A gin lover's guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh has played a large part in the history of British gin distilling over the years. The port of Leith, north of the city, had strong trading links with the Netherlands who would trade genever (an early form of gin) along with exotic spices for wool, coal and other Scottish produce.

Gin distilleries emerged around Leith docks, and by 1777 there were eight licensed distilleries in Edinburgh (and nearly 400 unlicensed stills). As time went on, the equipment and techniques used to make gin developed and by the early 19th century gin was incredibly popular. However, due to an issue with crop supply, Scottish distillers turned their attentions to whisky.

Gin fell out of favour with the public in the 20th century and by the mid-1970s, there were no gin distilleries left in Edinburgh. Fast forward a few decades and the gin industry is booming once again. From distillery tours to gin bars, here is a ‘gin-lover’s’ guide to Edinburgh.

Distillery Tours

Edinburgh Gin
One of the distillers leading the way in the gin revival is Edinburgh Gin, who run two distilleries in the city. They run tours of their city centre distillery every day of the week. You will see the two working stills and hear about how they experiment with new recipes. With the option of adding a tutored-tasting, this is a great insight into Edinburgh’s leading gin distillery. They even offer a gin making tour where you can make your very own gin, unique to you.
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Pickering's Gin
Summerhall Distillery at the Meadows lets you see how handcrafted gin is really made. While a smaller distillery, the Pickering’s tour is well worth a visit. A multi-award winning distiller, they have even specifically engineered a gin that tastes great at 30,000 feet (exclusively distilled for British Airways). This hour long tour includes some secrets to Pickering’s success as well as a sampling of the goods!
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Old Curiosity Distillery
A twenty-minute drive from The Scott and The Scholar, nestled at the foot of the Pentland Hills, lies the Secret Herb Garden, home to The Old Curiosity Distillery. All botanicals used in their gins are grown naturally, hand-picked, dried and added to the distilling process. The tour shows every single element of their process from plant to bottle. The range of unusual flavours (‘geranium and mallow’, ‘chamomile and cornflower’) and stunning setting should be enough to tempt you to add this to your list of distillery tours, this one is also family friendly and boasts a nice café.
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Hollyrood Distillery
On the edge of Holyrood Park, this distillery was set up in 2019 by a Canadian husband and wife team. The distillery produces gin, liqueurs and whisky and in their own words, their visitor centre offers "a hands-on, sensory, educational experience that enlightens and delights people as they explore the world of flavour while touring a working distillery".
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Fancy a Tipple?

With the increase in gin distilleries across the city, there are now more bars in Edinburgh that offer a vast array of your favourite spirit! As well as bars being attached to the Edinburgh Gin (Heads and Tales) and Pickering’s (The Royal Dick, where gin is literally on tap) distilleries, we wanted to let you know about a few other watering holes where gin is a speciality.

56 North
This is a bar that knows its gin. They built their own micro distillery in early 2018 and now produce their own gins, liqueurs and other spirits on site. With one of the most comprehensive gin menus in Edinburgh, this is a good place to start. They offer gin masterclasses and can even make a bespoke batch of gin just for you. If you are visiting in August, they open up a Secret Gin Garden for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where they host events and tastings.
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The Jolly Botanist
Located at Haymarket, this quirky bar and restaurant is certainly worth a visit with its seemingly endless list of gins and gin-based cocktails. The gin menu alone is seven pages long, you might want to give yourself some time to sample a few. The Jolly Botanist also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you can grab a bite to compliment your gin no matter what time of the day you visit.
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With a name like Juniper, no gin lover will be disappointed to visit this modern and stylish bar in the heart of Edinburgh. With a wide range of gins, as well as other spirits and comprehensive cocktails, this bar is a gin lover’s dream. Juniper also boasts stunning views of Princes Street and the Gardens, ideal if you manage to grab a window seat.
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