Serious botanicals

14 April, 2014

Burger’s gin comes in at 42% and he says of Sipsmith’s VJOP launch: “I saw it and I thought ‘that’s a great idea’.”

Burger and Feltham are currently working on a number of new ideas, though they’re not ready to give anything away just yet. When it comes to new gin trends, Burger points to the US. “America is slightly ahead of us in terms of craft distillation,” he says. “People there are starting to talk about different spirit bases.”

Like all drinks, not all new creations and recreations come up good and Burger also warns that the “moonshine style of gin died out for a good reason”. We tasted one at his Ginstitute above the Portobello Star bar in Notting Hill.
Sickly sweet. 

Some new creations are ticking all the boxes. At the end of February, UK-based drinks company Master of Malt started importing and marketing a gin from St George spirits in California. St George Dry Rye gin is a rye-based gin and guess what? It claims to have 50% more juniper than the distillery’s other gins. Oh, and it weighs in at 45%abv. 

See? Serious stuff. 

Visitor centres

Abvs and juniper content aren’t the only things getting serious. So is the amount of cash being invested by the drinks groups in state-of-the-art visitor centres. Bacardi’s Bombay Sapphire is set to open its Laverstoke Mill site in the UK county of Hampshire, which is not only home to the Bombay Sapphire distillery but also a magnificent spectacle of a visitor centre with all sorts of information and examples of botanicals. 

Meanwhile in London, Beefeater is poised to go large down in Kennington. The iconic – yes, iconic – brand is set to get a visitor centre to live up to its iconic brand status. 

These two openings will no doubt be among the biggest stories in gin this year and there is much talk and speculation in the trade. Frustratingly neither are quite ready for action and not even the promise of me in a hard hat and high vis jacket granted access. 

Beefeater was originally supposed to be ready for sippers and snoopers late last year and JC Iglesias, who is now seven months in the top job as brand director, could only be drawn to give one answer – it will open this year. 

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the history of gin through ‘interactive showcases’ and ‘see, touch and smell botanicals’ used in production. There will also be a chance to witness distillation.

Over at Laverstoke Mill, Bombay Sapphire estate manager Will Brix says the £multi-million project is set to open its doors “later this year”. 

The company decided now was the right time to invest following brand growth and it expects to bolster that with an estimated 100,000 distillery visitors a year.

From Brix’s description, you can see why there’s no exact date: “As you’d expect it’s an incredibly complex project renovating buildings dating back as far as the 1700s. 

“We are very aware of the heritage of the site and want to make sure that we maintain its rich history, while creating a world-class distillery that we and the local residents can be proud of. 

“The distillery is situated in a Site of Special Scientific Interest so the refurbishment is being completed with the utmost care.”

Brix says some steps have taken longer than planned but as far as making gin goes, it’s business as usual. 

Although we were unable to get a sneak preview, there are plenty of artists’ impressions for you to feast your eyes on. 

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