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Chef Alex Dilling launches gin

Alex Dilling, the chef behind the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Hotel Café Royal, has launched his own gin. He tells Louis Thomas about why he chose the botanicals he did, and why it’s available in a mini size.

“Gin is my favourite spirit and it has been a dream of mine for many years, now that we have a micro bar adjoining the restaurant and we are developing the menu, it seemed like a good time to start developing the gin,” said Dilling. “It’s been a year in the making, but many years of dreaming!”

The gin is flavoured with botanicals including bergamot and verbena. Explaining the reasoning for these flavours, Dilling said: “They are some of my favourite flavour profiles – citrus in gin based spirits is perfect pairing in my opinion. The key was also balance – which is a skill we have to hone everyday in the restaurant. It needed to be subtle and not overpower to be a flavoured gin. The other botanicals such as coriander seeds, Angelica and Juniper add to gins unique taste profile and we experimented with many fruits, spices and garnishes before finding the perfect match.”

While it is not unheard of for a person of note to attach their name to a spirit, Dilling said that he was “very much” involved in the development process of 5 Puffins: “From choosing a distillery to tastings, bottles, labels that actually extract part of our restaurant brand and the overall theme of the gin which translates very well with the food I cook: clean, elegant yet minimal packaging.”

“The sustainability side of the product was also important – from the label to the ingredients,” he added. “We hope to use fruit peels from the restaurant for future batches – and of course we use the highest quality ingredients and that will shine through in the gin as it does with our food.”

Among the suggested pairings is aged Kaluga caviar with white asparagus, and smoked eel from Devon.

“The snacks are selfishly a taste of my favourite indulgences whilst enjoying a gin and tonic or gin martini at the weekend,” the chef shared. “These will change regularly and I’m sure you’ll see various cheeses arise in dishes and a mix of light and hearty snacks depending on your mood.”

Available in a 75cl bottle for £50, 5 Puffins also comes in a 5cl format, for £12. Dilling said there were “many reasons” for offering the mini size: “We thought it would be a nice visual cocktail accompaniment, a keepsake if dining guests or those at the bar enjoyed the spirit and wanted to take home and also the opportunity to serve in hotel mini bars or at events.”

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