Ten UK gin distilleries that grow the ingredients for their base spirit
When once it was a choice between a few brands, today the task of selecting a gin is becoming increasingly overwhelming…
It’s no wonder – in the 12 months to September 2017, the UK gin industry across the on- and off-trade was worth a whopping £1.2 billion. It is thought that the UK produces more than 500 gins, and there are an estimated 6,000 examples worldwide.
And the numbers just keep rising. In the year ending 9 September 2017, 47 million bottles of gin were bought in the UK, an increase of 7 million bottles compared to the same period in the previous year.
It’s certainly not hard to buy a bottle of gin, but how much do you really know about the spirit you’re drinking?
To help you make an informed decision, we strip out the jargon and list 10 gin distilleries that grow the ingredients (grain, grapes, apples etc) used to make their base spirit, from those adopting a field-to bottle approach, to those recycling the by-products of the English winemaking process.
Chase Distillery was founded back in 2008, at the start of the so-called modern Gin-naissance, and can be credited as being the first UK gin distillery to champion the field-to-bottle approach. Based on a Herefordshire farm, Chase Gin was the unlikely result of a successful potato crisp business. Founder William Chase had been farming potatoes for 20 years, mostly supplying supermarkets, when he had a ‘eureka moment’ and Tyrrells Crips was born.
When searching for the next step, he decided to set up a distillery to make potato vodka, and in 2008, the first spirit was produced.
Today, both farm-grown potatoes and apples are used in the spirits, with Chase Original or Naked Chase Vodka forming the base of Chase Gin. Chase produces five different gins: Chase GB Gin, Williams Elegant Gin, Williams Pink Grapefruit Gin, Williams Seville Orange Gin and Chase Sloe and Mulberry Gin.
And it doesn’t stop there: all the waste produce is given to the farm’s herd of Hereford cattle, and wherever possible, Chase sources its fresh ingredients used in its gins and vodkas from the farm.
While it is by no means commonplace to adopt the field-to-bottle approach, if the following entries are anything to go by, you could say that Chase has started a bit of a trend.
Launched in 2016, Foxhole Gin is made from the by-products of the English winemaking process. Produced by Foxhole Spirits, which although a separate company, works closely with Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex.
It lays claim to being the first gin to be distilled with a spirit made using English grapes.
Foxhole presses the unused juice out of the grapes before it’s then fermented and distilled, a process it deems important in reducing wastage in the English wine industry.
The distillery also claims that the spirit’s “smooth and aromatic flavours subtly change with each new vintage”.
The name “Foxhole’ is derived from the winding lane that leads to the vineyards from which the grapes are sourced.
The third release or ‘vintage’ of Foxhole Gin, called ‘marc 3’ after the French word for the pulpy mass of skins, flesh and pips left over after pressing grapes, has been created using the grapes from the 2015 Sussex grape harvest.
The Oxford Artisan Distillery, or TOAD for short, has made it its mission to revive ancient species of grain for use in its spirits. Launched in July last year, it works with archaeo-botanist John Letts who has spent 25 years researching, farming and sourcing historic grains, and now works with a network of local farmers.
Most of the grains that TOAD uses are those that were popular with farmers prior to 1900 when the ‘monocultures’ took over. The grain in TOAD’s spirits is grown on 150 acres of English countryside within a 50-mile radius of Oxford.
The distillery itself produces an ‘Oxford Dry Gin’ and has recently unveiled ‘Physic Gin’ – a collaborative project with Oxford University – that contains botanicals grown in the university’s 17th century botanic garden.
Arbikie, located on the Arbikie Highland Estate on the east coast of Angus, is both a distillery and a family-owned, working farm. Like Chase, it promotes a farm-to-bottle approach, planting, sowing, growing and harvesting all its ingredients “within an arms-length of the distillery”.
Records show that distilling was taking place on the site way back in 1794, and this heritage inspired the three co-founders and brothers, Iain, John and David Stirling, to re-establish a distillery on the farm in 2013.
Arbikie produces two gins, the original AK’s Gin and Kirsty’s Gin, named after master distiller, Kirsty Black
JawBox / Echlinville
The Echlinville Distillery was Northern Ireland’s first licenced distillery in over 125 years, starting out in 2013. Based on the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, it grows its barley in the fields surrounding the distillery for a true field-to-bottle approach.
It produces two gins: JawBox, named after the colloquial word for a Belfast sink, and Echlinville Irish Pot Still Gin, distilled from homegrown floor-malted barley.
English winery Chapel Down made its first foray into the world of gin in late 2017, with the launch of a spirit made from grapes from the 2016 harvest. The base spirit is made from the grape variety Bacchus, grown at the winery’s vineyards in Kent.
At the time of the release, Chapel Down stated that the gin had been “developed to reflect the delicate flavour profile of the wine varietal”.
Chapel Down launched a 23-year-old English grape brandy in 2016, priced at £150 a bottle and crafted from Seyval Blanc grapes from the 1991 vintage at Lamberhurst Estate in Kent. It also released a Chardonnay-based vodka alongside its Bacchus gin.
Wiltshire distillery Ramsbury grows the Horatio variety of wheat on its estate which it combines with water from the ancient aquifer below its land. It is then transformed into a clear, base spirit for use in its gin and vodka.
Like many farm-based practices, the spent grain is used to feed its cattle, while the waste water is filtered through a reed bed system and transferred to a wildlife lake.
Its Ramsbury Gin is redistilled with botanicals including locally picked juniper and quince grown in the distillery grounds.
Cuckoo Gin, founded in 2017, is distilled at The Brindle Distillery on Holme’s Farm in Lancashire. Home to the Singleton family since 1930, the grass land has been transformed into barley fields, marking the first time in over 40 years that the land has been used for arable purposes.
The barley is used to make the alcohol that then graces the distillery’s hand-made still called Maggie. Maggie is heated using renewable energy biomass boilers, and the byproducts of the distilling process are also used in the cattle and chicken feed. The straw from the farm’s home-grown barley is even used as packaging when transporting bottles of Cuckoo Gin.
The Brindle Distillery produces two gins: Cuckoo Original and Cuckoo spiced.
Brewer Adnams launched its spirits range in 2010, using the same ‘grain to glass’ approach employed in the production of its beer.
Its Copper House distillery sits within the Adnams brewery in Southwold, Suffolk and uses its home-grown barley, rye, wheat and oats in the production process.
It now makes three gins: Adnams Copper House Dry Gin, Adnams Rising Sun Gin and Adnams First Rate Triple Malt Gin.
Kent-based distillery Copper Rivet claims to be the only spirit maker in the county to adopt the complete process of brewing and distilling from grain to glass. It distilled its first spirits in 2016 housed in the Victorian Pumphouse No. 5, overlooking the river Medway.
The distillery works with local farmers, such as Burdon Brothers, to grow and select the best grains for use in its spirits. Once they’re harvested and brought the short distance from the field to the distillery, the malts and grain is milled onsite before being converted into spirits.
It produces Dockyard Gin as well as a vodka.