I’ve been a long time fan boy of Red Door Gin. And when I say ‘fan boy’ I mean that I may as well have posters of them stuck up on my bedroom walls!
Ever since its release in the summer of 2018, Red Door Gin has been an ever present on my gin shelf. It makes a great G&T, but I’m going to level with you…I am all about the Negroni on this one! I fell for it hook, line and sinker. The smokey chocolate tones of the sea buckthorn and the sweet red fruit hints of rowanberry, both key botanicals of the gin, lend themselves to that classic Negroni bitterness, with the bitter orange flavours complemented by the Campari & vermouth in equal measure. It’s my ‘go to’ Negroni Club ‘Desert Island Negroni’ serve of choice – and if these bad boys were being served whilst stranded on a desert island then I assure you I’d be in no hurry to leave…If you’ve not tried it yet, you must; it’s a game changer!
For a brand that remains relatively young, Red Door have also demonstrated a clear and admirable statement of intent for their own longevity. The launch of their Winter Botanicals edition at the back end of 2019 was a welcome addition to the lineup (and Negroni glass!). And last years unveiling of their Highlands visitors centre, where gin enthusiasts can get a glimpse of the magic that goes on behind those iconic red doors, is helping to build lasting relationships through elevating the drinking experience.
Note to reader: I was kindly gifted both a bottle of the Red Door flagship gin and the teams Winter Botanicals edition, to support the respective reviews I wrote for each. You can check out the write ups here for further information;
And so, in support of International Scottish Gin Day 2020, you can only imagine my excitement of having the opportunity to have a socially distanced Q&A with my northern heroes! With my autograph book at the ready, it was time to put the team through their paces to learn a little more about how & why Red Door Gin came to be, what goes on behind those infamous red doors, and a little insight in to what the future may hold for the brand. Join me for a chat with the team whose doors are always open… (well. Not ‘always’. That’d be wreck-less, not to mention chilly in the Scottish climate. It was an attempted metaphor for their honesty and sincerity in the interview and a clever play on the brand name. Oh, you know what I mean…).
The Gin Shelf (TGS): When did you decide that you wanted to make a gin? And when did you officially launch?
Red Door Gin (RDG): We decided to start making gin in the spring of 2018 and wanted to capture the spirit of Scotland’s majestic mountains, forests and coastal fringes in a deliciously distinctive, small-batch Highland gin.
TGS: What’s in the name?; can you tell us some more about the infamous ‘Red Door’ that the gin is named after?
RDG: We’ve been handcrafting spirits here in the Scottish Highlands for over 120 years, with meticulous attention to detail and quality. Named after our distillery’s distinctive red doors, Red Door Gin marks a new chapter in our distillery’s long and proud history and the feedback from customers – new and existing – has been amazing.
TGS: What goes in to Red Door gin? And how did you decide on the botanical mix that you wanted to target?
RDG: Our flavour team put a lot of thought into the botanical mix and the end result is focused on full-bodied flavour. Red Door Gin balances five core gin botanicals with deliciously distinctive flavours inspired by the local landscape.
Our five, classic gin botanicals (juniper berries, lemon peel, bitter orange peel, coriander seed and angelica root) create a base with a complex palate and a lusciously long finish.
Add to that our three locally-inspired botanical (heather, common on Scottish hillsides, rowan berries, found in local wooded areas, and sea buckthorn, growing wild in Scotland’s coastal areas) and you have Red Door Gin!
TGS: How many attempts did it take to get the recipe ‘just right’?
RDG: We had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve but it definitely took a few attempts – and a few long shifts! – to create the perfect recipe. The sixth attempt resulted in exactly what we were looking for and it’s still the recipe used in our Red Door Highland Gin.
TGS: Where is Red Door Gin made/based & can you tell us some more about the team/distiller behind it?
RDG: Red Door Gin is part of Benromach distillery in Forres. Every delicious drop of Red Door Gin is crafted in our handmade copper pot still, Peggy, by our team headed by master distiller, Keith Cruickshank and flavour expert, Lizzie Haw.
