Highclere Castle might be most famous for being the house of the wealthy Crawley family on the beloved television series Downton Abbey, but the 800-year-old estate is keeping busy with several new ventures.
Among the newest is the release of the estate's super-premium London Dry Gin, which will be released for the first time in the United States this month. Introduced in 2017, Highclere Castle Gin is currently available in the United Kingdom, and it will be launching in additional European markets through the end of the year.
Produced in England's oldest gin distillery in copper gin stills dating back to the 19th century, the gin is made from oats and botanicals—including juniper and lavender—planted by the bishops of Winchester in the 1600s. The bottle itself—inspired by the main tower at Highclere and its architect, Sir Charles Barry—was designed and manufactured in England.
The custom glass bottle's shape invokes the symbol of the main tower at Highclere.
Highclere Castle Spirits.
Highclere Castle is located in Hampshire, roughly two hours southwest of London by car. The Earls of Carnarvon have lived at the Jacobethan-style country house since 1679, which—coincidentally—is said to be around the time that gin emerged in England. Today, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon run the estate, spanning 5,000 acres with 4,000 acres of arable farming.
"We have a farm and are very focused on what we eat, and we believe in the link from farm to table and garden to glass," Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Countess of Carnarvon, tells Fortune. "Our journey to create the gin has been some years in the making, and I was looking to anchor it here at Highclere Castle to stay true to our story and heritage."
The Countess notes that she has records of crops grown on the self-sustaining Highclere Castle estate since the thirteenth century. The family’s personal archives lists gin cocktails from the early 1900s, touting the “Highclere Way,” a classic gin and tonic made with gin, tonic, and an orange peel finished with a rosemary sprig. (After all, what is a weekend without gin cocktails?)
"We tasted and finessed the gin for months until we were happy," the Countess says. "The taste is very traditional, but with a modern lightness."
Highclere Castle Gin will be rolling out in the U.S. in August 2019 and will be distributed nationally.
Highclere Castle Spirits
The Highclere Castle Gin is the second premium brand the Carnarvon family has developed (since last year’s Highclere Castle Cigar Company), although their biggest business remains in hospitality and tourism at the castle.
But the gin’s U.S. debut is extra timely given Focus Features’s upcoming release of the Downton Abbey movie in mid-September. Additionally, the Countess notes her next book, Christmas at Highclere: Recipes and Traditions from the Real Downton Abbey, will be published in the U.S. this fall: "It will include recipes, tips, and inspiration so readers can bring a quintessentially British festive spirit to their own home."
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