Gin. It hasn’t always been the drink of the moment, but recent years have seen it not just come back into favour, but positively strut into the drinks collections of every self-respecting bar, pub and eatery in the land. It is no longer confined to being the tipple of choice of your rather daring (although ultimately spinsterish) Great Aunt, or of the impoverished London matriarchs looking for escape from the tragedy of life in the Victorian East End. The dusty green bottle at the back of many drinks cupboards has been replaced with excitingly shaped and labelled bottles, the contents transformed in any number of tantalising ways with clever incorporation of botanicals.
While this spirit has confidently secured its place in our Friday nights (check out Instagram around 6 p.m. to see it flooded with ‘ice and a slice’ posts), not everyone feels as confident about what they are drinking. If you’re drinking gin and perhaps not enjoying it as much as you think you should be, it’s worth experimenting with different options to find one that you really enjoy. Even better – take the option of crafting your own, personal bottle.
Botanicals matter when it comes to gin
Every distillery talks about its unique blend of botanicals, the formula known only to a handful of individuals, the closely guarded secret. A classic London dry will be distilled with all its botanicals – this is how we do it at In the Welsh Wind – rather than being infused (‘bathtub’). The key flavour is juniper. This is a fundamental component. To be called ‘gin’ a spirit labelled as such in the EU must include at least some Juniperus Communis. Other botanicals might include coriander, lemon and angelica but each distillery has its own combination. To take a gin to the next level it’s about adding in layers of complexity on top of these basic flavours, experimenting with the distillation process and perfecting the blend.
Faced with a baffling range of gins in any retail space, whether online or in real life, it is tempting to grab and go, or even to leave with nothing. Rather than being overwhelmed, take time to research before you make your purchase. It’ll be worth it, not least when you take that first sip. Think about tastes that get you excited and choose something that reflect those notes of flavour.
Become the distiller
However many different gins you try, there can be no better way of guaranteeing a gin that hits all the right buttons for you than distilling your own. Immersing yourself in the distillation process is perhaps the ultimate opportunity to discover your gin. We’re not talking illicit stills down the bottom of the garden (although if that’s how you roll, go for it!). We create bespoke premium gins for our retail partners and have developed a complex understanding of how to distil different flavours and blend them into a gin that reflects the brief.
When we welcome the gin lovers, the gin curious to the distillery to offer them the opportunity to become the distiller, we’re keen to share that knowledge and understanding; to encourage a multi-sensory approach: to think about flavour, to open jars and consider botanicals; to taste as the still works its magic.
We explore gin profiles and discuss flavours with you – what excites you flavour-wise, what turns you off. For some, a classic gin is the place to start. For others, more floral is the way to go. With that knowledge we can then work to craft your very own blend of botanicals and start distilling. As the still goes to work, we encourage you to taste often. One of the most surprising elements of the distillation process is how the flavours change as the alcohol concentration reduces. Taste one drop and you may experience the sweetness of the juniper; taste even 30 seconds later and citrus flavours may be coming through. The skill in creating a great gin is taking various ‘cuts’ through the distillation and blending them together to achieve the right balance for you. A final addition of H2O and your gin is ready to bottle.
Spending time with us at the distillery to become the distiller and discover your gin is, unashamedly, time out – but it’s an opportunity to really understand gin and what works for you. You’ll leave with your own bottle of bespoke gin, distilled to your tastes, and the recipe card so you can ask us to distil more for you in future. You’ll also have the knowledge to make informed purchases in future, so you’ll always be delighted by your gin!