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Burgundian négociant celebrates gin smuggler

Burgundian négociant, Vallet Frères, has allowed a special bottling of Bourgogne Rouge 2013 in Orkney to celebrate the tale of a local gin smuggler.

Bernard Vallet opening the barrel

Under the watchful eye and participation of managing director Bernard Vallet, local playwright and wine merchant, Duncan McLean, was allowed to specially bottle 294 75cl bottles and six magnums from the barrel on the premises of his shop Kirkness & Gorie in Kirkwall.

McLean had written a play for the St Magnus International Festival about Jack Kirkness, who founded the merchant in the 19th century and who had an unfortunate run in with the law over a barrel of gin.

McLean, who married into the Kirkness family, related: “Unfortunately Kirkness had ‘forgotten’ to pay duty and tax on the spirits, having entered into an agreement with a rascally skipper called Askam who smuggled the cheap stuff from Holland.  The subsequent trial was one of the most sensational Orkney has ever seen – he was found guilty in March 1876 and fined the equivalent of more than £70,000 in today’s money.”

A longtime retailer of Vallet Frères wines, he continued that when he told Vallet the story and his idea for a play last year, the latter’s eyes “lit up” and suggestions for rolling the barrel through the streets of Kirkwall and conductin a special bottling were suggested.

“This was something that previous generations of the family business did as a matter of course – but not for at least 70 years,” said McLean. “It’s the perfect time to revive this tradition and it’s all legal…”

All bottles from the barrel are specially labelled as “bottled in Kirkwall, Orkney, June 2015”.

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