Like oranges? Like gin? Then there’s a very good chance you’ll love James Keiller Gin from Dundee. We try a gin with a famous name from the world of marmalade.
A premium-priced gin (it’s just over £30 for 50cl), James Keiller Estates Dundee Dry Gin is a Scottish gin. It’s distilled in Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. It’s bottled at 40% ABV. Its botanicals include juniper and Seville oranges.
A gin named after a marmalade?
Dundee – the fourth largest city in Scotland – is traditionally famous for three things: jam, jute and journalism. As a boy born in Dundee and growing up nearby, that was drilled into you at school from a young age as your cultural heritage. In fact, both my parents worked for the famous DC Thomson in Dundee for the majority of their careers. My mother was a journalist on magazines, my father was an artist on The Beano and The Dandy comics. I worked for DC Thomson myself – so did my brother – packing comic annuals into boxes for delivery as summer jobs.
As Dundonians, James Keiller was therefore a household name to us. It was a name synonymous with Dundee, and was the marmalade brand founded by the Keiller family in the 18th century. A storm had brought a ship containing Seville oranges to Dundee, and Mrs Keiller (James’ mother) had turned it into marmalade. She’d included bits of rind in it, which was something of a new style of marmalade.
The brand grew over the years, courtesy of the British Empire, but ultimately lost out to other brands (notably Robertson’s, another marmalade started in Scotland). Keiller’s is still made, but not now in Dundee and it’s for export only.
Today, the famous marmalade has inspired a dry gin, contract distilled by the award-winning Verdant Spirit Co. in Dundee. It’s available in two colours of stoneware bottle – black and white. Having said that, we thought that the black was actually very dark blue. Either way, they are beautiful bottles and we need to consider it against our top 10 favourite gin bottles. Black, blue or white, how did it fare on the taste test?
James Keiller Gin review
On opening the wax sealed bottle, we’d expected a huge punch of those Seville oranges on the nose. That didn’t happen and, actually, we were all quite pleased about that. This is a dry gin after all, not an orange liqueur. The nose is more subtle. There’s certainly citrus, but it also has a very welcoming warmth to it as well. It’s really quite hard to describe, but it smells like a good quality gin.
On to taste. Sipping it neat, those oranges suddenly opened up beautifully. You can taste them straight away, and then they linger on your palate. We also liked the fact that there was nothing else complicated going on here. You’re promised something inspired by oranges and that’s what you get. The core botanicals add warmth and a bit of spice, but they are the backing track to the lead vocalist. It’s all very nicely balanced.
How to serve James Keiller Gin
Sipping neat worked, and adding a touch of water and ice was also very pleasant. However, we thought that James Keiller Gin worked best with tonic. In our view, don’t go with a flavoured tonic – there’s plenty of flavour there already. Don’t overpower it. For garnish, well, that seems obvious. A bit of orange peel works very well. We also gave it a whirl with lime, lemon and grapefruit. Of those, we really liked the grapefruit garnish (which also works well with these gins).
Our verdict? James Keiller Gin is an absolute triumph. It’s a gin inspired by a marmalade that works really well. Just don’t try it on your toast in the morning.
Buy James Keiller Gin
In the UK, you can try to buy James Keiller Estates Dundee Dry Gin from Amazon or from Master of Malt. It had sold out on both when we looked, but still worth a try. Failing that, you can buy direct from the Keiller Dundee Gin website.
In the US/Canada, at time of writing, you can’t yet get James Keiller Gin on Drizly. However, check via the ad below to see if it’s been added.