Gin bar and microdistillery to open in Edinburgh

heads and tales edinburgh

A new bar with its own copper pot stills is opening in Edinburgh, combining a distillery, gin bar and visitor centre.

Called Heads and Tales, it has been set up by Spencerfield Spirit Company, the makers of Edinburgh Gin, in the basement of Signature Pub Group’s Rutland Hotel at the west end of Princes Street.

Formerly occupied by nightclub The One Below, it has been completely transformed into a new 70-cover bar by leading hospitality design practice Tibbatts Abel.

Due to be officially launched on World Gin Day on June 14, the bar is headed by Bruce Hamilton, a bar consultant and former brand ambassador for Drambuie liqueur.

“Working with Edinburgh Gin and their team of distillers and innovators in a great bar location overlooked by Edinburgh Castle – I can’t think of anything more poetic,” Bruce said.

Spencerfield Spirit Company, headed by Alec and Jane Nicol, has installed two copper pot stills, called Flora and Caledonia, which are behind a thick glass partition so they can be seen by customers at the bar.

The new stills will begin operation in July, producing Edinburgh Gin as well as bespoke gins for the bar and customers. There will also be a small bottling facility.

Alex said: “Edinburgh has a special relationship with gin stretching back centuries. To this day, more gin is drunk here per head of the population than in any other UK city.

“With our new visitor centre and distillery coupled with the Heads & Tales gin emporium, Edinburgh’s great tradition for distilling looks set to be revived.”

During the daytime, it will open as a visitor experience, offering people a chance to learn about how gin is made and its history. It will then operate as a bar from 4pm onwards.

The name is a spin on the heads and tails which are the first and last parts of the spirit when it comes off the still.

Bruce has brought together a team of expert bartenders including Sian Ferguson, previously at 99 Bar and Kitchen in Aberdeen, Emma Andrew, who was at 99 Hanover Street in Edinburgh, and Jody Buchan, brand ambassador for AquaRiva tequila.

They are offering a menu of 20 original cocktails, mostly made with gin, but have the expertise to make any classics that customers ask for.

The bar stocks about 30 gins, including up to 20 from Scotland, with a variety of styles and countries represented. Alongside a core list, other brands will come and go.

“We’re not out to have the largest collection of gins,” Bruce said. “We want to keep the back-bar ticking over, using products throughout the cocktail menu.”

The bar has been opened in partnership with Heriot-Watt University, which offers highly regarded courses at its International Centre of Brewing and Distilling.

The agreement will see Heriot-Watt professor of brewing and distilling Paul Hughes work with one of his graduates to create a world-renowned gin facility, providing research into Scottish botanicals and the history of distilling in Edinburgh, as well as commemorating historic gins and developing new products.

Paul said: “Edinburgh Gin is bringing distillation back to Edinburgh and we’ve been assisting by ensuring that the new stills produce the same high quality and flavours that existing customers are used to.

“By selecting smaller stills, the team also has the opportunity to experiment. They’ll be able to recreate gins of days past, as well as coming up with completely original recipes.

“Edinburgh’s gin heritage has been largely forgotten. Hopefully the opening of this centre will introduce more people to this complex spirit and remind people in the capital that gin is the true flavour of Edinburgh.”

Customers will be able to take part in a gin-making experience, creating their own specific varieties. The distillery and bar complex will also offer a corporate hire experience with gins designed to complement the occasion.

Alongside the bar, customers will be able to buy a range of Edinburgh Gin products including its fruit liqueur gins. The distillery will also be the focus of Edinburgh Gin’s research and development work with several new product launches planned for the year ahead.

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