Post written by Abi L. Glen
A lot can happen when you’re walking the dug.
Regular visitors will be well aware of my infatuation with Andrew’s greyhound, Pace. It’s not just because of her supermodel bone structure and genteel demeanour, but her roundabout responsibility for the formation of Equity For Pigs. More precisely, it was a fated dog-walk up St Leonard’s Hill a year ago, where Andrew spotted the beginnings of the Holyrood Distillery.
About the same time Pace was nosing her way through the park, I was nosing about for partners for a creative-industries post-doc. Andrew and I go way back, through the British Animal Studies Network; he and Andrea had collaborated before on all sorts of vet/art crossover projects. Because he is a mensch, Andrew put me in touch with Andrea, where I casually mentioned that I’d been working at a bougie gin distillery while writing up. She mused that she’d been thinking of using images from her and Cath’s last project, CARNEVALE, as beer labels.
You know when people say ‘My life flashed before my eyes’? Nerdily, a whole project flashed before mine. The crew began to take shape; like Ghostbusters, but with more pigs, and arguably a cooler lab. Andrea: fine arts skills and a history of making irreverent materials with a serious welfare-oriented core. Andrew: veterinary ethics, animal welfare, a history of arts-science collaboration. Me: Animal Studies, literature and visual culture, and 4 years at a desk writing = a deep need to be out in the field. Preferably a sty, actually. Add to this Andrea’s collaborator Cath (herself the maker of incredible architectural work on apiaries) and my side-hustle in the booze game, and we were already high on the hog.
Back to the beer labels. Aside from the long history of pigs in cider and beer advertising, Andrea had wanted a visual shorthand for the play/pleasure outputs of CARNEVALE. It’s also a bit of a sad truth that most humans need to see that animal rights will benefit them somehow. I mentioned that this was taking place in Scottish craft-beer supernova BrewDog, who had recently launched a doggy offshoot of their shares scheme, Equity for Punks, jauntily renamed Equity for Pups. I can’t help myself, really; I just like to sass people out. And so Equity For Pigs it was.
Now we needed a distiller. Not just any distiller; a local one, a creative one, one that maybe hadn’t been established for so long that Development or some other hideous corporate entity blacklisted us for being Detrimental To The Integrity Of The Brand.
And so, while Pace was busy doing what Pace does, Andrew spied Holyrood. He emailed me about this new place that seemed to be under construction, and who might be amenable to a chat.
Let’s skip forward through this next part and state simply that they were, indeed, amenable. A new venture for a crew of Canadians and Scots, they’re bringing single-malt distilling back to Edinburgh after a 100 years. It’s a testament to their charm, progressiveness (and cracking product) that they crowd-funded an astonishing £5.8 million to found their new site.
And what a site it is.
Beauty aside, what drew us to Holyrood was their drive for innovation, for complexity, for excellence. They are complementing the literal landscape, but changing the metaphorical one. You can see it in their careful redesign of their Victorian building; in the gleaming gallery windows ripe for pop-ups; in their plans for interactive visitor centre, and in the spritely delicacy of flavour in their gin. Our first meeting in their Shop was something else, and not just because we had seen a Jack Russell carrying a bottle of wine in its mouth on the way.
Soon, I’ll be interviewing Rob about his thoughts on the opening of the Distillery, on building mutually beneficial and circular, ‘maker’ economies in Edinburgh, and on sustainability practices. We’re also in talks about re-using draff from the whisky-distillation to make more sustainable, edible pig toys (as one does). My personal dream is to make a special edition of their Auld Tam gin called Auld Tamworth; a version for pigs (an apple water? Hazel cordial?) and one for humans, with a cheery Gorgie-City-Farm-ginger-pig label.
But more of that later. In the meantime, Holyrood will be opening their doors in the coming weeks. Should you find yourself in Edinburgh, remember that it is now your moral duty to consume some of their spirits; it’s for the pigs, you understand.
Photo credits: Norrie Russell, Abi L. Glen and Andrea Roe
(Photo credit: Norrie Russell 2017 )
(AR photo credit 2019)
(Abi Jack Russell)