Hendrick's does not come from a bygone-age but from an impressive purpose-built "Gin Palace" which sits at the entrance to William Grant & Sons' huge Girvan grain distillery in Ayrshire, Scotland. This former munitions site is also home to the impressive, state-of-the-art Ailsa Bay malt distillery.
Charlie Gordon was famously unconventional and wanted to advertise his blended whisky in his newly released triangular bottle on television, the first whisky brand to do so. He was worried that this break with convention could lead to his supply of grain whisky being cut off as he was reliant on his competitors for grain whisky. Hence, he built his own grain distillery at Girvan which he opened in 1963. It is in one of Girvan's old utilitarian outbuildings, jokingly christened The Gin Palace that Hendricks was created and made for its first 19 years.
As sales of Hendrick's rapidly increased so it became necessary to extend its distillery to house another set of three stills. However, being a former munitions store the old outbuilding is bombproof so making structural alterations problematic. Hence, a new purpose-built Gin Palace was built a few hundred feet away from the original and this opened in 2018.
The facility is certainly palatial with modern architecture juxtaposing Victorian-inspired fixtures, fittings and decor. As befits such a stately home, the Palace sits behind a walled garden with a palm house entrance straddled by two botanical conservatories to house unusual botanicals and flora, one Mediterranean and the other tropical.
The Palace is as much an innovation centre as it is a distillery and the two hothouses allow Lesley Gracie, Hendrick's creator and Master Distiller, to grow exotic botanicals and then distil them in her lab within the Palace's facilities. Her quest for new flavours from yet unused botanicals led her to take a test still to the Venezuelan jungle where she spent a couple of weeks experimenting.
The Palace is also a major production facility with all the Hendrick's Gin sold around the world produced in its two still rooms. The first houses three stills: the original 1948 Carter-Head still, the original 1860s Bennett still and an exact replica of the Bennett still, known as the Carrick still built on site by Carrick Engineering in 2015. This setup is mirrored in a second still hall with three exact replica stills of the same small 1000 litre capacity, two Bennett stills also built by Carrick and one Carter-Head made by Forsyths.
The six stills above have a capacity to produce 2 million 9-litre cases of gin year and the Palace is futureproofed with space allowed in the second still hall for another three stills, plus a third still hall space which is presently a cavernous botanical store.
The distillery lies just north of the pretty harbour town of Girvan, close to Turnberry Golf Course (where The Open was played in 2009). Just off-shore, the island of Ailsa Craig rises some 1,110 feet from the Firth of Clyde – its peak often topped by clouds. At only 2.5 miles around its base this is a very small island but geologically unique, being formed from very hard Ailsa granite - the favoured stone for making the curling stones used in the Winter Olympics sport.
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