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Maidstone: Leeds Castle 900 Motte & Baillie limited edition gin being made at Copper Rivet Distillery

By Angela Cole

Pine needles, rosehips and figs - they could all be going into your glass next year.

But don’t worry if you think you might struggle to down them, as they will all be beautifully infused into a limited edition gin, just 900 bottles of which will be made.

Carefully selected and picked from the glorious gardens surrounding Leeds Castle, the botanicals chosen for the Motte & Baillie gin to commemorate Leeds Castle’s 900th anniversary next year will be in the expert hands of the team at the Copper Rivet Distillery in Medway for just over two weeks, creating the brew.

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Copper Rivet Leeds Castle Gin, Medway. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com
Copper Rivet Leeds Castle Gin, Medway. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

Chosen for their flavours and significance to the historic estate - dubbed the “loveliest castle in the world” - the sweet fig from Castle Island, floral rosehip from the Culpeper Gardens and pine from the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Terraces will be dried naturally before being infused.

Gardener Sam Weisbauer said: “We really definitely wanted rose to be in there, but as we couldn’t have the Leeds Castle rose, rosehips were chosen. As soon as it was mentioned I could think of lots of things which we could use. We tried to pick things which summed up Leeds, but that went together. I am really excited to try it.”

Copper Rivet Distillery will be making the Leeds Castle Gin. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com
Copper Rivet Distillery will be making the Leeds Castle Gin. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

Head distiller Abhi Banik, who has created the one-off recipe, admitted the figs had thrown the team a curve ball to begin with. “They have been quite exciting to work with as we hadn’t used them before and we didn’t know how they would behave. Once we had an understanding of them, we were able to create the recipe.”

The small team at the Copper Rivet, which has only been open some two years but now receives 15,000 visitors a year to the Victorian Pump House No 5, will work closely on the gin as it is milled, mashed and fermented, working its way through their stills - named Sandy, Joyce and Janet after family members. Run by Bob Russell and sons Matthew and Stephen, the process is hands-on. Gemma Wright from the castle said: “We wanted to create something local and very special for our 900th anniversary.”

Matthew spoke to KMTV this week about the rising popularity of gin.

Bob and Matthew Russell with Gemma Wright of Castle at the distillery Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com
Bob and Matthew Russell with Gemma Wright of Castle at the distillery Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

The Motte & Baillie gin is just part of the Leeds 900 celebrations throughout 2019.

Marking the year Robert de Crevecoeur built the first stone castle on the estate, they include a special fanfare in the castle’s honour, to be debuted at the Classical Concert in the summer and composed by Tom Hodge.

Janet gets to work at the Copper Rivet Distillery Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com
Janet gets to work at the Copper Rivet Distillery Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

There will be a new Knights’ Stronghold playground for children, and adventure golf course, as well as a children’s storywriting competition, judged by broadcaster Clare Balding, which will culminate in the winners coming to see a time capsule buried on the estate. There will also be a striking 900 flowerbed, Carnival of History, to be held on Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, and the castle will be the official face of Kent Crisps’ salt and vinegar with Biddenden Cider during the year.

DETAILS

The Leeds Castle limited edition Motte & Baillie gin costs £48 for a 50cl bottle. To pre-order visit leeds-castle.com

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