Now I don’t have a strict mantra that I live my life by. But, and call me old fashioned here, the rule of ‘never drink an unknown liquid from an unmarked glass bottle found at the back of the kitchen cupboard’ has served me well thus far…
But then again, they do say that some rules are meant to be broken…
If you’ve been fortunate enough to dodge me chewing your ear off about the extensive house renovations we’ve lived through this year (a minor miracle and congratulations to you), you may not know that we moved out of the family home for a 5 month stint of building works. With the timeline unexpectedly slipping (or expectedly slipping, depending on how much experience you have in these matters) we hit ‘worst case scenario’ when, a couple of months in to the project, I ran out of the gin supplies that I had stashed at my in-laws where we were staying!
To be more precise perhaps, I was down to a small box of gin miniatures that I’d grabbed during a hasty exit and not revisited in sometime. I peered inquisitively in to the trove of treasures, unsure of what I may uncover. And after rifling for a few seconds, was greeted by an unexpected sight; a 50ml sample bottle, devoid of any labelling except for a small handwritten sticker marked ‘Clydesdale’…
There was a real vibe of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to the whole situation – and not least because I was wearing a little blue dress and knee high white stockings. In fact, the only thing missing from the little vessel was a label instructing ‘Drink Me’. But fear not dear reader, this wasn’t my first rodeo, and such guidance was not needed here. Though to be fair, given the gravity of the situation, it may as well have said ‘break glass in case of emergency’!
Throwing caution to the wind, I removed the small stopper and poured.
I didn’t know it yet, but the potion I was about to taste wouldn’t cause me to shrink like Alice. But it would ironically introduce me to a distillery that are small in name, but big in heart. Welcome to The Wee Farm Distillery, where a warm welcome awaits…
Old McKerr had a (Wee) Farm (Distillery)
Nestled away on the McKerr family’s small livestock farm, in the Scottish village of Climpy, The Wee Farm Distillery was established in March 2018 and is the first micro distillery in South Lanarkshire.
This is a one woman operation, run by the enigmatic whirlwind that is Jenny McKerr, along with her husband and three daughters.
Now, most farms are known for filling bottles with milk. But ‘Old Mc’Kerr’ opts to fill her bottles with something a little stronger, more juniper led and certainly not semi-skimmed! All of the gins are distilled by Jenny and her good mate Morag – though that’s ‘Morag II’ to you and I, the teams copper still responsible for double distilling a host of traditional botanicals with a native twist. All batches of Wee Farm spirits are then bottled and labelled on the farm for their onward journey.
Clydesdale Gin; ‘Hello, I’m late!’
Returning to the aforementioned anonymously labelled bottle, it took me a while to wrack my brains as to where the sample had came from…until I remembered it being kindly gifted by an enthusiastic Jenny at the Scottish Gin Awards 2019!
As time had passed, the unassuming mini had made its way behind larger bottles in the cupboard and evaded my eye-line. And so then, with an 18 months unintentional hiatus (sorry Jenny!), it seemed I had some catching up to do with the teams ‘Clydesdale Gin’ then…
Featuring a unique botanical blend, including garden grown rhubarb and apples, Clydesdale Gin is distilled in a local collaboration to celebrate the working Clydesdale Horse and long-standing tradition of fruit growing in the Clyde Valley.
On the nose I made an audible ‘wow’ as a deliciously perfumed fragrance of spring orchard fruits rushed from the bottle! There is an instant hit of apple blossom and freshly sliced pear that greets you on first inspection. There is a suggestion of lemon sharpness alongside the sweetness of stewed rhubarb. The juniper is delicate and not overly pronounced, but a whisper of pine follows on the back notes. It’s a very strong start!
To taste, and the neat spirit is initially quite floral. I get lavender and violet characters across the palate, that linger on the back of the throat. Cooked apples ooze from the liquid, with an almost mellow honey like sweetness. There’s slightly more herbaceousness to the taste than I’d anticipated, with a kick of coriander warmth, but not in an overwhelming way.
And let me tell you, this makes for a stunningly good G&T! Again, an audible wow was uttered. The light tonic allows more of those freshly sliced apples and pears to burst forwards, with a crunch of sweet rhubarb and kiss of watermelon like freshness. It’s crisp, refreshing and perfect for the spring weather!
The Wee Farm Distillery; Rounding up the herd
As previously mentioned, I wouldn’t usually advise drinking liquids from unmarked bottles. But when the contents is this delicious I make an exception…
In fact, the whole experience left me determined to learn more about this tartan team and their distillery! And with International Scottish Gin Day 2021 landing on October 2nd, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with some of the wider range.
