Candid’s Baldwin Ho steps outside his luxury zone for an adventure like no other with Daffy’s Gin and Red Paddle Co.
Every once in a while, the luxury traveller in you yearns for a sense of adventure outside of deciding what to have for breakfast in bed at your 5-star hotel. Daffy's Gin along with Red Paddle Co have come up with the dream escapade and you don't even have to fly off to a far-flung country. It is surprisingly a winning combination to match a respected alcohol brand with the world's most popular inflatable stand-up paddle boards (SUPs).
Where does all of this take place? Strathmashie, in the serene pine tree-filled surroundings of the Cairngorms National Park that has been the home of Daffy's Gin in recent years. Owner Chris Molyneaux, moved into Strathmashie distillery because of the idyllic surroundings with exceptional water from the River Mashie and the abundance of botanicals ripe for picking in the surroundings. There could hardly be a better place for Chris and wife, Mignonne Khazaka to test new ideas out as well as bring up their children.
The grounds of Strathmashie House, where the distillery is based, unbeknownst to Chris, used to be owned by his ancestors and was also famously visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the summer of 1847 to enjoy the facilities of the Victorian shooting lodge.
There are two options for accommodation here including the quaint distillery cottage, which can sleep up to eight people, starting from £145 per night (and includes a fascinating period Aga and sauna) or the butler's flat, which sleeps up to five and starts from £80 per night.
However, what really stands out is the kind hospitality shown by Chris and his family. The highlight undoubtedly is the gin school where you can create the ultimate gin from scratch. Having been to plenty of beverage masterclasses, I can safely say this is the most hands-on class you will ever encounter. Part of the masterclass involves foraging for ingredients yourself, however, our group went for the upgraded option, where we paddle-boarded down the Mashie river to collect botanicals.
Having done paddle boarding before and managed to fall off within five seconds, I thought this was going to be a tricky affair. However, I hadn't encountered Red Paddle Co; they are the world's most popular inflatable stand-up paddle boards. You don't have to take my word for it, you just need to search Red Paddle Co on Instagram and you will see some of the most stunning nature photos on the internet. The boards are lightweight, sleek, vibrant, extremely easy to balance and more importantly, they are genuinely tremendous fun. It also helps that we were paddling downstream, so relatively less effort was required and we had more time to admire the picturesque scenery and help the odd stray sheep stranded on a small island. We even had time for a picnic lunch in between the paddling and the foraging.
Back at Daffy's HQ, we were gathered in the nerve centre of the distillery where Chris develops his products. The group size was only a handful and Chris has a knack for making the devilishly complicated seem like basic GCSE. He explained that there are five elements: juniper, spice, citrus, floral and herbal and then asked us to what degree on a scale of one to five did we want those elements in our gin and what foraged items we wanted to use. If you are a classicist, always go high on the juniper would be my advice.
Once our flavour profile was created we then went about the actual distillation process using shiny, dainty copper pots. You can create your own gin in a little over two hours and during the times when waiting was required, we were offered bespoke cocktails in their cosy Daffy's Bar in the main building. The finished product was poured into the distinctive Daffy's bottles designed by James Bond artist, Robert McGinnis. And if you didn't know, the Goddess of gin depicted on the bottle is in fact based on Chris's wife, Mignonne.
Five-star hotels are found easily all over the globe, but it most definitely isn't an everyday occurrence for someone to paddle down the Mashie river to go foraging and then distill your own gin. This adventure is most certainly one for the bucket list.
Find out more about Daffy’s Gin here and Red Paddle Co here.
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