This new Scottish gin uses flower power to change colour – and it’s all-natural

A new gin is about to hit the market that has a truly unique selling point – it changes colour.

Published 13th Oct 2017
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

The Old Curiosity recipes incorporate unusual floral botanicals to naturally create three flavours of remarkable colour-changing gin.

The stillsman and the plantsman

Based in Edinburgh, The Old Curiosity Distillery is the brainchild of the team behind the popular Secret Herb Garden plant nursery.

“There was no intention to bring another gin to the market,” explains Hamish Martin, owner of both the Secret Herb Garden and The Old Curiosity Distillery.

“The rose is so romantic, so perfumed and so elegant, and when you add the tonic you can still taste the rose – it’s beautifully balanced.” - Hamish Martin, The Old Curiosity Distillery

Before retraining as a herbologist in 2012, Martin previously worked in the whisky and wine trade, but the idea to create a floral gin didn’t come about until last winter.

Martin’s business partner, Steve Ross, joined the Secret Herb Garden around two years ago – first as a volunteer, and then a member of staff.

Previously the owner of a bar and events company in London, Ross’s move to Edinburgh coincided with Martin’s search for a new way to diversify the business.

“It was a lovely twist of fate how Steve ended up being here at the right time for us both to create this gin,” explains Martin.

“He’s happy to stay in and work the still, and my passion is the plants and flowers – I suppose he’s the stillsman and I’m the plantsman.”

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Harnessing the power of plants

The Secret Garden range includes three floral gins – Apothecary Rose, Lavender and Echinacea, and Chamomile and Cornflower.

Martin has always enjoyed experimenting with the garden’s herbs and plants to create tinctures and infusions, and it was when he was working with the apothecary roses that he discovered their colour-changing abilities.

The apothecary rose is one of the oldest rose varieties in the world, and has been used in herbal remedies and teas for over 5,000 years.

Now, as the UK’s largest growers of apothecary roses, the Old Curiosity team are turning them into “perfumed and elegant” gin.

“Once I started experimenting, I also found lots of other flowers and plants that do so many other things,” explains Martin.

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“So in addition to rose, we’ve got a lavender and echinacea one which is purple and goes pink, and a cornflower and chamomile which turns from blue to pink,” he notes.

Each gin is made using flowers grown on-site, and captures the delicate flavours of each plant.

Unlike flavoured gin liqueurs, the Old Curiosity gins do not include any sugars, fruit extracts or flavour compounds – just completely natural floral flavours.

Martin also hints that other limited edition flavours will be released in the future.

Natural ingredients and authentic processes

The Old Curiosity Distillery hope that their unique, natural way of producing gin will appeal to customers.

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“I think people are looking for authentic gins these days – so our flowers are grown here, they’re dried, they’re handpicked, they’re used in the gin. Everything is done on-site,” explains Martin.

Over the past nine months, a small team have converted a barn into the still room, and all the bottling and labelling is done by hand on the premises.

The Secret Herb Garden do not use any chemicals (not even organic ones) to grow their flowers, so the final gin is clean and natural, without anything added.

“I’m coming at it as a person who’s passionate about nature,” says Martin.

“I really believe that the plants have shown me a little bit of a secret, and that’s what I’m sharing – just how amazing the flowers are themselves. They are the stars of the show.”

• The Old Curiosity Distillery’s range of Secret Garden gins will be available online, at local retailers and at the Secret Herb Garden from Tuesday 17 October –

This article originally appeared on our sister site the inews

Gillian is a writer and blogger from Edinburgh, with a penchant for drinking cocktails, exploring the city's independent shops and trying out as many new restaurants as possible.
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