Old Curiosity's co-founder Hamish Martin shares how RSPB Scotland's Forsinard Flows has inspired 'Wild', their latest gin which helps support RSPB Scotland's work.
A taste of Scotland's wild places
Standing in the middle of RSPB Scotland Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, surrounded by miles of blanket bog for as far as the eye can see, I was struck by how it must be impossible to be there and not feel a deep, innate connection to nature. I travelled up to Forsinard Flows on a botanical expedition, to see what could be found growing in this vast wilderness which, thanks to the work of RSPB Scotland over the last 20 years, is being returned to its natural, wild state.
Being in nature has always inspired me. In 2012 I went to view a house, but it wasn’t for me or my family. I stepped outside and saw, just over the wall, an abandoned glasshouse. Walking into that glasshouse was the start of this incredible journey that I’ve been on ever since; I could immediately see the potential for growing, bringing wilderness and nature and life together and allowing things to thrive just as they do in Forsinard Flows.
Instead of a house I bought that glasshouse and the surrounding land, and the “Secret Herb Garden” was born and allowed to flourish. I looked around at all that nature had provided for us and decided to not only put it to use, but to show the world how wonderful nature can be, using the bounty of nature to create delicious, chemical free, natural gin under our small, family run company “Old Curiosity Distillery”. We use only the properties of the plants and flowers themselves to create gins which are a tribute to their ingredients. My passion is what other people might call weeds – it’s incredible the variety of species that you can get, which have great benefit for nature as well as other medicinal and edible properties. Some of the gins even change colour upon the addition of tonic – a natural and wonderful reaction between the plants and the tonic.
A partnership with RSPB Scotland seems as natural as the gin itself; their commitment to ‘giving nature a home’ is what spurs me on everyday to continue creating and delivering this exact message. Standing amidst the Flow Country’s bogs, some areas of which have been allowed to remain wild and natural for more than 10,000 years, I decided that the time had come to strike up a partnership with RSPB Scotland. Inspired by the Flow Country, I created ‘Wild’; a gin which is a tribute to the botanicals found in Forsinard Flows as it contains bog myrtle and dwarf birch which can both be found there.
Blanket bog covers only 3% of the world’s land cover, and yet contains more than 30% of all terrestrial carbon. It acts as a carbon sink, as the plants which grow on it capture carbon from the atmosphere, and are gradually trapped in the layers and layers of peat, keeping the carbon under the soil. A governmental drive to plant forestry in the 1970s and 80s led to this vital habitat being planted with non-native species, which led to areas of deep peat drying out and releasing their stored carbon, as well as the loss of species which depend on this blanket bog habitat. RSPB Scotland have been at Forsinard Flows for over 20 years, removing these forestry plantations and restoring this habitat back to blanket bog. Because of this area’s incredible importance for biodiversity and in the fight against climate change, the Flow Country is now being nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s of international importance, but also feels important on a very personal level as its very wildness is so connected to everything I want to be able to do for nature. Thus, 20% of the net sales of the gin (which, if I’m being completely impartial, is my favourite) will go towards funding RSPB Scotland’s ongoing commitment to blanket bog restoration in Forsinard Flows.
Forsinard Flows is the inspiration and history for this gin, however it’s legacy will hopefully be more in keeping with my motivation to ‘give nature a home’. You don’t need 21,000 hectares of blanket bog to make a difference for nature, anyone can make small changes to bring a little wild into their lives. The neck tag is infused with wildflower seeds so that you can plant some ‘Wild’ into your garden or window box. The label is 30% grass, and we will continue to look at all of our packaging to have it as natural as possible. ‘Wild’ can also come in a gift box, which is an RSPB robin nest box – so you can take it home, put it up in your garden, and give the local robins a home to raise their chicks. Ultimately, the most important thing that this gin does is bring the message of ‘giving nature a home’ to people in a new way. Many hands make light work, and if I can encourage even one person to give nature a home in any way then I will consider it a job well done.
You can learn more about ‘Wild’ on our website or if you’re in the Edinburgh area then please come visit us at the Secret Herb Garden and enjoy our own little plot of wilderness with a cake and some coffee (or gin!)
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