Those of you who follow me I know that I have a passion for travel as well as gin. So the idea of visiting Peebles Hydro Hotel combined with a gin tasting and tour, and even the experience of making your own gin, is the best thing ever! Read on to find out more about what to expect at Peebles and 1881 Distillery, as well as a chance to win an overnight gin school experience for two via Instagram.
*Full disclosure I’m an official supporter of International Scottish Gin Day and my bottle of Subtly Smoked gin was gifted, along with the competition prize*
Visit 1881 Gin Distillery at Peebles Hydro Hotel
Peebles Hydropathic Hotel aka Peebles Hydro
Situated South of Edinburgh in Peebles, the Hydropathic hotel or ‘hydro’ is where 1881 Gin Distillery is based. The hotel was built in 1881, hence the name for the distillery. The hotel was set high above the town and offered therapeutic treatments – the source of which was Peeble Hydro’s very own spring – Shieldgreen.
Nowadays they say they turn the water from the spring into gin!
The inspiration for the 1881 distillery started brewing since 2010 when Peebles Hydro opened it’s Gin Palace bar stocking 90+ gins. The distillery was created in 2019 and at the time of writing has been closed for COVID longer than it’s been open. It’s the perfect place for gin weekend – come and do a tour and tasting or make your own gin, stay at the hotel and sleep it off before driving home the next day!
1881 Hydro Gin Distillery & Gin School
They are rightly very proud of their Gin School at the 1881 distillery. Just look at all that copper!The Gin School allows up to 26 people to make their own individual gin (currently limited to less due to COVID restrictions). This is a full on distilling experience as you have your own mini still and are guided through the botanical selection by the team.
There are four shelves of botanicals around the room, so no trekking across it (but also plenty of social distance). Here’s a sample of what you might find:All the gins start off with juniper, coriander and angelica, and then you are free to make your own flavours: go floral, fruity, citrus, spiced, it’s up to you! Once you have decided your recipe, it all goes in the alcohol water mix in the still, which heats up and distills into gin. Just like magic! When the distillation is complete, it’s then mixed with the spring water to bring to a drinkable level (the gin usually comes off the still at c80%!) and you’ll have your own bottle to take away and enjoy.
The experiences available at 1881 Distillery include tasting of their own gins, as well as finding out about the 1881 distillation process and history.
Tasting 1881 gin:
I first tried the 1881 gin range at the Gin to My Tonic Show in Glasgow [tickets were gifted by the organisers] and I was so impressed with their Navy strength that I bought a 200ml sample bottle to take home (it just fit in my luggage!) On my recent Instagram live we dove into tasting two of their gins in detail, but below I’ve added general tasting notes for all their expressions.
1881 London Dry Hydro gin
1881 gin uses 12 botanicals, many of which are grown locally in their own botanical gardens, including the obligatory juniper, hawthorn, birch, douglas fir needles & citrus. The gin is then blended with the water from the spring in the hills behind the Hyrdo. Carefully balancing the fir and birch with the juniper and citrus leads to a refreshing gin that reminds you of a walk in the local forest. Smooth on the palate this gin is best served simply with a regular tonic and lighter grapefruit as the garnish.
1881 Pavilion Pink Hydro Gin
The 1881 Pavilion Pink gin is a nod to the Hydro’s past hosting tennis tournaments – they even had more courts than Wimbledon in the 1920’s! Along with red berries (think raspberries and strawberries) in the distillation, they also use hibiscus for the colour, which adds a floral element.
1881 Subtly Smoked gin
The Subtly Smoked gin is something a bit different…. This gin was inspired by the history of the hotel, which burnt down in 1905 (to be rebuilt using reclaimed materials & costing a lot less!). And so the idea to have a smoked gin came about as a nod to this period of history. I asked distiller Dean how they do this and he gave away the secret – they used smoked water to create the very subtle smoky flavour.Whilst you can serve this gin with tonic and a wedge of lime, it really works with ginger ale (chilli is optional!). The spice from the ginger ale works so well with the smoky notes and they complement each other without overpowering either flavour. The Subtle in the name really is key here. It’s not a massive punch of flavour, but it works so well. I want to drink this with salted smoked almonds on the side, or other salty snacks.
1881 Navy strength gin
As I mentioned before, I was very impressed trying the 1881 Navy strength for the first time in Glasgow. Using the same botanicals as the London Dry, the concentration at 57% shows off a different side to the flavours. You get a lovely smooth mouthfeel despite the alcohol %, and it finishes with some lovely warm spicy notes coming from the grains of paradise and cassia (from the same family as cinnamon). A little dilution helps to open up the citrus and juniper notes further – a really tasty gin!
1881 gin cocktail recipes
So for my Instagram Live we focused on two of the more unusual gins in the range and created some cocktails to highlight their flavours:
1881 Subtly Smoked Spanish Martini
This is a twist on a regular martini as I’ve used sherry instead of vermouth. I first tried this with a dry Fino sherry and it didn’t quite work. Luckily distiller Dean had a better idea to use Manzanilla sherry and the extra depth works really well.
- 70ml 1881 Subtly Smoked Gin
- 10ml Manzanilla sherry
1881 Navy Negroni
The Navy strength gin holds it’s own in the flavour stakes, so can take a bold and bitter cocktail like the negroni. Here I’ve gone for equal parts as the flavours shine through fine without tweaking.
- 25 ml 1881 Navy strength gin
- 25 ml Campari
- 25 ml Asterley Brothers Estate vermouth (or other sweet red vermouth)
1881 distillery gin tours & experiences
The distillery offers a selection of tours and experiences to suit everyone:
1881 Gin Discovery tour
The discovery tour starts with a gin and tonic (naturally!) and covers the history of the Hydro, before you are introduced to Felicity and the distillation process at 1881 distillery. After that you’ll get 4 tasters of 1881 gin and even better, a 20cl bottle of 1881 London Dry classic gin to take away and a 10% discount in the shop.
1881 Gin Distiller Experience aka ‘Gin School’
- 2 hour experience – with a gin and tonic in hand you’ll make your own gin at the 1881 gin school and take away a 50cl bottle £65 per person including a 10% discount in the shop
- 3 hour experience – as above except you’ll have the full tasting, snacks to keep you sober and you get to take away a 70cl bottle of your own gin £95 per person
- Overnight package – you’ll do the 3 hour gin school, have an overnight stay in a double or twin room, use of the leisure facilities at the hotel, £25 per adult to spend at the restaurant and a hearty Scottish breakfast the next day – prices start from £120 per person (depending on the room)
WIN AN 1881 GIN DISTILLERY OVERNIGHT GIN SCHOOL EXPERIENCE!
To enter the competition to win an overnight gin school experience for 2, head to this post on my Instagram and comment on who would be your plus one! Full terms and conditions are in the IGTV post caption – good luck!