Challenge Dan: Crafting a Christmas gin with The Shropshire Distillery
December is finally here, and it won’t be long until many of us are getting into those Christmas spirits!
Yet, have you ever wondered about the craft that goes in to bringing your favourite tipple to the table?
This week, we sent Dan The Man out to The Shropshire Distillery, Ellesmere, to take on the challenge of creating his own Christmas gin. We can’t wait for the office party now, Danny Boy... Cheers!
With my mission in hand, I arrived at the new premises of The Shropshire Distillery this Wednesday, and was eager to get stuck in and meet the brains behind the booze.
Run by owners Emma and Gareth Glynn, this fantastic enterprise has been going strong since 2018, but has only in the last couple of weeks relocated to an exciting new base at Ellesmere Business Park.
I walked through the door with a skip in my step, and was warmly welcomed by Gareth, who would be looking after me for the afternoon.
The Shropshire Distillery has proudly run a gin school where guests can come and create their own recipe and distil a beautiful individual gin for a number of years, and the set-up at the new premises is beautiful. Individual copper stills for each ‘distiller for the day’ called out to the magpie in me, and brought to mind a Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory of gin.
This place was really special, with an inviting bar set-up and plenty of space for the ‘experience’ activities the business is keen to grow. I was itching to get distilling, but of course, as any gin maker would know, firstly it was all about the botanicals...
Choosing The Botanicals
As Gareth explained to me, the botanicals in a gin are the herbs, spices, fruits, flowers, and roots that give it its flavour. “The first ones we’re going to put in are our core botanicals,” said Gareth. “For gin to be gin, the predominant flavour has got to be juniper. We’ve then got English coriander, angelica root and orris root. These are the four that we recommend for you to put in for it to be a gin. The rest, you can pick and choose! It’s all about crafting and creating something that you’re passionate about.”
With my task being to create a festive tipple, I explored the distillery’s expansive botanical wall looking for ingredients that struck a Christmassy chord.
Cranberries were definitely going to make the cut, along with some orange peel for a citrus kick. I then chose to add cinnamon sticks and mulberries to seal the deal on that festive flavour, and then topped things off with goji berries, hibiscus flowers, ginger and apricot. With the botanicals picked, it was time to weigh them out and get distilling...
Each of the mini gin stills available for guests at The Shropshire Distillery has been given a special name, and it was my honour to be using ‘Calla’, named for Gareth and Emma’s dog, a Hungarian Vizsla. “She’s our team mascot here,” said Gareth with a smile.
With my botanicals weighed and emptied into my still, I added it to a heat plate, and the fun was truly about to begin. With the water on and the process started, all we now needed to do was wait with bated breath to see what my combination of botanicals would taste like when their flavour was infused into the liquid that would become my gin. The heat was on...
After a wait that seemed to fly by, my gin was proofed down to 40 per cent ABV, and she was ready for bottling. A lovely touch that The Shropshire Distillery add is allowing you to name your own product, and with this, ‘Let Dan’s Christmas Be-Gin’ was created. Giving it a whiff during bottling, the aroma set my taste buds to tingle. Things were looking promising, but the moment of truth would only come with the tasting...
Imbibing rather than creating was much more in my practised wheelhouse, and I was very excited to taste the fruits of my labour. Under Gareth’s expertise, we served my gin with a light tonic. “We don’t want to drown any flavours out of the botanicals that you’ve chosen,” said Gareth, “so we’re going to use a premium light tonic water.”
Garnished with an orange wedge to complement the flavour of my orange peel botanical, my own signature G&T was finally ready. In a word (if I do say so myself), it tasted fabulous! A perfect festive kick punctuated the traditional juniper and coriander flavour, and I was delighted with what Gareth and I had produced.
Mission accomplished – after a great afternoon’s work, we had truly put the spirit into Christmas.
As well as its gin school experience, The Shropshire Distillery offers cocktail-making courses, and while I was there, I would have been remiss not to have also indulged my inner Tom Cruise. So, with Gareth’s guiding hand in charge, I was taught an unnamed cocktail recipe that he and Emma had in fact concocted that morning.
“Gin is not just for drinking with gin and tonic, and that’s what our courses are all about,” said Gareth. For this cocktail The Shropshire Distillery’s Cranberry & Clementine Gin was used as the base spirit, with other ingredients including a decent quantity of a Clementine syrup sugar then added. ‘Wow’ doesn’t even begin to cut it, and had I not been so pleased with the result of my own G&T, I’d have sworn off tonic there and then. This was how this gin should truly be enjoyed, and this is what Gareth and Emma are excited to teach all comers.
Onwards and Upwards
With the establishment of their new base, Gareth and Emma are thrilled to be able to bring their ‘experience’ offerings to more people.
“We’ve got some exciting things happening here now with the move from the previous distillery. We decided to move here because the ‘experience’ side of our business really took off, and we wanted to offer more. We’ve got the gin school, the cocktail making, and the distillery tours. We’ve then got pop-ups with some chefs, and then once a month we’re going to do a tap house as well.”
There’s plenty of fun to be had, and take it from me – you’ll enjoy every minute. Cheers, folks!
For more information visit https://www.theshropshiredistillery.co.uk/