An afternoon of gin making

 "How do you fancy spending an afternoon making gin?" was the irresistible question from my friend.  We were having one of those conversations where we both had that itch to go out and do something new and fun.  "There is a gin academy just down the road from you" she then added, which of course, meant it had to be and tickets were purchased.

Burleighs Gin Academy is about 20 minutes drive from home.  We did not drive there, public transport was invented for days such as this as you are plied with much gin (much gin) during the afternoon.  But I am getting ahead of myself as I often do.  

We arrived at the farm near Nanpantan, just outside Loughborough.  It is really beautiful countryside around there, being close to Beacon Hill and Bradgate Park.  This is a great area for walking (maybe not after lots of gin though....) and an area I know well and have walked.

It is fair to say that the distillery is small.  It is a converted cow shed and has been a working distillery for about seven years.  They make hand crafted London Dry Gins, which means they have to follow a set of rules to allow it to be called a London Dry Gin.  When they say hand-crafted they really do mean it.  There are six members of staff, the process involves a lot a buckets and when you are told they produced 50,000 bottles of gin last year you do just marvel at how that can be.  This is not an automated process so including all the buckets this also means that every bottle is corked by hand.

The big still is called Messy Bessie and Emma, assistant distiller and our teacher for the session, explained to us how gin is made.  It was really interesting and I learned a lot.  I now understand why different hand sanitisers smell of vodka and tequila and also, of course, gin.

Then it was time to start creating our own unique gin.  We were introduced to the botanicals table.  The 'must haves' were explained and the 'be very careful ofs' were also explained.  Top tip - rhubarb root does not make rhubarb gin.
We all started with our introductory glass of the basics, juniper berries etc, that would be the basis of all the gins.  There was about 20 of us in the class and we waited our turns to go and make our mix.  We had to write down our recipe so that if we want another bottle making we can order one from the distillery.  How great is that!
There followed a period of much sniffing and discussion and we chose ten botanicals to make our gin.  These included elderberry, goji berry, elder flower, cassia and cardamon.  As you would expect I spent a lot of time wandering around the jars thinking 'I grow that, I grow that, ooh fancy that being used in gin, Oh I grow that too'.  If you had asked me before I went I would have told you I expected to create a floral gin when I was thinking ahead of the afternoon.  We even stood in front of the floral section and had various sniffs.  Our gin is not floral though, it is more fruity and woody in tone.  I would not have expected to like that very much, but I do.

Then water and the alcohol were added to the little still on the desk in front of us, we in popped our botanicals, switched on the heater and waited for the first drops to appeal.
and then, when the still hit around 60 deg the first drops appeared.  Emma had explained to us that you can detect the different flavours running through the gin at different stages in the processes, depending at which temperature they boiled.  So we had fun catching drops and experiencing how the flavours changed.  Once we got to the citrus/orange zesty taste we knew we were close to the end of the distilling.
The beaker soon had 400ml of 78% proof gin - our own unique gin - distilled.   Whilst 78% proof gin sounds exciting, it is not really drinkable and it has to be watered down to an allowable level for us to consume.  Some filtered water was added and after a little tinkering the gin was reduced down to 46% proof which we agreed tasted nice and was also within the allowed bounds.
It was then bottled and sealed (by hand) and you can just see through the bottle the sticker that proves that the duty has been paid on the contents.

We had such a great afternoon, it was that perfect blend of learning something, enjoying yourself and, well, lots of gin.  We tasted several of the Burleigh's gins whilst we were there, it was rude not to.  We poured ourselves into the taxi at the end of the session and went home declaring it a good day.

Best of all, when we had a little try of the gin the next day, it still tasted good - result!

I must give a huge thanks to Emma and the team for looking after us so well.

Stay safe and be kind.

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