The Birth of Highclere Castle Gin
A Journey of Authenticity
In 2015, I had a vision. I wanted desperately to do a project in England – a project with authenticity and history so rich and deep it could never be replicated. I believe strongly in the terrior of spirit brands, a word typically reserved only for wines. Like with our moonshine, this vision formed in my mind had to be rooted in terrior. It had to scream quality and fit our obsessive journey to produce the very best we could. And so, I contacted Lord & Lady Carnarvon, owners of the famous Highclere Castle. And by chance, perhaps good luck – they reached out back. I’ll never quite know why they were intrigued with my vision to create a Highclere Castle Spirit or trust a crazy 32-year-old American with such an important representation of the castle. But somehow, it felt right and natural for all of us, and that’s the most crucial thing if you are going to have a great relationship for years to come.
The Original Plan
The original plan – Highclere Castle English Whisky. I know whisky inside and out, from American to Scotland to Japan, and I felt ready to stretch my legs on some English terrior and utilize the Barley grown at Highclere Castle and shipped to Scotland for this very purpose. I’m excited about the future of English Whisky and was eager to get started.
Lord Carnarvon and I traveled up and down Scotland pursuing crucial R&D work…. tasting every wee dram; we could – my wife at the wheel driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the tiny road that majestically wove its way through the greenest hills I’ve ever seen that go on and on forever as the rain poured down sideways. If you haven’t been to Scotland, it is a dream–like walk through the afterlife. We found our favorite whiskies and developed a mental flavor pallet for the recipe.
A Change of Plans – Embracing Highclere Castle’s Authenticity
I returned from the trip with clarity and a plan that was soon disrupted. One challenge we had was that on the site we wanted to build the distillery at Highclere, was recently discovered a medieval village slightly underground that was both protected and needed significant investment to watch – not conducive to my tasting room parking lot idea.
That, among the significant investment needed for whisky aging, led us to wonder, what can we produce that is still entirely authentic to Highclere Castle, might cost $10 million less, and be available for sale in under five years. The answer was evident to Lord Carnarvon and me as we sat over breakfast in New England after a week of working-Gin.
Rediscovering the Charm of Gin
And thus arrived my big problem: I hate the stuff. I’ve been serving Tanqueray and Tonic to my elderly aunts for eons. Gin smacks of pine to me, sharp, often harsh – necessary to be mixed into a sugary tonic or other things to be hidden as best as possible. I fancy myself a purest – if I can sip a spirit neat and TRULY enjoy it, it should glow in a cocktail.
I must find a way to fall in love with this product. After all, it’s been served for over 100 years at cocktails to many of the world’s finest and most fascinating people. Highclere Castle is surrounded by botanical gardens ideal for making a gin. And gin is, well, about as British as spirit as you can get.