A taste of Selkirk – it’s the gin thing

Allan Walker with the last surviving bottle of bannock gin.
Allan Walker with the last surviving bottle of bannock gin.

Two couples from Selkirk are about to make the most of the recent gin boom by opening a new distillery in the grounds of the Philiphaugh Estate.

Allan and Jane Walker, along with David and Susan Myatt, decided to have a go at producing the spirit while playing a few hands of cards, feeling they could do better than the gin they were drinking.

Allan, 54, a retired policeman, has been selling gin for five years at Strathearn Distillery, and he arranged to use one of its stills to produce Reivers Gin.

He said: “We worked with Tony Reeman-Clark at Strathearn on a recipe which uses the gorse flowers from Selkirk Hill as the main botanical.

“We picked them ourselves, cleaned and dried them, and it works really well.

“We hit the ground running, as they say. Having worked in the gin industry for five years, I was aware of how huge it is. And although I’m aware of the fact that there are a few gins made in the Borders by now, there was room for doing it in Selkirk, with links to the town.”

And that brought about their second gin, which has its roots in the royal burgh’s High Street.

Allan said: “We went to Tony and asked him if we could make a gin from a Selkirk bannock. And he said: ‘I don’t know!’

“ We used a Cameron’s bannock, adding it to a juniper gin, letting it macerate for about a month, and we produced the gin, the alcohol content of which was only certified last Wednesday by Edinburgh University as 45.7%.

“It’s a bannock in a bottle, delicious, and we had a pop-up shop in Selkirk last week and sold out in a day.”

The bannock gin was a limited batch, and only one bottle remains, which is not for sale, but its popularity could see a return visit. The Selkirk influence is continued by local artist Connor McAllister, who designed the intricate labels.

Next on Reivers Gin’s list of priorities is the new distillery.

Allan said: “We talked to Sir Michael Strang-Steel and he has offered us a building to get started.

“It is a shell at the moment, but we are putting together a crowdfunding campaign to get it up and running in the new year.

“Hopefully, there will also be room for a small visitor centre as well.”

Once they have made a few batches of gin, the entrereneurs are hoping to also make some whisky, which is a “waiting game”.

Allan added: “It will be a challenge, but we will get there. There’s a lot of fun ahead.”