Using a special vapour infusion distillation method, Peggy steams the neutral base spirit through our basket of botanicals for a more delicate, delectable gin. The slow nature of the vapour infusion ensures that the individual characteristics of our botanicals are not lost during distillation, resulting in a beautifully balanced gin.
Affectionately named after Peggy Urquhart, wife of George Urquhart from the second generation of the family owners of Gordon and MacPhail, Peggy is our pride and joy here at Red Door Gin.
TGS: You added the Winter Botanicals expression to your range last year. What was it that appealed to you about that particular flavour profile as the next addition to the Red Door family?
RDG: Our limited-edition Red Door Gin with Winter Botanicals combines festive flavours like allspice and sultanas with the signature notes from our classic gin, such as sea buckthorn.
From warm citrus notes to the richness of Christmas cake, our winter botanicals have been carefully selected and harmonised to capture flavours and aromas reminiscent of winter.
It’s perfect as a winter G&T garnished with a slice of blood orange, or as the base to a deliciously, spicy aromatic punch. It’s available again from reddoorgin.com for anyone who wants to try it as we head into the colder winter months.
TGS: How do you drink your Red Door Gin? And would you go as far as to say that there is a ‘perfect serve’? (it’s at this point that I have to admit to being a HUGE advocate of the Red Door gin Negroni! Ask anyone – it’s my ‘go to’ cocktail!)
RDG: Red Door Gin makes a perfect G&T, and we especially love a garnish of raspberries or pink grapefruit to bring out the flavour notes. For the winter gin, a little secret we can let you in on is that it’s incredible with an ‘aromatic’ style tonic and a slice of orange. Highly recommended!
We love Red Door Gin in cocktails too. A negroni is perfect for Red Door and for other ideas have a look at our seasonal serves at https://reddoorgin.com/seasonal/.
TGS: You opened your visitors centre back in 2019. How important is the idea of meeting the customer face to face & supporting gin tourism for Red Door? And what can visitors expect to see behind the red doors when visiting?
RDG: We’re really proud of our visitor centre for Red Door Gin at Benromach Distillery – in fact it’s the region’s first single site whisky and gin visitor attraction.
The attraction gives gin fans the chance learn the story of Red Door Gin, from the history of the distillery to the secrets of how the distillers create each handcrafted batch of Highland gin. It’s a one hour tour that brings the distillation process to life while introducing guests to “Peggy” – the small copper pot still where every batch of Red Door Gin is carefully handmade by the on-site team. After learning about botanicals and distillation, visitors can make their way to the Red Door Gin bar to sample the perfect Red Door G&T or signature cocktail.
TGS: What has been your biggest challenge in making the gin? Or are we living in it right now with the impact of Corona Virus?
RDG: We’re definitely all living through a challenging time at the moment but business is going well. We’re still producing plenty of spirit, but are missing seeing customers in person at our visitor experience. The team are all looking forward to things returning to normal, whenever that may be!
TGS: What’s next for Red Door Gin? And are there further plans to expand on the portfolio?
RDG: Watch this space! We’re always looking at new flavour ideas and although there’s nothing to officially announce at this time our team are working away behind the scenes. You’ll be one of the first to know when anything new is announced.
Thanks guys! Have a great International Scottish Gin Day – I’ll be raising a Negroni in your honour!
In closing, I remain steadfast in the opinions I expressed in my 2018 review of the teams flagship launch, that I expect to see and hear a lot more about Red Door Gin going forwards, and anticipate a whole host of plaudits and awards coming their way.
Huge thanks to my friends at Red Door Gin for my previously gifted bottles & for their time for the interview! Be sure to follow the team to keep up to date with all their exciting news:
This Q&A is also brought to you in recognition and celebration of International Scottish Gin Day 2020! Hitting your calendars on 24th October this year, the team at ‘The Gin Cooperative’ (www.thegincooperative.com) are doing an incredible job on the events second annual outing! Make sure you’re following the team to keep up with all of the latest in the build up to the big day:
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!