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Review

Darnley's View Gin

Distillery

William Wemyss of Wemyss Malts Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland (produced by Thames Distillers Ltd, London, England), UK. Imported to the USA by Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York.

Website

Darnley’s View and Domaine Select Wine Estates.

History

The Wemyss family (pronounced “Weems” or “Weemz”) are bastions of Scottish heritage. They have lived in Wemyss Castle, which sits upon a small cliffside on the Firth of Forth (across the bay from Edinburgh), for over 600-years. The Gaelic origin of their name refers to the castles location on a rocky outcrop and translates as “Caves”. Interestingly, back in the early 1800’s John Haig (founder of the well-known Haig’s Whiskey) built his first Distillery on land leased from the Wemyss family.  

Currently owning vineyards in France and Australia, the family decided to establish Wemyss Malts Ltd in 2005. Their aim is to build a Whiskey portfolio of distinction, which they have seemingly achieved, given the many industry awards already attained. In 2013 they announced the building of Kingsbarns Distillery, a new single Malt facility and visitor centre in East Fife (near the famous St. Andrews Golf Course), with a view for completion in 2014.

In the late spring of 2010 they launched Darnley’s View, their first Gin. This has followed in the footsteps of their Whiskey, gaining a handful of awards in a short time. The Gin was launched in the USA (initially New York and New Jersey) in mid 2011.

Production

Distilled four times from neutral grain spirit before being distilled with the botanicals a fifth time using a copper pot still. Current production levels are around 12,000 bottles per annum.

Presented in a tall clear cylindrical bottle it tapers up from the bottom to leave broad rounded shoulders. The large white label has black colored writing with several touches of red, including a red logo at the top, front and center.

Category

London Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

40% (80 Proof).

Price Range

$$$. Available online, try: Linwood Wine & Liquor, Drink Up NY, Hi-Time Wine Cellars or K&L Wines.

Botanicals

The 6 botanicals used include: angelica root (France), coriander seed (Morocco), elderflower (from the Wemyss family estate), juniper berries (Southern Europe), lemon peel (Spain) and orris root (Western Europe).

Name

According to history on 17th February 1565 Mary Queen of Scots was at Wemyys Castle and through a courtyard window saw Lord Darnley, who was to become her future 2nd husband. They married 29th July 1565 and had a son who was to become King James VI of Scotland and later, combining both the thrones of Scotland and England, King James I. From such a seemingly insignificant moment, naming the Gin “Darnley’s View” brings a personal family story into the perspective of great historical significance.

This romantic story should finish with “…and they all lived happily ever after”. Unfortunately Lord Darnley had a drink problem and was violent with it. This led to bouts of paranoia; including the belief his wife was having an affair with her Private Secretary, David Rizzio. In a frenzy of jealousy he violently killed Rizzio in front of his then pregnant wife at their palace, Holyroodhouse, on 9th March 1566.

It is thought their relationship all but dissolved following this horrific event and on 10th February 1567, just 2-years after Mary had first met Darnley, Kirk o’Field  (the Kings residence, next to Holyroodhouse) was blown up with gunpowder and the strangled bodies of Lord Darnley and one of his servants were found in the garden. There are numerous theories as to the identity of the assassin(s). The most notable suggestion being Mary arranged for the Earl of Bothwell to kill him, perhaps further fuelled by the fact she married Bothwell 3 months later – Bothwell having been tried and acquitted of Darnley’s murder prior to this.

This marriage proved unpopular and just 2-months later Mary was forced to abdicate (in favor of her 1-year old son) by the Scottish nobility and fled to England seeking the protection of her Protestant cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately she had previously laid claim to the English throne (a bid supported by many English Catholics) and was imprisoned instead. Mary spent over 18 years in English custody before a plot to take the English throne was uncovered and resulted in her execution for treason. Unfortunately the beheading was not a “clean” execution and it took 2 swings with an axe before a saw was used to sever the final sinews to remove the head!

Tasting Notes

On the nose is light juniper and faint floral (elderflower) notes. On the palate this smooth light bodied soft and slightly sweet spirit has crisp citrus (lemon) and elderflower flavors with juniper and spice (coriander). The close is floral and citrus (lemon) with a long simple dry and warm (not too peppery) finish where the angelica and orris root can be found. This is a superbly balanced easy Gin that manages to feel complex.

In a Gin & Tonic the juniper is more apparent than expected and smoothly refreshing with the floral sweetness and crisp citrus (lemon) - Fevertree seems to work particularly well. With regard to garnish a slice of lemon may be too much but lime seems perfect, however, try a slice of orange to give a slightly different overall taste. A Martini has a similar flavor profile with the floral aspects mixing well with the Vermouth to provide a highly recommended drink. It makes a very good Aviation with evident juniper whilst the floral aspects of the elderflower and the crème de violette blend together nicely. It also provides a good base for fruit style Gin cocktails like a Tom Collins.

While this is a London Dry Gin it does not have the “bite” of a classic one. These aspects are there but it is softer and more floral (due to the elderflower) than one might expect. This may disappoint some of the more traditional Gin drinkers but do not be dissuaded by this: it is a very nice Gin, especially on a hot summers day. Elderflower also seems to be a current trend or fashion at the moment but again, do not be put off by this because it is integrated into this Gin with great aplomb. We believe another key reason this Gin stands out amongst the vast majority of other Gins is because each botanical can be clearly identified in the taste. We can unreservedly say this is a Gin to try, go find a bottle to experience today!

Their second Gin, Darnley's View Spiced, is also worth checking out.

Awards & Accolades

95 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

Silver Medal, Gin Masters, 2013.

Gold Medal, International Wine and Spirit Competition, 2012.

Bronze Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2012.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2011.

Silver Medal, International Wine and Spirit Competition, 2011.



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