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Every day's a Gin School day...

On Wednesday, I got the chance to take some of our trade customers to Gin School… yes that is right gin school – a school all about GIN! (some days my job is tough)

Nelson's GinWe have recently started working with Nelson's Gin in Uttoxeter (can't beat a good local gin), they only started out about 6 weeks ago and boy do they make a decent gin! Neil Harrison (the man behind the Gin) comes from a Chef's background, and has put his knowledge of combining flavours into the art of creating Gin.

Having worked closely with the team behind Nelson's we decided it would be a great opportunity to take some of our trade customers out (plus myself included) to learn all about distillation and the art of making small batch gin. We all drink and serve enough of it, but do we actually know how it is made…

I had been looking forward to this for a while. Training is a big part of our job and I love to get to spend time with our trade customers tasting the latest wines and talking food matching, but this was something different.

As you can imagine, this was going to be a tough sell to get our some of our trade customers involved… (hmmmmm), however I managed to twist the arms of Josh and Marshall from the Royal Oak in Hurdlow, Emma and Laura (known gin enthusiasts) from Hartington Village Stores, Chris – Bar Manager at Casa Hotel Chesterfield and Jim and David from Carriages in Newhaven, which opens very soon.

Gin School…

There are a lot of new ‘Craft' Gins on the market at the moment, but apart from the great taste, which comes from the top quality botanicals, that are sourced in small batches from their countries of origin, the unique thing about Nelson's Gin, is that not only can you see the Gin Still, named Victory; you can actually learn how to make it yourself – and that's exactly what we did…

We arrived at 10 am and were asked did we want a drink? Tea? Coffee? Gin & Tonic? Well... when in Rome!

We were given a tour of the Distillery, which consists of a stunning looking German Copper Still, complete with Distillation Column (Nelson's Column), holding tanks, bottling line and a Molten Wax pot for sealing the caps.

We then headed to the classroom.  There we found 6 mini-stills set up on the bench like chemistry lab (just a shame I forgot that old Lab coat and goggles).  Some scales and drawers full of an array of Botanicals, ranging from, Coriander, Lemon Grass, Blueberry, Pink pepper, cloves, and of course Juniper.

Neil instructed us that whatever botanical we chose, the Gin must contain Juniper, Orris and Angelica, so we weighed out these, then set about choosing our unique blend.

Chris and I chose, Blueberry, Lemon peel, Lemon grass, Rhubarb and a Rosehip. These were put into the still with equal parts water and 97% proof vodka.

On went the hot plate, and as the temperature rose to 80 degrees, the alcohol and the infused flavours evaporated, then condensed into our waiting glass beakers. Leaving behind, the water and now flavourless botanicals (great duck food apparently).

When we had collected enough ‘gin' now at around 80% proof, we decanted it into the new bottle, then mixed it with fresh water, to bring it back to a pleasant 42.6% abv.

We all had a little taste, both neat, and with some tonic.  The differences in flavours of each batch was really interesting to see (I do think mine edged in front but then again I may be biased).

We then put on our labels, then the cap, and were then shown how to seal the cap by dipping it into wax.

This really was a great way to be introduced to the process of making small batch Gin. I know speaking to the guys afterwards they really enjoyed it and learnt a lot, not just about Nelson's, but also about the fundamentals of distillation and how spirits are actually made. I know I did.

Big thanks to Greg and Neil at Nelson's. For all those interested they do hold these gin school days open to the general public – just have a look at their website.

For those of you who would like to try the gin and meet the guys first hand, they will be at our summer tasting on Friday 24th June, so come and have a chat to them, and sample the Nelsons Gin for yourself.

Last Updated: 17/06/2016
Author: Sean Driscoll
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