THE Prince of Wales enjoyed a small martini during a morning visit to a moorland gin distillery.

Charles was first served a neat gin to give him a clear taste of the award-winning spirit, and was then handed the cocktail by business co-founder Sir Walter Riddell at his estate in Hepple, Coquetdale, Northumberland.

The prince had ventured out in early autumn showers and on to the moor to plant a juniper bush before tasting the product at the small distillery close to Sir Walter’s house.

The native conifers, grown a few minutes’ walk away from the distillery, provide the gin with its distinctive taste, as well as locally grown botanicals.

Charles drank the martini – stirred, not shaken – made for him by Sir Walter, who also handed one to the Duchess of Northumberland, who was accompanying the prince in her role as Lieutenant of Northumberland.

The Moorland Spirit Company’s Hepple Gin retails for £38 a bottle and won a gold medal at the San Francisco Spirits Awards.

Later, Charles paid tribute to volunteers and carers at a garden party hosted by the Duchess of Northumberland at Alnwick Gardens.

He spent two hours at the event, the first of which was held seven years ago when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended.

Charles made a speech, saying: “It has been such a joy to discover the enormous range of different organisations and charities and all the different things so many of you are doing in your wonderful way, in all your communities, things that are often unseen and unheard. “Coming here to Northumberland, all I can say is it makes me unbelievably proud just to see what you are all doing, the contribution you all make and the way in which you help to keep this county so very special.”