There is nothing more quintessentially British than a good “gin & tonic.” Gin tours and distilleries are popping up all over Britain, supplying the marketplace with new, trendy bottles and flavours.
With a growth in appetite for gin these days, you can go on a ‘gin tour,’ make your own bottle (blended with the botanicals and ingredients of your choice) or do a gin tasting from the world’s largest gin selection at the Feathers Hotel in OxfordShire. You describe the flavours you like, or even the mood you’re in, and an expert barman makes a selection from over 170 types of gin based on this criteria.
City of London Distillery – A Gin Distillery in the Heart of the City
The City of London has a rich history in distilling gin. Throughout the 18th century, a gin shop or distillery was found on every corner. These shops took full advantage of the spices and citrus fruits coming into the port of London. Over the years, the popularity of gin diminished, only to experience resurgence with the opening of the City of London Distillery in 2012. The new distillery improved the old distillation techniques and introduced more subtle flavours.
The Distillery’s first gin was the City of London, which was then followed by four others: Christopher Wren, Old Tom, Sloe Gin and Square Mile. The Distillery made small batches for special clients and hotels, as well as hosting corporate events in their venue. It welcomes visitors to take a guided tour and learn about their gin making techniques.
They are open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm, and the tour is approximately 45 minutes long – Call 0207 9363636 for more information.
Plymouth Gin Distillery – Where it all Began
The Port of Plymouth was the birthplace of Plymouth Gin in 1793. The historical Black Friars Distillery is the oldest working gin distillery in England. Gin from this distillery traveled the globe with the British Royal Navy and become the favourite of the seafaring pioneers and remains popular throughout the world.
The Black Friars building was built back in the 1400s. The Refectory, a medieval hall with a hull-shaped timber roof, is where the Pilgrim Fathers are thought to have spent their last night, before sailing on the Mayflower to the New World.
Guided tours are available for Plymouth’s Barbican. Tour choices vary from 40 minutes to a Master Distiller’s Tour lasting 2.5 hours long. Reservations are available through 01752 665292.
The Chase Distillery, Rosemaund Farm, Hereford
Chase is a real farm-to-bottle distillery. Superior potatoes and apples are grown on the farm in some of the richest soil in England. These fine products (King Edward and Lady Claire potatoes and cider apples) are the bases for the distillation of Chase’s vodkas. The vodkas provide the bases for the gins.
Most gins use a neutral grain spirit mixed with water, with the same amount of water and botanicals. Chase Distillery has complete control over their production. They use their own vodka made from their own farm-grown products. It’s the single-estate approach which forms the base for all of their products. The distillery distills 5 vodkas, 2 liqueurs and 4 gins; Williams Elegant Gin, Williams GB Extra Dry, William Chase Seville Orange Gin and Chase Summer Fruit Cup.
Guided tours and tastings are available at Chase. The Distillery shop is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm. Tours are available on Fridays at 12pm and 3pm. Call 01432 820455 for reservations.
Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery, Whitchurch, Hampshire
A warren of red brick buildings, the once Laverstoke Mill is now home to the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery. The handsome red brick of the building has been married to a unique set of handmade, graceful glasshouses. These flow out of the side of the building like two giant arms and contain the botanicals (juniper, lemon and licorice).
Tours are available for both the distillery and the flavour lab. In the Empire Bar, visitors can enjoy a snifter (a footed glass that is a wide at the bottom and tapers to the top, used for gin and other drinks) or visit the Mill Bar alongside the beautiful River Test for a drink ‘on the house.’
The average tour is about 1.5 to 2 hours long. The distillery is open April to September, 7 days a week and October to March, Friday to Sunday. Call 01256 890090 for more information.
Eurostar Gin, Surrey Hills
Toujours 21 is a new gin with a smooth and fruity flavour. It was created to celebrate the 21st birthday of Eurostar, which marks the introduction of their new high speed trains (London to Paris and Brussels). The gin is flavoured with French botanicals and classic floral scents of the British countryside (English lavender and angelica). It encapsulates the historic Eurostar partnership between the French and British, with Raymond Blanc OBE and the Silent Pool Distillery who collaborated collectively to create this distinctive gin.
The Silent Pool Distillery produces handcrafted artisan spirits. They use a specially created copper still and a restored vintage wood-fired steam boiler that burns locally-sourced sustainable hardwoods. They are located in Albury, in Surrey Hills.
Toujours 21 can be sampled in the Eurostar Business Premier lounges in London, Paris and Brussels.
Visit the Distillery during weekdays 9am to 5pm, and Saturdays 10am to 4pm and Sundays until 3pm. The distillery offers a 90 minute tour. The visitor can learn how Silent Pool gin is made, what goes into it and why. This complex gin has a clean, fresh taste, perfect for a classic G&T.
The Beefeater Distillery, Kennington, London
In 1863 James Burrough bought a Chelsea distillery for £400. He later started experimenting, inventing, and using different processes in 1876, and soon realized that blending a recipe of botanicals produced a bold, full-flavoured gin – Beefeater was born!
Burrough’s method of steeping and distillation, as well as his secret recipe has not changed. To create Beefeater, he steeped lemon peel and Seville oranges with whole juniper berries and other botanicals for 24 hours before distillation. This well-priced, popular gin is widely available, and considered ‘a classic gin’ that has weathered the test of time.
The distillery is housed in an Edwardian building, and although there’s a 1950s extension, it still has the original Victorian pot stills. It also possesses a custom-built visitor centre, allowing visitors to view the Beefeater distillation process and learn the history of gin in London.
Tours are about 1 hour long, and tickets are available at the door, however, online booking is recommended.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your visit to London now, and indulge in a gin tour!
Cover Image: Nikos Koutoulas