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June 24, 2024

An odd tale: Hendrick’s, The Cabinet of Curiosities and a surreal drink

Payel Majumdar Upreti
The Hendrick’s Gin Palace is in the tiny seaside village called Girvan, in Ayrshire, southwest of Scotland. Overlooking the mysterious island of Ailsa Craig, this outcrop lies uninhabited for the most part, except for a few local gannets and puffins. It is the perfect setting to produce this complex beverage which has its loyal fan following since the year it all began, in 1886 when Mr William Grant bought the distillery. It was more than a century later, in 1988, when Mr Charles Gordon, great-grandson of Mr William Grant, enlisted Ms Leslie Gracie to make an unusual spirit out of two very unusual antique stills, a rare Carter Head, and the 19th century Bennett, which he had acquired at an auction many years earlier. The duo wanted to create an unusual spirit using two odd stills, and several experiments later, the rest is history. Not meant for everybody, the production of Hendrick’s gin is still controlled to ensure quality over quantity. The complex liquid is well-fitted for a curious person, those whom mysteries attract, the surrealist Victorian era imagery that accompanies all the gin company’s messaging is the world that the liquor would perfectly fit into. Inspired by literature, it is not difficult to imagine Hendrick’s to be a writer’s or a literature enthusiast’s drink, as it is for many.
Hendrick's Gin Palace
Hendrick’s Gin Palace
An oddly-made gin 
Hendrick’s gin is distilled in two separate stills, an 1860 antique copper pot called Bennett, with a reputation for manufacturing a spirit robust and flavourful, and the other from 1948, a rare Carter Head. The Bennet steeps the botanicals in spirit overnight prior to distillation, resulting in a rich, complex liquid. 
The Carter Head steams the botanicals gently in a basket, and the flavours are thus gently infused into the liquor. The combination of both the stills produces a smooth to savour drink with subtlety and yet a distinct character. Hendrick’s gin is infused with rose and cucumber, along with 11 other botanicals from all over the world. The whimsical concoction of ingredients produces an unmistakable to miss flavour and a delightful aroma. In the Gin Palace, where it is produced under Master Distiller Leslie Gracie’s sharp eyes, each batch is crafted just 500 litres at a time. Its popularity has not resulted in a mammoth overproduction of the liquor, which remains at its 1999 capacity, for greater control over Ms Gracie’s artistry. The botanicals in the gin include lemon peel, caraway seeds, juniper, coriander seeds, orris root, angelica root, chamomile, cubeb berries, elderflower, yarrow and orange peel.  
Cabinet of Curiosities 
Those part of Hendrick’s verse are aware of their limited-edition Cabinet of Curiosities releases. Every other year, the good folks at Hendricks’ come out with a brilliant, limited-edition release, and it’s meant to evoke memories of a distant dream for patrons. Following this theme, these releases are termed ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. A gin connoisseur always has their eyes out for a Hendricks Cabinet of Curiosities release, since it is a rare commodity, and there is no way to get a bottle once it’s sold out. 
It is a rather unusual name for limited editions of a gin, but quite apt when you think about Hendricks and its world. The drink, which would probably fit into the decadent Victorian era of Oscar Wilde and other gin-drinking literary enthusiasts, is made for like-minded patrons with the same good taste for the tipple in this era (and many are here for it). 
Hendrick's Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie
Hendrick’s Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie
The story begins, as many good stories do, with a grand wedding, and a crate of good ol’ Hendricks. Leslie Gracie, the master distiller of Hendricks decided to take a crate of gin to former Global Brand Ambassador Duncan Mc Rae’s wedding, someone she had worked in close association with, doing research and development on projects. To give it a local flavour, she decided to develop botanicals from flowers that bloom during the summer, and that’s how ‘Midsummer Solstice’ was born in 2019. The name is based on an actual cabinet under the master distiller’s possession, where Ms Gracie stores her wide-ranging botanicals to experiment with.  
Inspiration from the sea 
Hendrick’s third limited edition release of Cabinet of Curiosities is finally going to be here, in India, called Neptunia. As the name suggests, it is a tribute to the sea god Neptune, dotted with tasting notes and aromas of a coastal walk, something which Ms Gracie is partial to. Great in a Gin Gimlet, its coastal flora notes invigorate Hendrick’s signature cucumber and rose tint. Sachin Mehta, the Country Director, William Grant and Sons said, “Hendrick’s Neptunia adds another wave of flavour with an enticing chorus of deeply refreshing coastal botanicals and combines a smooth, bright citrus finish with a deliciously distant sea breeze. Hendrick’s is committed to creating an extraordinary experience for curious gin drinkers – so keep an eye out for another ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ release later in the year.”
Sachin Mehta, Country Director, William Grant and Sons
Sachin Mehta, Country Director, William Grant and Sons
Noting the enchanted melody of the waves as her inspiration for this latest release from the Cabinet of Curiosities, Ms. Gracie, Master Distiller at Hendrick’s Gin said, “I find listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore therapeutic. Looking out onto the horizon and feeling the wind in your hair and the salty sea breeze on your face is just a great feeling, it’s so freeing, invigorating and calming all at the same time. I walk down the beach in Girvan every weekend with my dog and take in the sound of the waves and that particular smell that you find, no matter what beach you are on.” 
Innovation in liquid inspired by nature 
All the releases so far, whether Midsummer’s Solstice, Hendrick’s Lunar or now the Neptunia have been inspired by different aspects of nature. Ms Gracie added, “Most of my creations are based on memories – I play around with botanicals and combine them to recreate certain sensations. Hendrick’s Neptunia, for me, is that freeing feeling of the sea bottled in a gin. You have that distinctive fresh character of coastal herbs, depth of flavour from the sea botanicals and an unmistakable clean, bright citrus finish that lifts and lightens in a round, refreshing way that makes it Hendrick’s.”  
Midsummer’s Solstice was a definitively floral gin, made in small batches, a ‘poetic expression of temporality… once it’s gone, it’s gone forever…’ as far as Hendrick’s was concerned. It was perfect for brunches and day drinking in the summertime. With Hendrick’s Lunar, a much darker character of the drink was explored. This alluring drink was made with a balance of warm baked spices, rich with night-blooming floral essences and a sharp burst of citrus. This gin was inspired to be had in the twilight zone even as the moon rose in the sky, in slow sips, or in mysterious cocktails. 
Hendrick's
Photo Courtesy: Hendrick’s
The third down the line, as far as the Cabinet of Curiosities is concerned, is Hendrick’s Neptunia. 
Sachin Mehta, Country Director, William Grant & Sons India, said about the three small batch gins, “Hendrick’s has triggered a remarkable trend of premium gin across the globe and more recently in India.  Its curious, yet marvellous, infusions of rose and cucumber with its uniquely balanced flavour offer an impeccably smooth option for all occasions of social and home consumption. Followed by the success of the previous limited-edition releases, the delightfully floral “Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice” and the “Hendrick’s Lunar” conceived beneath the celestial light of the moon, we are now delighted to introduce the highly anticipated third launch, from the “Cabinet of Curiosities” – Hendrick’s Neptunia to India, brought to life by Master Distiller Leslie Gracie.” 
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