When a special package arrived on my doorstep, addressed to ‘The Awesome Mr Matt Burton’ (a title I could very easily get used to), it’s safe to say that I was very ‘flocking’ excited!’. I mean ‘hay’, the ‘shear’ joy was hard to mask, and difficult to keep ‘kooped’ up. Sorry, I’ll stop ‘milking’ the poorly disguised farm based puns now. I was going to avoid seeking these cheap laughs, but it seems that ‘horse’ has already bolted. (Sorry).
Jenny had generous packaged up a lineup of farm produced bottles of liquid that would make the milkman blush. This harvest not only yielded a much larger bottle of the Clydesdale Gin, though this time fully labelled up and sporting a similar Wonderland labelled pleasantry, but two of its stable mates; the team’s flagship ‘Drovers Gin’ and the strong as an Ox Navy expression ‘Farmers Strength’.
Like the tractor that turned in to a field, this felt magical!
I was pulling on my metaphorical welly boots; it was time to ei-ei-o my way to the tasting.
Drovers Gin; Good Honest Scottish Gin
A passion for Scottish culture and farming traditions sit at the core of The Wee Farm Distillery ethos and raison d’etre.
This is perhaps most evident in the very first product that Jenny and the team launched, in their ‘Drovers Gin’, which “celebrates Scotland’s rich agricultural heritage and pays respect to the values, traditions and spirits of farmers who continue to put food on our table every day”.
Featuring 13 botanicals that combine to provide a careful balance of citrus, thistles, heather, pink peppercorns and allspice, the gin aims to celebrate provenance of the Scottish landscape as well as being “the perfect gin to compliment a good Scotch steak”.
I was even lucky enough to receive a bottle of the Drovers Gin ‘Artists Edition’, which has been beautifully packaged as part of a collaboration with local Ayrshire artist Jan Laird. The artwork, quite literally as pretty as a picture, aims to capture “oor Drovers Gin coo”.
Now I had no idea what that meant at first, and contemplated whether it was perhaps of celtic language origin…until I adopted my best Billy Connelly accent and realised it was ‘our Drovers Gin cow’. And no, I won’t do the accent in person!
It’s a collaboration that has extended across other labels in the range, notably the Clydesdale Gin which features another Laird masterpiece of the Clydesdale horse ‘West Forth Solo’.
It was time to paint myself in to the picture, only I’d be holding a tasting glass and an artistically licensed chiselled chin…it was time to see if the Drovers Gin was as pleasing on the taste as it was on the eye.
Drovers Gin to taste
On the nose, I instantly pick out the huge hum of sweetly spiced pink peppercorn and a resinous piney hit of juniper. There’s a feel of the aromatics coming from the allspice, balanced by a chamomile and vanilla style mellowness.
On the back notes, there is a low level pithy citrus hue, suggestive of pink grapefruit and lemon peels. The citrus is also elevated as a clever result of the traits of the zippy herbal elements, like our old friend coriander.
To taste, and there is a much brighter pinch of grapefruit-esq citrus on the palate, whilst the juniper remains pleasingly bold and robust.
The allspice brings an earthy and warming level of spice, with an elevated sweetness of liquorice and cassia across the palate. The pink peppercorns, already large on the aroma, really pop on the palate.
The flavour profile provides a much greener sense of the Scottish hedgerow, with the thistles and heather bringing a lush and vibrant uniqueness and an exciting point of difference.
Farmers Strength Gin; Feeling bullish
Taking the Drovers Gin as a base to work from (and what a base to work from!), the Navy expression amps up the flagships ABV to a meaty 57%.
Farming is a tough profession, and not for the feint hearted; and neither is The Wee Farm Distilleries aptly named ‘Farmers Strength’ gin. Where the Scottish landscape can sometimes leave you battling against the elements, beautifully depicted in the ‘calm of the storm’ oil painting style label (painted by Strathaven based artist, Anne Anderson) I can think of no better way to ‘get your strength up’.
Jenny goes on to explain that the gin “celebrates the spirit and resilience of the men and women farmers who contribute to Scotland’s world class food and drink industry. It’s the perfect dram after a good days graft. Slainte!”.
Farmers Strength Gin to taste
On the nose, and it’s much the same story as the Drovers – which is to be expected, based on it being the same recipe at a higher ABV.
What I do find slightly surprising is that, despite the weightier ABV, the neat vapours are not aggressive or noticeably ’boozier’.
Whilst the key flavour notes are retained, with pink peppercorn, juniper and delicate greenery remaining most prominent, the spirit remains remarkably creamy, carrying an elevated depth of flavour.
On the tasting, and there’s an impressive amped up level of concentration from the original Drovers experience. The juniper grows in power, strutting with a confidence and resinous swagger, whilst the allspice and pink peppercorns flex their muscles.
