showcasing warm notes like cardamom and ginger, and a Navy Strength spiced gin bottled at a cocktail-friendly 57% alcohol. Until recently, Kingsbarns has been having a producer in London contract produce Darnley’s Gin. However, when we visited in September 2017, they were getting ready to fire up their brandnew onsite gin distillery, complete with a specialized gin still. The Darnley’s brand is part of the U.K.’s ongoing gin craze. 2017 marked the first time that spirits generated more revenue than beer in the United Kingdom, with consumers buying 43 million bottles of gin alone. Even the most humble pub now has several gins to choose from, as well as a surprisingly wide array of different tonics, garnishes, and fancy ice. While sitting at a world-famous whisky bar in Speyside, I watched the bartender fix just as many gin and tonics as drams—maybe more. St. Andrews is one of Scotland’s major tourist attractions, so Kingsbarns has made major efforts to tap into the tourist trade. The distillery offers two different tours: one focused on whisky, one focused on gin. The whisky tour begins with a pass through a museum-like exhibit outlining the history of Fife, the history of the Weymss family, and a high-level overview of how whisky is made. From there, guests take a full spin through the production facility to check out the mash tuns, fermenters, and stills—oh yes, and the doocot. Then, it’s up to the tasting room to sample a bit of still-strength new make—and, when it’s ready, taste some mature Kingsbarns whisky. Gin tours take a different tack. Visitors are led into what appears at
first to be a large, comfortably outfitted, and completely featureless room with a long table at the center. Once they’re seated around the table, guests watch as the tour guide slowly unveils exhibits hidden behind painted panels around the perimeter of the space, slowly transforming the plain room into a sensory feast of images, stories, and smells related to how gin is made. Eventually, the tour guide pulls a curtain to unveil a glass window into the distillery itself, with the still on full display—and, for a finale, another wall turns into a make-your-own cocktail bar, complete with glassware, garnishes, and mixers. “It’s so fun,” says Scott. “It’s a real surprise for guests. They don’t know what to think at first.” Scotland’s new-wave spirits industry is, in many ways, less developed than the United States. There are fewer startups, even more challenging legal hurdles, and less New World emphasis on innovation and experimentation. Yet there’s much an alternative point of view can teach American producers. When your competition has a 200-year head start and is backed by one of the most dominant spirits groups in the world, you’ve got to get creative, and Kingsbarns has created an amazingly welcoming and memorable visitors’ room experience that lingers long after the flavor of juniper vanishes from your palate. That Kingsbarns 50-year-old crystal decanter whisky might be a few decades off, but for now, bringing spirits production to this corner of Fife is reward enough.
Kingsbarns Distillery is located in Kingsbarns, Fife, Scotland. Visit www.kingsbarnsdistillery.com for more information.
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Published on Dec 14, 2017