Lesley Gracie was sitting in her garden one night, in the summer, at dusk just as the light started fading, and she noticed that her lush, Scottish garden smelled a bit different than it did during the day.
“I was sitting there one night, and I thought, ‘Wow, I can really smell those flowers,’” she says. “The more the light seemed to change, the more complexity developed. At night, you pick up more complexity because it’s not your sight doing all the work. Plus, some of the plants do smell different at night.”
She noticed the same thing one night in the tropical hothouse when she was working late at Hendrick’s Gin Palace. That experience has inspired the latest release of Hendrick’s Gin, Lunar.
“It was one of those things that made me go, hmm, and so then I played around with it quite a bit,” she says. “I started with the sort of deep, spicy sort of floral and green trying to get in.”
“When you are in the tropical house at night, there’s an underlying spice, but a sort of green aroma, and sitting at the tip is all of the different floral characters as well,” she continues. “Trying to get all of that and pull it all together in balance, it was great fun. It’s obviously still in the Hendrick’s style, but it’s in a totally different direction.”
Gracie, who is the master distiller and creator of Hendrick’s Gin, sat in on a Zoom call at the start of Women’s History Month, to discuss her latest, special edition of Hendrick’s. “I started working on Lunar in 2019,” she says. “We had some really warm evenings back then so I was sitting out in my garden a lot with my dog, and it was just good.”
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After that evening inspiration, Gracie started playing around with the things growing in the tropical hothouse. “There’s all sorts of things there, bananas, coffee, cacao, coconut, pineapple,” she says. “There are all sorts of things growing there, and there’s a lot of fish in the ponds now. We put in four little fish, and now we’ve got about 30 fish in there so they’re doing what fish do.”
Gracie had just about wrapped up the final formula for Lunar when COVID-19 hit. “We more or less got it down before things closed down,” Gracie says.
Though the distillery never shut down, there’s only a limited number of people allowed in at one time, and Gracie can’t gather with her team like she used to when she brainstorms ideas.
“Some things are more difficult because we can’t get together so I have to send samples down to the brand ambassador and teams,” she says. “It’s totally different, and it’s nowhere near as much fun when you don’t have everybody around the table trying things, but that’s where we are at the moment.”
Gracie says she and the staff at the palace (which is what Hendrick’s calls their main distillery, and it really is as grand a place as a palace) get tested for COVID-19 once a week, and they get checked when they come onsite. “I just think it’s a shame for the bartenders and everyone,” she says. “Going to a bar and collecting something is not the same as standing there and seeing the bartender making something. All the theater of making a cocktail you miss. It’s just not the same to get a cocktail without the theater.”
Gracie says she’s still working on new projects. “We still have lots of things we are working on and that we talk about, but at the moment, it’s a bit more difficult,” she says.
In the meantime, she is hoping to get back out in her own garden when it warms up to relax with a Lunar cocktail. “There are a couple that our bartenders developed which I really like,” she says. “One is called a Cosmic Cooler, which has got lime, sugar and soda in it, and it gives you that nice freshness. The lime works really well with the gin. Another is called Moonlight Delight with apple juice, lime juice and ginger beer. The warm of the ginger really comes through in that one. But it’s also just good with a tonic.”