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Is this Scotland's most magical gin distillery?

A Scottish spirits brand in the highlands has taken inspiration from German fairy tales to create what could be the UK's most whimsical gin distillery.

Published: June 26, 2019
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The newly founded Fairytale Distillery at Ardelve, which lies on the shores of Loch Alsh in the western highlands and looks out across to Eilean Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye, is unlike anything you'll have seen before.

With crooked chimneys, slanted windows and a sweeping slate roof that almost touches the ground on either side of striking pea green walls, it looks like it has been transported straight from the pages of Harry Potter.

The aptly named Fairytale Distillery is the brainchild of Thomas Gottwald and Manuela Kohne-Gottwald and is the latest addition to their collection of Hansel and Gretel style buildings.

The German couple moved to the area in 2013, with Manuela opening her Wee Bakery and daughter Joline adding her pizza parlour, PizzaJo, a few years later.

Discussing how the idea for the theme came about, distillery manager Jolie said: "Our quirky Fairytale theme evolved, after we started constructing our special buildings from Germany in our garden.

"One of which we used for my pizza takeaway 'PizzaJo' and the other for our wonderful distillery. We thought the fairytale theme suits well in this mystic area around Ardelve, which is situated not far from the famous Eilean Donan Castle and the Isle of Skye, where you can find the Fairy pools and the Fairy Glen."

Picture: PizzaJo Facebook

Thomas and gin specialist Roger Knight hit upon the idea for the distillery a few years ago after regularly enjoying sampling gins together. Discovering a love for gin they decided to do special gin course to see how the spirit is distilled.

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Joline explained: "On their adventure they became friends with two botanists from Germany and started to make their own ideas of how to make a gin.

"Finally, after a lot of consulting, they founded the distillery with a range of lovely gins."

Seeming to float above its own little lochan, the distillery, which houses a little Austrian copper still named Tinkerbell, produces a range of interesting gins that come in black stone bottles.

Numbered, rather than named, each has its own unique recipe and comes in two sizes, 20cl and 70cl.

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Tinkerbell and some of the gins recently produced. Picture: FD

Using water from the spring fed burn Alt Mor na Dornie, Thomas and his team, which includes botanists Martin W√ľnsche and Stefan Lipka, hand craft the gins using their "international skills" to produce a variety of non-chilled filtered, highland gins that they say "appeal to a wide range of cultures and palates".

"People are able to see the distillery if visiting through the day, " Joline explained. "They can walk through our garden and see the still 'Tinkerbell' though the window."

However if people want to fully enjoy the distillery inside and out, then the team recommend that they make an appointment - in advance - for a private tour with head distiller Thomas.

Joline stated that in future they would like to offer some gin courses where guests can come and make their own gin.

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So how do people react when they see this incredible little micro-distillery?

Picture: FD

"The usual reaction is 'Wow, that's so quirky'," Joline said. "People feel very drawn to us to come and explore. They find it very magical and peaceful. They often say it is a bit like Hanzel and Gretel, so we often describe to people as 'Hanzel & Gretel meet's Braveheart'."

Their motto is perhaps a little more fitting though, with Joline adding: "When people ask us what our slogan is, we reply 'Away with the Fairies'."

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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