Based up in the Pentland Hills South of Edinburgh is the Pentland Distillery, where King’s Hill Gin is made by founder Sandy. I recently caught up with him to learn more about this Scottish gin and it’s stunning new blue bottle.
*Full disclosure, my bottle of King’s Hill Gin was gifted in order to review it, all opinions remain my own*
King’s Hill Gin
The background to King’s Hill gin
Sandy, the founder of King’s Hill has a ‘day job’ in the oil and gas industry in Scotland. King’s Hill gin was a hobby of Sandy’s that ‘escalated’, he says it’s a lot more exciting than his real job! He was inspired to start a gin brand after visiting Edinburgh Gin distillery tour, where they were talking about lots of botanicals that grow local to Sandy in the Pentland Hills.
So Sandy bought a small still called Molly (1.5 litres) and started experimenting, which took a while as in his own words he didn’t really know what he was doing! Soon he was making a gin that he was sharing with friends and family for presents. Word got around and more people wanted to try it, so he decided to start the company and make larger batches. Sandy invested in a 200l still called Marion and King’s Hill Gin was up-scaled!
The history behind the King’s Hill name
Sandy was foraging for heather in the Pentland’s when first testing his gin. He marked it on the map and saw it was called King’s Hill, knowing there is usually a story behind these names he did a bit of research…. They found out that King’s Hill gin is named after a place that was part of a gamble between King Robert the Bruce and Sir William ‘The Crusader’ Sinclair. The story goes that King Robert and Sir William were in the area hunting a rare white stag. The King bet his Pentland estate against Sir William’s life that he would be first to capture this magnificent beast. However Sir William, with the help of his trusty dogs, won the bet. So in return, he named the spot where King Robert stood “King’s Hill”.
Drawing on this rich history; King’s Hill Gin has captured the essence of the area:
bold, beautiful and bloody marvellous!
Founded in 2017, King’s Hill Gin is the first spirit from The Pentland Still, which hints at more to come…
The inspiration behind the King’s Hill new blue bottle
During lockdown Sandy worked hard on a new bespoke bottle. The inspiration for the design came from wanting to connect better to the gin. So each of the elements of the stunning blue bottle is carefully considered:
- The blue colour represents the beautiful clear water of Glencorse reservoir right next to King’s Hill, which is used to make the gin
- The copper coin symbolises the copper still named Marion that the gin is made in
- The diamond cut effect gives the feeling of jewels and links back to the legend of King Robert the Bruce – which the King’s Hill is named after
Tasting King’s Hill Gin
And what about the contents? King’s Hill gin represents the land where it is made with locally foraged botanicals – including gorse flower, heather, rose hips and elderflower – as well as classic gin botanicals – juniper, coriander and orris root.
On the nose the gin is fresh with light juniper (nothing too piney or harsh here), a little citrus and something grassy. I also pick up on sweetness that comes from the floral botanicals. Sandy explained that the lighter more delicate botanicals are distilled using a vapour basket in the neck of the still, rather than going into the body of the still with the heavier botanicals. This means that they don’t get ‘cooked’ and retain their freshness and aromatic nature. The citrus notes on the nose come from lemongrass that goes into the vapour basket.
To taste you get the juniper and citrus, which leads to sweetness from the floral botanicals and a nice lingering aftertaste. The gin is smooth at 44% and doesn’t have a burn, it’s more ‘warming’. King’s Hill gin is a lighter contemporary style of gin and one to try if you don’t like traditional juniper heavy gins, or are just starting to explore the world of gin.
We also tried the gin with Mediterrean tonic and the tonic opens up more herbaceous notes and balances the gin into a very refreshing gin and tonic.
King’s Hill gin perfect serve
I enjoyed King’s Hill gin with FeverTree Mediterranean tonic and a slice of lemon. The lighter tonic works with the sweetness in the gin for a refreshing gin and tonic perfect for summer ?
As my friend Becky says its:
Refreshing like a shower over Scottish hills!
If you are looking for alternative serve, check out Sandy’s favourite cocktail:
King’s Hill Bramble Fizz Cocktail
This is a perfect way to serve the gin for Autumn / Winter, even better if you can forage some brambles or blackberries to make it with!
You will need:
- 50ml King’s Hill Gin
- 100ml Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic
- 25ml Lemon Juice
- 12.5ml Sugar Syrup
- 12.5ml Creme du Mure / Chambord (or other blackberry/blackcurrant gin liqueur)
Add the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup to a shaker with ice, shake up until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice (preferably crushed). Top up with tonic (my glasses aren’t big enough for 100ml exactly), leave some space at the top for extra ice and the Creme du Mure, which you drizzle over.
The fizz element just takes the edge off the tartness making it dangerously easy to drink, as Sandy mentions don’t have too many sitting down and then try to stand up quickly!
Future plans for King’s Hill gin:
Check out Sandy’s other product, an Amaretto and Rhubarb liqueur, created to use up the Rhubarb from his garden! He’s also made a seasonal Sloe Gin before, and a special Red Gooseberry gin for his own wedding and is contemplating a Navy Strength. Key for Sandy is making drinks that he likes himself. Sandy would love to do a Christmassy gin, as King’s Hill gin lends itself to extra spicing, but that will have to wait til next year now.
Also check out the new diamond pattern glass that matches the new bottle, Sandy will be adding gift packs that include these glasses to his website soon – a perfect gin gift for Christmas.