Gin Distillery Visit with Tasting.
Our November Hoot seemed to be in an unlikely place – a small farm in the depths of Charnwood Forest. It has to be said, it was quite a challenge to find in the dark (one car load of Red Hatters was ten minutes and another an hour late!). However once inside Bawdon Lodge Farm, we were ushered into a warm stone floored outbuilding, given a large glass of splendid G&T – T only for drivers – and a had a magical tour of Burleigh Gin distillery.
Our guide –young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and extensively tattooed – introduced us the Messy Bessy, the beautiful copper still, and explained how it worked. I won’t go into detail, but the process involved heating 97% alcohol (from wheat) with water and a careful selection of ‘botanicals’, and condensing the resulting vapour. There is a lots of skill involved, including discarding the first distillate which is mainly methanol and can make you go blind, and the last which is ‘overstewed’ and tastes unpleasant. There is a final blending with pure water, and voila, London style gin!
Then we were introduced to the ‘botanicals.’ All gin has juniper in it, by definition. Our guide became almost poetic as he introduced us to the other ingredients and described what they contributed to the gin – coriander- that adds a citrus tang, cassia bark – like cinnamon, orris root, cardamom, and then some local ingredients that give Burleigh Gin its distinctive flavour, elderberries, silver birch bark, dandelion root and burdock.
We were invited to try and compare the five different ‘brews’ the distillery produces using different balances of the basic botanical selection, including a lovely smooth citrus ‘Signature’ , floral tasting ‘Pink’ and rather more spicy ‘Leicester’ edition.
The evening was a real eye opener – I had not realised how fascinating gin making was, and it was very enjoyable sampling the range of flavours.
The gin is not the sort you will find in a supermarket. You can buy it via specialised dealers or direct via their website (burleighsgin.com) in very neat looking 75cl bottles at about £30 a bottle. A very acceptable Christmas present for the right person perhaps?
And we can also recommend the Griffin Inn in Swithland where most of us had a well earned supper afterwards!