Whilst the characteristics I enjoyed from the Drovers are retained, a key point of difference that brings a smile to this particular bloggers face is that the citrus becomes brighter and more vivid. The gin is rounded and ridiculously well balanced. The herbaceous and leafy finish of the Scottish hedgerow adds to the enjoyable longevity, whilst the gin never threatens to wobble from the tightrope of sublime flavour in to unbridled power.
The Wee Farm Distillery Martini
Sure the Drovers as a Martini is good. No, in fact it’s very good.
The sweet, warming spice of the aromatics and pink peppercorn work beautifully well with the citrus and stone fruits of the Sacred Amber vermouth.
But then there’s the Farmers Strength Martini. Let’s take a moment for the Farmers Strength Martini…the classic sensibilities of the gin and heightened ABV are made for this serve!
Bullish and robust, the power of the oily juniper, balance of sweet warming spice and bright citrus zip works exquisitely in the classic cocktail.
But for a Martini with a delicious point of difference, look no further than the Clydesdale. Sharp, crisp apples provide a fresh fruit vibe, lifted to loftier heights by the citrus elements. It almost seems to transcend the barriers of gin, deliciously straying in to an almost apple brandy territory.
Whilst the G&T is incredible, the short serve is superb – it all but elicits a giggle. And I do not giggle lightly!
The Wee Farm Distillery Negroni
The Drovers gin is made for the Negroni. The pink peppercorn, aromatic allspice and leafy herbaceousness of the thistles & heather work brilliantly well in amongst the wash of the bright cherries of the vermouth and bitterness of the Campari.
And in living up to its bolstered size, the bigger brother of the Farmers Strength takes the Drovers tasting notes and ups the ante.
It’s the kind of cocktail that is designed to be enjoyed by a roaring fire after a hard day of ploughing and milking…or sat in front of an electric heater after a tough day of paper pushing. Depending on your profession, either will work!
Once again, bringing all the charm and character of the cheeky chap at the back of the class, is the Clydesdale. I didn’t expect this to work as a Negroni. I had all but written off the fruited profile, prior to sampling, as being too delicate for the stronger bed partners. How wrong I was!
The fresh apple and floral characteristics work expertly alongside the bright red fruit flavour notes of the vermouth, and have enough power to more than hold their own against the bitters. Fresh, ripe and full of fruit notes, this was a surprise package that I couldn’t have been happier to be proven wrong by. Brilliant.
The Wee Farm Distillery; A big future
Whilst The Wee Farm Distillery may be ‘small’ in name, they a big in passion, ambition and innovation.
With a core gin lineup that stands true to the classic ethos of gin making, with a playful charm and points of difference that make them uniquely Scottish, it is a hallmark of quality that is receiving well deserved recognition.
All three gins have recently been announced as finalists in their respective categories for the Scottish Gin Awards 2021 and I can’t wait to see how they fare when the winners are announced imminently.
And whilst it may have been understandable to stop at such an impressive trio, Jenny has gone on to become the proud producer of a range that boasts true depth and breadth, with a Moonshine-Apple Brandy and over 30 fruit infused liqueurs to now choose from!
Furthermore, and perhaps most impressive of all, are the steps taken that I feel will truly ensure the longevity of the brand and build genuinely lasting relationships with those who visit the farm and experience the gin.
Firstly is the creation of The Wee Farm Distilleries on site farm shop ‘Steak & Still’, which is helping to diversify the brands offering.
Having opened its doors earlier this year (2021), customers will be able to get their hands on a selection of home and natively reared meats, Scottish craft gins, hampers & gifts, specialist food & drinks as well as explore tasting events, distillery tours and farm experiences.
It really is a perfect example of bringing the magic alive for the end consumer.
Furthermore, for those who want to extend their stay (or simply can’t leave after consuming the fruits of Jenny’s labours), punters can now enjoy a luxury gin inspired staycation at the Wee Farm self catering cottage ‘The Distillers Cottage’.
Able to sleep 6, with a wood burning stove for the cold winters & a private hot tub area, this really is the crown jewel to the teams armoury that will no doubt attract visitors to keep the calendar full all year round.
Head to Holiday Cottages to check for availability and secure your booking;
Something tells me this Wee outfit has a big future.
Huge thanks to Jenny McKerr for my complementary bottles of The Wee Farm Distillery Clydesdale, Drovers & Farmers Strength gins.
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This blog is also brought to you in recognition and celebration of International Scottish Gin Day 2021! Hitting your calendars on 2nd October this year, the team at ‘The Gin Cooperative’ (www.thegincooperative.com) are doing an incredible job of setting up the events third 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:
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