Her favourite cocktail is reputedly gin with the fortified wine Dubonnet – and now HRH Queen Elizabeth has another gin to sample.
o Down distillery Rademon Estate has created a new gin, infused with rose petals from the monarch’s Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in Co Down.
Yes, businesses have diversified during Covid-19 – but not many have done so with the royal panache of Rademon, where Shortcross Gin is made.
The limited edition spirit is now on sale on the website of Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), the charity which runs the royal residence as a visitor attraction.
The petals are from the castle’s Granville Rose Garden, created by Lady Rose Bowes-Lyon – aunt to HRH and sister of the Queen Mother.
The collaboration dates back to around 2018 when the castle was being prepared for opening to the public. Its management approached Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong, who own Rademon Estate. “It’s not every day you’re contacted by Hillsborough Castle for a meeting,” Fiona said.
“They told us they loved our gin and the distillery and wanted us to create a bespoke gin for the opening. It was quite a special commission for us.”
Inspiration struck on a walk around the gardens. “The smell in the rose garden was overwhelmingly lovely, so we picked up some of the rose petals, then went into the walled garden where we gathered some apples and pears.
“It was a real honour to work on it and to be commissioned by HRP. I’d recommend having it with a good quality tonic, a slice of pear and a rosemary garnish. Or you could make a cocktail with it.”
Fiona said the launch of the gin this month was a positive event during a difficult time. “We’ve had to rethink our business, what we do and how we do things. We’ve always been quite small and agile, and that’s a good thing.”
The business had been shut for most of last year due to lockdowns.
But Fiona said that despite having a bar on site which has not been able to open, the business had been turned down for a grant to support hospitality businesses.
They will soon be launching its Shortcross single malt whiskey.
Laura McCorry, head of Hillsborough Castle, said: “Like the castle itself, gin is something of a Georgian success story, so it seems particularly fitting that both seem to be enjoying a renaissance in the 21st century.”
Even Hillsborough Castle has not had an easy time through lockdown – though it hopes that restrictions will be sufficiently relaxed by Easter to allow it to host a chocolate rabbit hunt.
But its finances are under pressure and many staff are on the furlough scheme on a flexible basis.
A spokesman said: “The prolonged closure of the castle, Covid restrictions and the major downturn in international visits to Northern Ireland left us facing a significant shortfall in our planned income this financial year and the foreseeable future.”
Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Shortcross is on sale at www.historicroyalpalaces.com at £40 per bottle.
The Rose Garden
Recipe for a rose petal gin cocktail
40ml Hillsborough Castle Gin
10ml rose liqueur
40ml pear juice
15ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
Pear slice garnish
— to www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk