10 of the best Surrey gins
PUBLISHED: 16:12 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 06 April 2018
@2012 Jamie B.Mabilat
As Guildford hosts its gin festival in April 2018, Duncan Hall investigates the distillers, small batch producers and brands which call Surrey home
In May 2018, Albury-based Silent Pool is sponsoring a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The 10m by 10m garden, by Wonersh-based NealeRichards Garden Design, will reflect the waters of the titular Silent Pool, whose springs supply the distillery. Planting will echo the blue and copper colours of the gin bottle and feature some of the 24 botanicals used such as angelica, orris, lavender and roses. “David [Neale] came to us with his ideas and captured our imagination immediately,” says Ian McCulloch founding partner of Silent Pool. “We set out to try and capture the Surrey Hills in a bottle and he’s looking to recreate that same magic at Chelsea.”
Silent Pool has celebrated its 1,000th distillation, having already handcrafted 235,000 bottles of gin, which are exported to 24 countries across the world. In 2018 they are set to plumb a new copper still into a converted cattle barn behind the original distillery, which will give the company five times its current capacity.
East Horsley-based father and son team Richard and Daniel Mew produced their first gin in 2014 for a family wedding, following two years of research and tastings. Richard came from the oil and gas business, while Daniel is an engineer who has the technical skills that a good gin needs. Their gin is made using the more time-consuming vapour distillation method using 11 different botanicals to create a lighter, more subtle taste. It is distilled in a traditional copper pot still nicknamed Betty. The still was created by Surrey-based John Dore and Co which has an 180-year pedigree as a stillmaker.
The Gin Kitchen
Little more than a year after producing its first bottle of gin, Dorking’s The Gin Kitchen is set to expand into a new larger home in Punchbowl Lane. Owners Kate Gregory, from Dorking, and Helen Muncie from Horsham, started in November 2016 from an outbuilding at Dorking’s Spotted Dog pub, making 30 bottles a week. Everything changed six months later when their cardamom and grapefruit-flavoured Dancing Dragontail Summer Gin was named spirit of the month by Fortnum and Mason. This December, their Gutsy Monkey Winter Gin received the same recognition. Their distillery now churns out 60 bottles a day from two 40-litre copper stills, nicknamed Dinky and Daisy. Their new base, which they moved into at the end of March, will increase their capacity by four times using a 350-litre copper still. The kitchen also makes its own Eternal Absinthe.
Kew Organic Gin
It may be distilled at London’s Tower Bridge, but Kew Organic Gin is made with seasonal flora harvested from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, alongside botanicals from around the world. Described as a classic for gin and tonic, Kew Organic Gin is distilled by Battersea-based Dodd’s Gin in a 140-litre copper alembic called Christina. Its flavours combine juniper and coriander seeds with citrus, spice, savoury and floral notes. Both this and an Explorers’ Strength version are available directly from Kew.
Director of men’s fashion specialists Cravat Club, Jenny Meguro, sampled an estimated 100 different craft gins to come up with her distinctive recipe. Distilled in the Surrey Hills, Hidden Curiosities draws on five different peppercorns and green cardamom, paired with strong citrus flavours from yuzu, pink grapefruit, bergamot and lime, plus white mulberries and a violet and lavender finish. She has now sold 2,000 bottles of her artisan gin and at the time of writing was about to make her third batch. Among Hidden Curiosities customers is Harvey Nichols, which will be stocking the gin in all seven of its UK stores.
Chobham’s four AA Rosette restaurant Stovell’s has just released the latest 300-strong bottle batch of its Wildcrafted Gin for 2018. Created by the restaurant’s bar manager Geven Surendran and chef proprietor Fernando Stovell, the gin uses both sustainable wild botanicals, including angelica roots, oak moss, bilberries and wild rosehips alongside Chobham honey and Croatian juniper berries. It is available from the restaurant, based in a 16th century Tudor farmhouse, and online.
Thundry Hills Gin
Elstead Village Distillers only launched in February 2018, but has already been causing a buzz among gin-lovers. The company’s inaugural tasting event at the 500-year-old Thundry Farm in the Surrey Hills sold out on the same day the website went live. The distillery was the brainchild of Paul Shubrook and Neil Redit after they went on a gin lab experience. Currently they are offering a Sanctury gin, which has a high juniper content married to black pepper, and their Original brand, which has an orange tang to it. Also on the way is a third brand PM – which combines pear and mango flavours. They can produce between one litre and 100 bottles at a time from their three stills – the two 40-litre copper stills Bill and Ben and the one litre still, Weed, and there are plans afoot for a bespoke gin service.
Based in Kingston, Beckett’s gin is infused with juniper berries handpicked from National Trust-owned Box Hill in the Surrey Hills National Park. The London dry gin also uses Kingston-grown mint as one of its six botanical flavourings, alongside Moroccan lime and coriander, Spanish sweet orange peel and Italian orris root. In February Beckett’s released the third batch of its own sloe gin – distilled using sloe berries also picked from Box Hill and has just released a third gin brand Spirited, which has a higher proof.
Based in Woking and co-founded by Surrey resident Bob Fowkes, Brockmans Gin describes itself as the UK’s fastest-growing super-premium gin. The 40 per cent spirit is distilled using botanicals sourced from all over the world, including Bulgarian coriander, Tuscan juniper berries and Valencian oranges working with the blueberries and blackberries, which provide its cocktail-friendly flavour. It is available in more than 140 branches of Marks and Spencer, Harvey Nichols, Oddbins, Booths and Wine Rack as well as specialist online and high street retailers.
Broker’s London Dry Gin
Like Brockmans, Broker’s London Dry Gin is based in Woking, but distilled in Birmingham in a 200-year-old still. It is the granddaddy of the Surrey gin explosion – having been launched by brothers Martin and Andy Dawson in 2000. It also has its own distinctive bowler-hatted branding, which extends to the caps of the bottles themselves. The gin uses quadruple-distilled pure grain spirit made from English wheat, redistilled with 10 traditional botanicals. And it has proved popular, winning a string of awards and recommendations including winning the 2002 Long Drink category in the London Cocktail Competition, Best Gin in the USA from Food and Wine Magazine in 2003, and gold medals at the 2004 International Review of Spirits, 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2009 and 2011 International Spirits Competition in Germany, 2011 World Spirits Award in Austria and 2013 London Gin Masters in the Super Premium category.
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