I’ve been distilling gin for Bullards since we launched back in December 2015. Before that I distilled gin for about three months.
As a student of History (and yes I did study a bit about the history of gin!) I used to home brew my own beer, wine and mead. I think I really got into alcohol though when I did my dissertation on pirates – it was all that talk about rum!
My favourite part of distilling gin is the experimentation with the botanicals to create unique flavours. At the moment I’m working on our third gin, which will hopefully be launched this winter. The first gin was the choice of the directors, and the Strawberry and Black Pepper Gin was Craig’s (Peter’s fellow distiller) choice, so this third gin is mine. I’m still experimenting at the moment, but I’m thinking along the lines of a spicy gin, which will complement the other two gins and will be perfect for winter.
I love experimenting with different flavours, it reminds me of my home brewing days, it’s such good fun.
Step 1: Select the botanicals
The majority of gins use the same botanicals, for example, all gins contain juniper, but it is the quantities used that determines the different tastes of gin. The quantities we use are a secret, in fact there is only one piece of paper that the recipe is written on and this is in a safe place!
For Bullards Norwich Dry Gin we use 10 botanicals which centre around the Tonka bean. This bean has a distinctive vanilla, marzipan, almond smell and taste, and we aim to make this prominent in our gin by working with other botanicals such as cardamom, lemon and orange peels, and coriander seed (which gives the gin its dryness) to highlight this flavour.
The idea for using the Tonka bean in our gin came from the directors who discovered its flavour when eating some fudge. How they got from fudge to gin is another story!
For our Strawberry and Black Pepper gin we use six different botanicals. To get the strawberry flavour we use whole strawberries to give a natural taste that is not too sweet. After the distilling process we then add more strawberries to the gin for another three days before this gin is bottled.