Arriving at the Distillery at Dalton was like arriving at a friends new house. We were warmly greeted by Ray the master distiller and his family.
The distillery opened to the public in late 2017 and has just begun offering tours and tastings.
The former pottery site has been completely refurbished. The garden has been landscaped into a beautiful courtyard and will be perfect for summer evenings taking in the Scottish countryside. But seeing as it was a dreary January day, we were led into the stylish bar complete with log burner. With a huge window in the bar area showing the big copper still it had a very cool feel.
We were privileged to be the first group to take the tour of the distillery. Starting off with a drink in the bar we got a feel for the place. It was busy even on a wet Saturday. Small plates of tapas were brought out with the drinks and on a chalkboard were a list of barbeque favourites to choose from, cooked on a grill outside.
Ray then took us through to his lab and we started the tour. He talked passionately about how he came to be a gin distiller and what brought his family to the small town of Dalton. With a degree from Herriot Watt in Distilling, it is clear he knows what he’s talking about, Imagine Heton Blumenthal with hair and you won’t be far off! And like Heston, Ray has a certain air of mad scientist about him. His passion is infectious and his love of science and of gin shines out of him.
We were shown the range of botanicals that go into their Oro signature gin (juniper, corriander, orris root, lemon and orange peel, cassia bark, lemongrass and pink peppercorn to name a few!) Smelling the botanicals and getting a backround on each one, it was clear that a lot of research has gone into sourcing the perfect ingredients for this spirit. The science is so important at Oro. The fact that they use not only copper stills but all copper pipework to give the cleanest taste and after the distillation process no flavour is added, only water making a 43% proof gin.
We were shown the small bottling line, the large copper still (Bridie, all the stills were named after family dogs) and given some fun historical facts and tidbits about the gin industry which we all found interesting and really informative.
Back to the lab we were given a sneak peak into the research and development of new gins, seeing the two smaller stills (Hamish and Minty) and told a bit about the future plans for the distillery. Dalton Distillery are one of the few outlets that can make bespoke spirits of 6 bottles up to endless volumes for clients – perfect for hotels or even a wedding or birthday. They are also unique in the fact that they bottle and label in house – many other small distilleries send the spirit out to be bottled.
We were shown current samples of different solutions they have been working on and the science behind it.
Talking about bottles, the shape of the Oro bottle is eye catching and one that brings a definite mark of quality to the product, along with the label and stoppers it’s a nice addition to my collection.
Then it was onto the tasting. Shown how to make a perfect pour of Oro and tonic we were then left to make our own. A big plus for me was the fact that there was no snobbery to the drinking process. We were told what they feel works best with their gin – a large chunk of ice, Fever Tree Original tonic poured in slowly and garnished with a slice of lime – but also told that they understand people have different tastes, I prefer not to have lime with my gin and hate when you get a veritable bouquet of herbs in my drink like you get in certain new gin bars! Oro Gin has a delicious aroma, it has a unique flavour that I struggle to tie down but defintely comes from the mixture of lemongrass and orange peel. It is smooth and leaves a pleasant taste on the tongue whilst at the same time giving that delicious bite that you expect from a London gin.
That was the end of the tour and it was back to the cosy bar to select our ‘gin flights’. These rounds of drinks consist of three gins with mixers and garnishes. You can select from Scottish,UK,Rest of the World and Europe. We went for the Rest of the World. This came with Ungava from Canada, Deaths Door from the USA and Scapegrace from New Zealand. All served on the coolest glass carousel with seperate tonics. Ray came over and talked us through each gin and left us to mix our own. The bar menu gave us great snippets about each gin and each glass was labelled so we knew which was which. It was great fun. The menu also had a great range of wine and other drinks to choose from.
We all ordered food from the grill and this was the only let down of the whole experience – slightly pricey for what arrived and nothing in comparison to the tastiness of the tapas that were served (fish soup, sausage and inion with crusty bread and haggis, neeps and tatties. A delicious addition to the bar!) They also serve soups and sandwiches through the week along with teas and coffees.
How can I not mention the distiller dog Hector! A loveable beast he was definitely a friendly addition to the tour.
All in all the Distillery surpassed expectation. Plenty of information given in a way that made sense.
The volume of new gins popping up in the UK is phenominal – but the quality isn’t. Many ‘distilleries’ buy in a base spirit and just flavour it, or else make such a bland tatsing gin that it doesn’t excite. Being an avid gin lover I have tried my fair share and can honestly admit that Oro Gin is up there in my top 5. The complex flavours, smooth taste and unmistakeable dry London gin qualities make it one to look out for.
The distillery also produce another gin called Oro V, it is a slightly lighter tatsing gin with more floral aromas.
Both gins were so good I purchsed a bottle of each …as did the others we were with!
The tour cost £15 and took about 45min. They run Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm by appointment.
Gin flights were £15 and consisted of the three 25cl measures of gin, two 200ml bottles of mixer and a range of garnish.
Oro Gin is located at The Distillery at Dalton in the Dumfriesshire countryside. A beautiful location with many hidden treasures. The town of Dumfries, hometown of Robert Burns, is nearby. Lochmaben with ties to Robert the Bruce is just up the road with it’s magical castle ruins and lovely lochside walks. And Galloway Forrest Park is within easy reach. If you are thinking about a holiday in Scotland then don’t overlook Dumfries and Galloway!
The Crown Hotel in Lochmaben provides food and accomodation and is just a ten minute drive to the Distillery – taxis can be arranged. Find out more here: Crown Hotel Lochmaben
Have you ever taken a distillery tour? What’s your favourite gin?
Let me know, as always I love hearing from you.