What is London Dry gin? Our Gin Distiller, Scott Gowans, Sets the Record Straight

The origin of London Dry gin 

“London Dry” is not a geographical term, but a process and style of gin

This method of distilling didn’t come about until the 1800’s, despite gins existence for many years prior to this. This was largely due to the invention of the patent still (also known as a ‘Coffey still’). In the early production days, gin was made using pot distillation to create the spirit and then subsequently gin. Unfortunately, some of these resultant spirits were not very palatable because the base spirit was not highly rectified, and would have had to be drank with a “spoon full of sugar”.

Why do we use the London Dry method?

Our distilling ingredients consist of grain neutral spirit (a highly concentrated, clear, pure, unscented alcohol) and natural plant-based botanicals. Unlike other gins, by choosing to create a London Dry style gin means that we are restricted in what we can add to spirit at the end of the distillation process. We can only add grain neutral spirit or water to bring the spirit down to bottling strength. However, our competitors opting to use others methods are free to add artificial colours, flavours, sugars, sweeteners etc. to enhance their final spirit. Here at Darnley’s we believe in the London dry method, not just because the Wemyss family history is rooted in the method, but also due to the quality we believe that a London dry is the purest form of gin; that’s why our motto is “nature distilled”.

How did London Dry gin come about?

The biggest impact was the creation of the patent still, which had the capacity to produce a highly rectified and very neutral flavoured spirit, similar to that of Vodka. Although many people had attempted to rework the original pot still, it really wasn’t until (in my eyes) Robert Stein of Fife came along. Although we largely think of Aeneas Coffey as the inventor of the patent still, it was in fact Stein who physically produced the first patent still and sold it to The Cameronbridge Grain Distillery in Fife. Interestingly enough, this distillery was built by John Haig on Wemyss' family-owned land. Now if you know anything about Darnley’s Gin then you will know that we’re owned and ran by the same Wemyss family that leased out this land to Haig, centuries before they had any part in the gin industry themselves.


Our very own Gin Distillery situated in the East Neuk of Fife

By law

Gin has become a very favourable spirit in the alcohol industry and thanks to the progression in distillation methods, a cleaner spirit can be pot distilled to produce gin. In fact, by law, gin must be made from grain neutral spirit produced from a still and must also contain, juniper as an ingredient during the distillation process, in order to be classified as gin. Personally I believe that if juniper isn’t a predominant flavour, it’s not gin!


To find out more about the gin making process, we host exciting Gin Tours and the opportunity to distil your very own gin at our Gin School Experience, led by myself and other members of the team at the distillery.




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