If you're part of the Royal Family, chances are you could probably use a nice, stiff drink right about now. Alexandra Fraser is here to help.
A gin fit for a Duchess
Here at Country Life it seems like a new gin crosses our paths every single week. This is not necessarily a bad thing; gin is, after all, nectar of the gods and should be treated with the accompanying respect. However, it does mean that something special has to pop into our field of vision for us to stop and take note.
Like, perhaps, a ‘regal’ gin. And ‘regal’ was the word given to artisan gin distillers Brentingby by Her Grace The Duchess of Rutland, CEO of Belvoir Castle, when they set about creating Belvoir Gin. The brief was to create a gin to bring about visions of stone corridors and castellated coronets, Belvoir fulfils its brief to a (G&)T, just in time for Belvoir to sub in for Windsor Castle in the filming of The Crown‘s second series.
Country Life’s wonderful architecture editor John Goodall described Belvoir as ‘one of the most fantastical creations of the Regency era’ when he visited to discover the history of the castle. Set on a hilltop, the stunning views from Belvoir stretch across three counties of rolling countryside.
This vantage point leant Belvoir its name (a contract of the French words for a beautiful view), bequeathed to the site during the Norman Conquest, by a particularly close associate of William the Conqueror, Robert de Tosny.
The castle as it stands today owes its visage almost entirely to the romantic notions of Elizabeth, Duchess of Rutland, who upon marrying the Duke took upon herself to remodel her new home. Begun in 1801, the designs were completed after almost two decades of work and cost £200,000 – an astonishing sum for the times.
What makes Belvoir particularly special is that it’s still home to the Manners family, who took over management of the castle (then all but a ruin) in the early 16th century. Subsequent generations of the Manners family have taken care of the castle and surrounding estate ever since.
The current Duchess is an example of what wonders can be worked through hard word and dedication – the castle has been gently and elegantly nudged into the 21st century without losing a single pinch of its Regency magic. And now she can sit back and enjoy the fruits of her work while sipping her own gin — which is floral, vanilla-ry and pleasantly flagrant.
It’s also — just like the castle — both strong (at 43%abv) and beautifully presented, in a gilded bottle which holds a surprise: Belvoir Castle can be seen on the back of the label through the glass. It’s just the sort of gin you’d expect from a Duchess.
More royal drinks, from The Queen’s favourite tipple to Prince William’s every everyman choices
For the ultimate regal drink, take a leaf out of Her Majesty’s book and try gin and Dubonnet, mixed in a one-third to two-thirds ratio. Apparently the late Queen Mother was also a great fan of this fruity and potent concoction.
Prince Charles is understood to be a fan of a drink even punchier than that: Laphroaig single malt scotch whisky, which he has previously described as ‘magic’. The distillery has a royal warrant, once invited the Prince to ‘bung’ two casks (they were sold off for charity, raising thousands) and even makes the whisky which is sold at Highgrove.
Highgrove’s 12-year-old Islay whisky — £69.95 from www.highgrovegardens.com
Prince Philip is widely reported to be a fan of Boddingtons beer, but that sounds dubious to us since it’s years since we saw the stuff sold anywhere. Then again, perhaps its rarity is part of the appeal: he is also reputed to have ordered beer from a relatively little-known Burton brewery, specifically an ale called called Dual Diamond.
One royal who does not seemingly have a taste for the rarer tipple is Prince William, however, whose favourites are on tap in every pub, and tinned on every supermarket shelf in the country: Guinness and Stella Artois. The latter may be ‘reassuringly expensive’, but we’d have to say it’s also depressingly mundane. Especially compared to his grandmother’s zesty and unusual tipple of choice.