There’s an inherent and deeply satisfying beauty to a walled garden, a feeling of enclosure, harmony, and control. When the plot in question is one of the largest in Europe, a sense of grandeur is inevitably added to these qualities.
When in 2008 Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox took over the running of Gordon Castle, they immediately recognised that its celebrated walled garden presented a unique opportunity. Extending over more than eight acres, the garden was created during the 18th century renovations undertaken by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon, that saw the castle transformed from its previous existence as a fortress into a grand baronial mansion, a Scottish Versailles in the Spey valley. With a splendour matching his aspirations, the new Gordon Castle was a triumph, with its glorious architecture and magnificent gardens described by a visitor as “a world of a house”.
Sadly, as was the common experience of many great houses – a process not remotely impeded by the improvidence of Alexander and his immediate successor – by the twentieth century the changes wrought by history had taken their toll, and in 1938 the estate was sold and the house fell into disrepair. Salvation was at hand, however, when the Duke’s direct descendant Lieutenant General Sir George Gordon Lennox bought the estate after WWII and began the process of restoration, with his work continued by his son Major General Bernard Gordon Lennox. It is Sir George’s grandson Angus who, with his wife Zara, is now the guardian of this historic legacy.
So much for the past; you can put away your notebooks. Angus and Zara’s guiding ambition was to transform this heritage into an estate fit to prosper in the present and future. Their success has been spectacular. Gordon Castle Scotland is today a prestigious brand with over 250 lines ranging from chutney to china, tweeds to cider. And among them are two ranges that perfectly illustrate the centrality of the walled garden as its essential and defining feature.
Gordon Castle Gins are premium spirits whose flavours derive from the produce grown in the garden. Not just the lavender and mint that give the classic Botanical Gin its unique flavour, but the raspberries and plums used to infuse Gordon Castle Gin Liqueurs. At a time when gins are once more the spirit of our age – albeit (we hope) enjoyed with distinctly more discernment, decorum, and restraint than in the days of the 4th Duke’s contemporary Hogarth – Gordon Castle Gin has established itself as a premium brand, winning numerous quality awards and proudly on display in Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, M&S, and similar outlets throughout Europe.
Not the least of the pleasures of their gins is the care taken by Angus and Zara in the design of their packaging, which as any disciple of William Morris can testify is no mere afterthought. His instruction was to have nothing in your home that you do not know to be both beautiful and useful, and we can think of few artefacts that so perfectly meet these two demands as the bottles bearing the herbaceous G of Gordon Castle.
The same device adorns the Gordon Castle range of Bath & Beauty products. Using essential oils and infusions derived from the herbs, fruit and flowers grown in the walled garden, these unique combinations of natural ingredients provide a range of pure creams, lotions, scrubs, balms and hair care treatments – not forgetting the scented candles and diffusers that complete the uplifting and deliciously self-indulgent experience. Unsullied by artificial fragrances or other additives, the same principle of sourcing applies as to the gins: in Angus’ words, “provenance doesn’t get any purer”.
The past is not forgotten at Gordon Castle: it informs and gives its unique flavour to every item crafted and released under the Gordon Castle brand. Nothing can ever detract from a heritage that extends back over more than six centuries, when a descendant of the Gordon who fought alongside Robert the Bruce first raised his fortress home.The great house that replaced it still inspires the admiration that was the object of its ducal builder. The Castle’s beats on the Spey, hailed as the finest and most profound stretch of water among the salmon rivers of Scotland, still flow through its grounds. But it is to the future that its current guardians look. In 2010 The Gordon Ash, the great tree that had stood for over 250 years in the castle’s grounds, was so badly storm-damaged that it had to be felled: its timbers became part of the restoration of the castle, and cuttings from it are now growing where the old tree stood. To those of a romantic disposition they stand as symbols of the new flourishing of the walled garden that is the castle’s spiritual home.