Gin making at Nelson's Distillery in Staffordshire
A couple of weeks ago we had the pleasure of participating in a gin making day at Nelson's distillery - it wasn't gifted, but it was a Christmas present from my (lovely) other half.
And it was fantastic! The process, the gadgets, the history - all so interesting and made even better by our passionate and energetic host, David Hunter.
The day started with coffee and a quick chat before a tour of the distillery and introduction to the distilling process - which to my understanding is neutral alcohol + botanicals (including juniper) = gin! Plus of course lots of sciencey stuff in cool shiny things.
Next we were taken on a journey of flavour and aroma, sticking our noses in lots of lovely spices, dried flowers and natural flavourings to consider for our botanical mix. I felt like a Michelin star chef about to create a masterpiece!
We were provided with a ready-made base for our botanicals - orris powder (acts like a natural emulsifier to stop the oils separating out), angelica root and coriander seed. We were advised on how much juniper to add depending on how dry (junipery) we like our gin and to also add a type of pepper to warm and lengthen the flavour. After that it was up to us to concoct our own blend to flavour the gin.
I knew i wanted to use black cardamom in my gin so i started with that and tried to build an earthy, sweet mix around it. I chose to make my gin medium-dry (so quite a bit of juniper in it) and used black pepper - as i love it but also to keep the black theme going. The botanical blend i settled on was -
- black cardamom - deeper and more pungent than younger, green cardamom
- tonquin beans (aka tonka beans) - vanilla, almond
- fennel - sweet, anise
- pine resin - pine, grass (but to be honest i was just excited to see this and thought it would look cool in my pictures!)
- burnt orange rind - deep, bitter orange
It smelt AMAZING! So in it went into my little distilling system along with the neutral alcohol and some water. It only takes a few minutes for the alcohol to start steaming and separating out again, passing through cooling coils in a water bath before collecting in a little pot.
We were encouraged (didn't take much) to try each others infused alcohol (now gin) and tried several of the gins on offer from Nelson's while David talked us through the fascinating history of gin and the distillery.
We also had a lovely lunch but i can't remember where it fitted in chronologically!
Once our gin was finished we had another fun job to do - waxing the stopper in the top of the bottle. This was really cool, i'd be quite happy if this was my job i think! The wax seal put a nice finishing touch to the bottles, along with the label and the distiller details. This personalised gin would make a great present if you can bare to give it away!
Actually you can have your gin made again by the distillery if you really enjoy it - Nelsons keep a record of your recipe so you can order it to be made again any time.
As you can see we had a great time, I'd highly recommend it as an experience or gift for anybody into their food, wine or spirits. Just be sure to organise transport there and back so you can fully enjoy the day! Click here for more info about the gin school.
Here's my gin, 'Black Velvet' shot on the Zinc (base) and Tank (behind) photography backdrops. I've had it with regular tonic and that is lovely, but it's absolutely delicious with Fentiman's Valencian orange and lemon thyme tonic too. I've had to wait to shoot this as i wanted fresh juniper sprigs in the shot - i ordered these from Etsy and they smell gorgeous!
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