There’s a renaissance going on in Britain – and it has nothing to do with art, literature or cake but a juniper-flavoured spirit that is changing the way we enjoy a drink. Gone is the drink’s reputation for inducing depression, and the days when a barman would serve up gin and warm, flat tonic with an old piece of lemon in a grubby glass.
Gin is now highly celebrated; crafted by master mixologists into unique cocktails in bars devoted to the juniper-flavoured elixir. In 2015, Britons spent more than £1billion on gin for the first time in its history — just over a third more than they spent on the spirit in 2010. And the UK is now the biggest exporter of gin in the world — and no small wonder considering the number of small-batch distilleries popping up all over the country.
“There are many reasons why we are experiencing this well-documented 20th century gin renaissance,” says Will Lowe, master distiller at the Cambridge Distillery.
“Gin is such a hugely versatile spirit, juniper has to be the dominant characteristic but after that the flavours can be all different, which leaves room for flexibility. We can create gins instantly, too, there’s no ageing requirement like there is with whiskies – we can do things much more quickly.”
Will and his wife, Lucy, were the first to produce gin flavoured entirely by the immediate geography and weather conditions. Cambridge Seasonal Gin is distilled twice a year and Spring-Summer 2016, with new botanicals reflecting the time of year (such as hawthorn which has been abundant this year), is due to be released at the end of this month (April).
“You can bring in flavours that interest people – produce and provenance, like the natural botanicals that we collect with the dog in the fields. Gin used to be made from botanicals flown in from around the world. New distilleries where people can learn about the history of gin and how it’s made are fun and interesting for people to look around.”
Hotels are creating their own gins; The Dorchester in London has Dorchester Old Tom and Lime Wood in the New Forest is the latest to join the club, creating a gin with notes of lavender to reflect its extensive lavender gardens.
Last month, even Gatwick Airport jumped on the bandwagon, launching its own gin after watching sales in premium gin jump to 40 per cent last year, compared to 10 per cent in 2011.
“There’s no sign of it stopping,” says Will Lowe. “Obviously there will be a saturation point at some stage, all trends are doomed to that point, but at the moment the appetite for gin is huge.”
Unique British Gins
Silent Pool Gin
At the foot of the North Downs in Surrey, a distillery on the Duke of Northumberland’s Albury Estate has been producing award-winning gin since October 2014, and more recently launched the worlds largest gin bottle at 9L! (On-sale in Hedonism, located in the heart of London’s Mayfair, priced at a startling £5,000) drawing water – and its name – from a mythical, spring-fed lake known as the Silent Pool. Distillery tours also available.
w: silentpooldistillers.com; £39.95 for 70cl
Distilled in small 60-bottle batches in the quiet backstreets of Bournemouth, Dor.set, Conker Spirit uses botanicals from the surrounding countryside including marsh samphire, elderberries and hand-picked New Forest gorse flowers. w: conkerspirit.co.uk; £35.95 for 70cl
After a trial batch in 2014 received phenomenal feedback, this gin made with Piedmont black truffles will be launched on general release later this summer. It is currently available in small quantities from the Cambridge Distillery online shop and at Selfridg.es London. According to its makers, Truffle Gin makes a spectacular digestif, served simply over ice. w: cambridgedistilleryshop.co.uk; £80 for 70cl
Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin
The world’s first airport gin distillery opened in Gatwick’s North Terminal in March, pro.ducing 12 litres of gin per batch, using ingredients sourced from all over the globe. Each bottle is truly unique, with its own stamp including the batch number, production date and signature of the distiller that day. w: gatwickairport.com;£25 for 70cl
The Wingfield Spritz
This is a unique new summer drink which launched in March at Harvey Nichols stores. Offering a lighter alternative to other gin based brands with 50% of the bottle made up of a small batch London Dry Gin topped up with a range of botanicals including cucumber, pink grapefruit, elderflower and other fruits and spices. Available from Harvey Nichols stores countrywide. w: pontooncocktails.com/wingfield/Priced from £25.99.
