UK countryside providing inspiration for top tipples
You cannot beat a country walk among the trees – especially when it inspires a fabulous new gin. While strolling in Burleigh Wood, Leicestershire, distiller Jamie Baxter – previously at Chase and City of London Distillery – noticed a host of plants he realised provided distinctive botanicals.
Silver birch, dandelion, iris, burdock and elderberry are now part of Burleighs Signature London Dry Gin, made at the 45 West Distillery that Baxter set up near the woodland that inspired the gin. The spirit reflects British rural elements: piney eucalyptus and fragrant citrus, with spicy and floral undertones, and warming notes of dry pepper and parma violet.
Burleighs renders big flavours with a smooth sophistication that instantly attracted high-profile fans. Within two months of its launch in 2014, Burleighs was in Harrods and the Savoy’s American Bar in London. It also appeared on the optics at The Hand and Flowers, chef Tom Kerridge’s gastropub in Marlow, which has two Michelin stars.
Helping to bring out Burleighs’ rural English essence is “Messy Bessy”, the nickname of 45 West’s 450-litre copper pot still, custom-made by master craftsmen. This is the beautiful creation, allied to the skill of a team of artisan distillers, that creates a precious 600 bottles a day of superb gin.
There are not many distilleries where building was halted so that a pair of golden eagles could rear their chicks on an adjacent cliff. But that is what happened during the construction of Arran Distillery on the eponymous Hebridean island that is often dubbed “Scotland in miniature”.
Opened in 1995, Arran is now the only distillery on an island that at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign had more than top 50 – although they were mostly illegal moonshine operations.
However, Arran continues to be distilled traditionally. Unlike other distillers, for example, it does not add caramel to boost colour. And as a patron of the World Burns Federation, Arran is also the only whisky distillery allowed to use the image and signature of Robert Burns on bottles of spirit that is poetry in a glass.
Making your drinks keepers
Assuming you do not polish off the bottle at a single sitting, gin will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool dry area away from direct heat or sunlight. Keep bottles tightly closed to minimise evaporation and gradual loss of flavour. Do not store gin in a fridge or freezer, as it will greatly reduce its aromatic nature.
Top six regional gin distilleries
Shetland Gin (Northern Isles)
The UK’s most northerly distillery works wonders with botanicals harvested on the island of Unst. Its Shetland Reel and Ocean Sent gins have recently won medals at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Awards.
Lakes Gin (Cumbria)
Bassenthwaite Lake and the wild Cumbrian fells frame a distillery carved from the old stone buildings of an 1850s farm. Juniper is augmented by Lake District natives such as meadowsweet and heather in fine artisan gin.
Rock Rose (Caithness)
Near Britain’s most northerly mainland point (Dunnet Head), this acclaimed craft gin majors on striking botanicals such as sea buckthorn, rock rose and rowan berries.
Brecon Gin (South Wales)
Made amid stunning Brecon Beacons vistas, Penderyn Distillery’s spirit has won International Wines & Spirits Competition gold.
Bombay Sapphire (Hampshire)
The 300-year-old Laverstoke Mill is a spectacular showcase for this gin’s botanicals. The exotic plants are housed in breathtaking glasshouses by Thomas Heatherwick.
Chase Distillery (Herefordshire)
William Chase launched the first UK distillery to make gin from scratch in 2007, making the drier GB Gin and the Williams Elegant Gin.