over many years to craft something quite special.
Despite being the ‘new kid on the block’ the Red Door name is causing quite an impressive stir in gin circles and receiving a lot of coverage across Social Media and big deal events – including being the tipple of choice at the recent London Fashion Week!
So what’s it all about then?
Having converted their old malt barn, hidden behind a set of imposing red sliding doors (see what they’ve done there?…), ‘Peggy’ now sits there creating a spirit befitting of the gins local Scottish landscape of mountains, forest and coastline.
Note to reader; this isn’t a hostage situation… ‘Peggy’ is a copper pot still, busily vapour-infusing the gins eight botanicals to the 45% ABV final nectar.
And taking a look at those locally-influenced botanicals a little closer up, there are some real points of difference to sit up and pay attention to; piney juniper (obviously), bitter orange, zesty coriander seed, lemon peel, angelica root, sea buckthorn, pearls of heather and rowanberries.
From stunning highlands scenery to the bottle itself. ‘And the award for best dressed goes to…’. First impressions are important. And with looks like these, it’s hardly surprising that the gin has been sauntering around on the catwalk! As I fished the parcel out of a sea of polystyrene peanuts I was greeted by a gorgeous stunning red and gold presentation box, proudly emblazoned with the Red Door name. Gold printed depictions of the aforementioned botanicals litter the boxes front and centre. And how do you gain access to the precious cargo? Well, through the sliding red door of course! A clever addition of personality and fun to the packaging (and soon to be drinking) experience.
Once you remove the bottle from its wrapping, which itself could quite easily be framed as a work of art, it really is a thing of beauty. A glowing red haze emanates from the glass in the sunlight, with the botanical prints flowing around the Red Door name. And whilst the stopper isn’t quite a hefty as I’d anticipated, it does make for a satisfying ‘pop’ on removing it from the neck that busily displays a red door and the Benromach name.
But as they say, the proof is in the drinking! And with taste buds suitably primed, it was time to open the door…well, bottle.
On the nose you get a big coriander herbal haze and bright zesty kick of lemon grass and lime, backed up by fresh cut grassy undertones and a light sea salt breeze. It is both bright and lively, with a slight sense of red fruits (think raspberries).
When tasted neat; wham! Those subtle red fruits on the nose are replaced by sharper kicks of dark cherries and black currants on the pallet, delivered in stunning effect by the sea buckthorn. Alongside the smokey and chocolatey flavours of the rowanberry, there’s almost a suggestion of black forest gateau! But it’s not overpowering or gimmicky in the slightest; just enough to peak the interest and make you go ‘oooh, that’s clever!’. The pearls of heather deliver a herbaceous freshness against the spiced and zesty warmth of the coriander. And that’s all balanced perfectly with the lemon and bitter orange, which work to deliver a citrus punch and sharpness that works so well against the earthier herbal tones. Over time, the bitter sweet tang is replaced by a delicious rooty and long lasting spicy warmth. There’s been a lot of debate recently about juniper and the importance of its presence in gin; fortunately, this has it in abundance with forest floor pine tones ebbing and flowing throughout the other botanicals.
When a dash of water is added, the smokey chocolate profile comes forward, and the juniper starts to really flex its muscles. The herbal elements remain an ever present, with our old pal coriander, but the citrus zest starts to become a little less apparent.
Starting things off in the best possible way, Red Door Gin makes for a banging G&T! I served the gin with Merchant Heart light tonic water and a garnish of orange peel and raspberries to play off those citrus and red fruit flavours.
I was also really trying to enhance those smokey coco elements, and I wasn’t disappointed. Simply delicious!
Something I’m always interested to understand is how well will a gin stand up to something a little more powerful. My personal favourite; the Negroni test. And I’m delighted to confirm that Red Door pass this test with flying colours (of red!).
The Red Door Negroni was smoother than normal, with a silky mouth feel. The smokey chocolate tones of the sea buckthorn lend them selves to that classic Negroni bitterness, with the bitter orange flavours complemented by the Campari & vermouth in equal measure. The red fruit hints of rowanberry bring a natural sweetness to the party and all combines to make this a very, very enjoyable drink. I went Antica Formula (my current vermouth of choice) for this bad boy, which worked a treat!
It’s safe to say that I really enjoyed Red Door Gin. It carries with it a level of class and sophistication that lets you know ‘hey, we know what we’re doing’ (you know…if a gin could talk). Despite hoping for good things, it exceeded all of my expectations. It’s big, bold and very clever!
I’m going to call this one now; I expect to see and hear a lot more about Red Door Gin in the near future, and anticipate a whole host of plaudits and awards coming their way. And they will all be very well deserved. Get in on the ground floor now while you can, and we can all look smug together soon!
Going forwards, Red Door are also going to be embracing the growing trend of gin tourism, allowing gin lovers the opportunity to peek behind the red door as part of a new visitor experience, telling the story of Red Door Gin and the secrets behind what makes it so very special.
And if those iconic red doors are ever in need of a new coat of paint, just give me a shout. I’m pretty sure my Dad’s still got a bit of ‘Ocean Blue’ left over in the shed…
Huge thanks to my friends at Red Door Gin for my complementary bottle! Be sure to follow the team to keep up to date with all their exciting news:
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!