Secret Herb Garden's Wild Gin 'has a flavour profile that's unlike any other gin because of the wild botanicals'

This article is from 2019

Secret Herb Garden's Wild Gin 'has a flavour profile that's unlike any other gin because of the wild botanicals'

credit: Neil Jarvie

Head along to environmental show Below the Blanket at the Botanic Gardens and you'll be treated to a sample of the new tipple from the Edinburgh distillery

Running throughout this year's Edinburgh Festival season, Below the Blanket is a new project being held at the Royal Botanic Garden, which looks at environmental concerns surrounding Scotland's Flow Country, a large area of peatbog wilderness in Caithness and Sutherland. The event takes the form of a series of artworks curated by the Glasgow-based art and performance company Cryptic, which are on display at the Botanics.

At the same time, anyone heading to Below the Blanket will also be able to sample the new 'Wild' gin from the Secret Herb Garden's Old Curiosity gin distillery. A collaboration with RSPB Scotland, and with 20 percent of the gin's profits going to the charity, this line won't be released into shops until September.

The Secret Herb Garden itself is just outside Edinburgh, at the foot of the Pentland hills, but its ethos is very much in line with that of Below the Blanket's attention-raising aim concerning Flow Country. 'We've got our own herb garden where we make gin from our own botanicals, which we hand-harvest and distill,' explains Hamish Martin, director of the Secret Herb Garden. 'It's a seven-and-a-half acre site with no chemicals used whatsoever. My whole ethos of gardening, of working with nature, is about inviting the wild into your life.'

'We have big swathes of wild patches where we try to bring wildlife into the garden,' he continues. 'We run courses for kids, we have the RSPB here, the Woodland Trust. What we try to do here is let people enjoy the magic of nature, with no swings, no roundabouts, no slides, but lots of free areas where kids can run about. The idea is that you come here and watch the bees or listen to the birds – just whatever it takes to give you a chance to connect with nature.'

The gin created for the RSPB, says Martin, is unique precisely because of the blend of plants grown at the Secret Herb Garden, a combination that can't easily be found elsewhere. 'One of the lead botanicals is bog myrtle, which grows in abundance in the Flow Country, and which we grow here as a commercial plant,' he says. 'This gin also has the leaves of dwarf birch, which is very rare, and sweet cicely, basil and yarrow. It's got a whole host of what people might consider weeds, but actually they're plants. What we do is grow wild plants like yarrow and bog myrtle as a crop, so this has a flavour profile that's unlike any other gin, because of the wild botanicals.'

Martin is pleased that this collaboration will also draw attention 'to the environment of the precious peatlands, and how they have to be treated with respect,' he says. 'I want to highlight this idea of allowing wildness and nature into your life; it doesn't matter if you only have a flower box on your windowsill, leave a little bit blank and see what plants come to you. It's about trying to raise awareness of how precious nature is and how we need to be in balance with that. It's like a good friendship or a loving relationship – when you take something out you've got to put something back.'

Below the Blanket, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, until 25 Aug, timed entry slots between 7pm and 9pm, £14 (£8).

Below the Blanket

Cryptic presents Below the Blanket***, a series of new artworks installed throughout the * Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and inspired by one of Scotland’s most extraordinary and unsung natural features. The Flow Country is the world’s largest blanket bog, a vast mass of peat and Sphagnum moss, shot through with hundreds…