Pick of the UK’s Gin distillery tours
Beefeater Gin Distillery, Kennington
One of London’s best kept secrets, this interactive experience lifts the lid on the extraordinary stories behind one of the world’s favourite spirits, and is the only historic dry gin distilled in the capital today. The interactive self-discovery tour takes visitors on an enthralling journey through 195 years of gin making history, including a live production process in the distillery’s cathedral-like still house and a complimentary coctail – the classic Beefeater Gin and Tonic. w: beefeaterdistillery.com
Laverstoke Mill, Hampshire
A Mecca for gin lovers, Laverstoke Mill was painstakingly renovated and opened as a state-of-the-art distillery by Bombay Sapphire in September 2014, as the gin’s first permanent UK home. Choose from self-discovery tours, hosted tours and taking a gin cocktail masterclass. £15 (advance tickets only). w: distillery.bombaysapphire.com
Plymouth Gin, The Black Friars Distillery
Plymouth Gin is synonymous with the spirit of discovery. The historical gin, renowned for its superior quality, has been distilled on the same site since 1793, which has a rich history and is recorded as the oldest working distillery in England. w: plymouthdistillery.com
Edinburgh Gin Distillery, Edinburgh
Learn how gin is distilled in the Edinburgh Distillery’s two stills, curiously named Flora and Caledonia, in a 45-minute discovery tour or 75-minute “Connoisseur Tour”, or join a three-hour gin-making class and become your own distiller. From £10pp. w: edinburghgindistillery.co.uk
Head along to the Portobello Star for a lesson in the history and production of gin and enjoy a tutored tasting before crafting your own gin using a completely unique recipe exactly to your tastes. £110pp. w: theginstitute.com
Sipsmith Distillery Tours
A quintessential tour of London’s history of gin at the Sipsmith Distillery in London – from its chequered past of Mother’s Ruin and Dutch Courage to the cocktail heyday at the Savoy. See how their award-winning spirits are hand-crafted in beautiful copper stills, Prudence, Patience and Constance, followed by a tasting of their range. From £15pp w: sipsmith.com/tours
Salcombe Gin, Devon
Opening this summer in the coastal town of Salcombe, the purpose-built distillery will offer tours, a tasting bar and gin school where visitors can craft their own unique gin – distilled using pure Dartmoor water – and take it home. From £15pp. w: salcombegin.com
Where to Drink Gin
510 Below, London
This subterranean bar, just five minutes’ walk from Fulham Broadway, stocks 40 different gins and holds gin tasting evenings.
510 Fulham Road, SW6 5NJ. 020 7736 7588 w:510below.com
The Merchant House, London
Sip gin from a selection of more than 300 while listening to live jazz, or join a gin masterclass that includes a nip of a vintage gin from the 1950s.
13 Well Court, off Bow Lane, EC4M 9DN. 020 7332 0044 w: merchanthouselondon.com
The Old Bell Inn, Lancashire
Proprietor Philip Whiteman holds a Guinness World Record for stocking the most gins on a commercial premises
– 600 from all over the world at the last count. A gin masterclass is held on the last Thursday of every month.
Huddersfield Road, Delph, Saddleworth OL3 5EG. 01457 870130 w: theoldbellinn.co.uk
The Gin Parlour (Gorilla), Manchester
On the mezzanine level of Manchester’s Gorilla, this bar is dedicated to gin and stocked with small batch, hand-crafted distillations – including its home-produced buttered gin and homemade tonic syrups. A wide cocktail list.
54-56 Whitworth Street, M1 5WW. 0161 407 0301 w: thisisgorilla.com
The Canary Gin Bar, Bath
Two floors of gin – with a martini bar on the first floor – in the city where Jane Austen penned her most famous books. More than 250 bottles to choose from but closed on Sundays. 2/3 Queen Street, BA1 1HE. w: thebathgincompany.co.uk
Heads and Tales, Edinburgh
Stocks around 70 gins, 35-40 of which are from the UK.
1a Rutland Place, EH1 2AD. 0131 656 2811 w: headsandtalesbar.com
The Chesterfield, Mayfair
The Chesterfield Mayfair offer an Ultimate Gin Experience. Resident mixologists take guests on a journey of exploration, marrying different gins with complementary tonics that help to bring out the best flavours from citrus to floral, savoury to spiced.
35 Charles St, London W1J 5EB. 020 7491 2622 w: chesterfieldmayfair.com
* Lead image: Nicholas Culpeper gin distillery at Gatwick airport North Terminal
You may also like
West London Shooting School team up with Sipsmith ...
As the latest expression of its forward-focused mi...