Craft Beer, Gin and Whisky from the 19th Hole of the Old Course
The home of golf plays host to Eden Mill, St. Andrews – Scotland’s original single-site distillery and brewery
Article by Charlie Fletcher
Just five miles west of St. Andrews, in the village of Guardbridge, lies the Eden Mill brewery and distillery. The site itself was once home to a Haig family distillery – one of Scotland’s oldest whisky dynasties. Turned into a paper mill in the 1860s, it wasn’t until 2012 that the distillery returned to production at the hands of the, then titled, Eden Brewery St. Andrews.
In the short five years that the brewer/distillers have been trading, they have become a prominent force in the Scottish beer and spirit scene – I can’t speak for the readers in better climates but I can assert that Eden Mill is quickly becoming a household name here in Caledonia.
Eden Mill started production with a capacity of 2,000 bottles of beer per week with a team of just four people. The core range has remained largely unchanged since 2012 with just a few tweaks to some recipes.
The beer at the forefront of Eden Mill’s range is, in my humble opinion, the Shipwreck IPA. Sitting at 6.2 per cent ABV, this big hoppy IPA is one for both craft beer lovers and those making the odd foray away from lager. I timed my visit so well that I was able to try this just as it finished brewing. Unbeknownst to me, the beer is cold finished and perfectly sippable right at the moment of bottling.
The brewing side also cover the familiar – the 19th Brew Golden Beer and the Weize Guy Red Wheat Beer – to the obscure – Chilli and Ginger Porter anyone? A recurring theme of Eden Mill is their willingness to experiment and their numerous seasonal releases. At the time of writing, both the Munich Helles Summer Lager and the Imperfect Storm Sweet Milk Stout are available.
With some thanks to Scotland’s recent gin renaissance, Eden Mill are now perhaps better known for their distilling over their brewing. Three handmade Portuguese copper stills are housed on site for Eden Mill’s gin production. Eden Mill Original Gin is St. Andrew’s take on the classic London dry recipe. Locally foraged sea-buckthorn berries are added to the usual botanical mix of juniper, angelica root and citrus. The resulting gin is light yet complex with notes of cranberries and coriander.
To show the distillers’ affection for the spirit, Eden Mill Love Gin was developed. This pink hued gin has rhubarb root, rose petal, goji berry, elderberry, marshmallow root, hibiscus and raspberry leaf alongside the traditional botanical mix. This gin is very rich in berry, vanilla and citrus flavours – delicious with a rose lemonade.
The love of limited and seasonal releases is not limited to beer either. As a St. Andrews’ distiller, the influence of golf is impossible to avoid. Every year, Eden Mill release a Golf Gin that has a unique flavour influenced by that year’s Open course. Just recently, Botano gin was released, inspired by a Mediterranean summer.
The benefits of a single-site brewery and distillery shine in both Eden Mill’s Hop and Oak gins. The Hop gin is made with cold compounded Australian Galaxy hops giving hoppy and citrus flavours, a gin for craft beer lovers. The Oak gin is aged in reclaimed beer barrels which leads to a warming vanilla flavour, akin to a single malt. This leads me on to Eden Mill whisky.
At this moment in time, Eden Mill’s debut single malt whisky is still resting in barrels. However, the distillers have teased those eagerly anticipating the spirit with their ‘Art of the Blend’ series of three whiskies. Each of the three batches has been aged for a year in different casks to show the impact that wood makes to a whisky. These special releases are now extremely limited and the single malt is expected to debut in January 2018.
Slightly hungover from all the ‘research’ I had been doing, I went to discover more about the brand and made the journey from Edinburgh to Guardbridge on an unusually summery Thursday. Thankfully, the train journey is but an hour and a bus is right on hand that stops mercifully close to the distillery. On arrival I was handed a gin and tonic – an ibuprofen might have been more appropriate – and waited for my tour to commence. The tours offered are tailored to each of Eden Mill’s specialities – beer, gin or whisky. I was booked on a gin tour with local guide Calum.
The tour commenced with the usual health and safety brief appropriate to stepping foot into a busy distillery. Calum guided us through the entire Eden Mill range and had botanicals on hand for a tactile insight into what goes into each and every bottle. The tour then went on to view the stills, the bottling process and the warehouse. I’m sure you will all be glad to read that the tour ends with a gin tasting. Mixers and garnishes are provided to highlight each gin’s characteristics and create the ‘perfect serve.’
After arguably too much gin, I sat down with one of the brewers/distillers, Jasper, to speak at length about the operations and motivations of the St Andrews’ brand. I was pleased to hear that the owners of the distillery encouraged ‘bottom up’ product development as opposed to setting objectives from on high.
While doing his best to avoid a cliché, Jasper describes Eden Mill as ‘passion fuelled and passion filled’. I really found this to be true on my visit, everyone was more than happy to talk about the brand and seemed proud of their contributions. My 10 minute chat with Jasper turned into 30 without either of us noticing.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my time at the Guardbridge distillery. Going in a gin lover and coming out with a much deeper appreciation of craft beer was a welcome surprise. I sit writing this with a bottle of the Imperfect Storm Sweet Milk Stout – cheers!
Enquiries: Eden Mill, Main Street, Guardbridge, St Andrews, KY16 0US/ www.edenmill.com