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Watch: I took my mum to 'Gin School' - here's what happened next

Sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves and try something a little bit outside your area of expertise.

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For some people, that's taking up a martial art or learning a new language, for others, getting their first tattoo or travelling somewhere off the beaten track.

For me, it was taking the right type of botanicals and peppers to create my own vodka, using a still to distil the magic vapour and walk off with something drinkable.

It all started with an email from the manager of a distillery experience in Grindley, halfway between Stafford and Uttoxeter on the leafy A518, who wanted to showcase his Gin, Vodka & Rum School, something which he said had won multiple awards, include Staffordshire's experience of the year.

Nelson's do a lot of high quality gins

The invitation from David Hunter was for myself and a friend to come and see the school, learn about the process and history of gin, as well as sample a few of the Nelson's Gins, distilled and bottled at the site, and create our own bottle of drink to take home.

While I am not a drinker of any of the three, preferring a glass of whisky as my chosen spirit, I'm always up for new challenges and new experiences, plus I knew exactly the right person to take with me, my mum Diane, someone who loves a glass of gin.

My mum Diane gets to work looking at the botanicals for her gin

I accepted the invitation and signed up and off we went on a Saturday in May following the roads north of Stafford to the Grindley Business Park, a quiet and unassuming place surrounded by countryside and with plenty of trees and foliage on the way in.

The same unassuming feeling could also be given to the Gin School and distillery itself, set in one of the units on the park and with only a sign at the front door to guide those looking to get all botanical in.

The work station where the magic happens

Once inside, you are met warmly by Andrea, one of the staff at the school, and by David, a man whose natural setting would be "highly enthusiastic", such is the rapturous welcome he gives you on arrival.

Our class was a small one for that day, with seven stills being used to make seven drinks as myself and my mum would make a bottle each, and we were joined by a mum and daughter and several couples, including two guys from the Netherlands who were on holiday in the area.

David Hunter brings knowledge, love and humour to his presentation and lesson

As the hour struck 10am, so did we start our day of gin, with a piece of paper laid out in front of us with different botanicals, peppers and berries to help us create our drinks, plus another list to note down what we would be using as the botanicals.

It was a comprehensive list, with juniper berries, coconut, cacao, bitter and soft orange, cardamom and lemon peel just a few of the things you could add to create the drink you wanted, plus the measures required to give it the right flavour.

David Hunter talks through what people might like to have as their botanicals

Before all of that, a history lesson, first of how Nelson's became the juggernaut it was today, starting with a small factory and growing to the much bigger, spacial building, which also contains a very large metallic still where the magic happens for the numerous gins made at the distillery.

We were given a tour of the facility, with the still a great sight to see, and also took the opportunity to try three of the gins made there, the London Dry, the Rhubarb and Custard and the Timur, a gin which had the same taste to me as a whisky.

A nice touch, although I quickly learned that lemonade doesn't mix well

While I was only sipping due to being on driving duties, I could still get the flavours and textures of each and, I'll be honest, rather enjoying the taste, a bit like my wine awakening a year ago in Italy on a tour there.

My mum was in her element however, sampling each gin and making notes and giving all the impression of having a great time trying each one out and discussing the tastes with our neighbours.

David gives my mum Diane a crash course in what might make her gin work

The story of gin is a long, complicated and, at times, controversial one, full of stories of "gin alley" and a campaign by ale houses to show gin drinkers as filthy, disease-ridden wretches, whereas people drinking ale were prosperous and wealthy.

You can try several gins as well at the school

As a drink, the social status has changed over the years to a time around now when a gin and tonic is socially acceptable and seen as a classy drink with ice and a slice and, I will be honest, I can see the benefits of a good glass.

David Hunter told its story with real gusto, combining stats and humour with stories to weave the past together and provide us with a vivid picture of the world of the juniper berry and gin. He was engaging, funny and very enthusiastic and help everyone to keep up with the history.

The still gets to work producing the magic vapour

He also pointed out the love of the gin by people like Michel Roux, who had stocked Nelson's Gin at Gavroche restaurant.

After a large lunch full of pork pies, cheese and sandwiches, it was time to get picking with the botanicals and bring whatever vision we had of our drink to life which, for me, was going to be a challenge as I had been suffering from a heavy cold and, as a result, had very little sense of smell at the time.

While my mum was busy walking between the different botanicals, comparing the different smells and textures and making copious notes about the gin she was going to make for her niece and my cousin Sue, I was a little more cautious with my approach.

The gin is named after the great admiral himself

I wanted to make something with a citrus flavour and a chilli undertone that would tingle the tastebuds, but as I knew very little about gin, I didn't have the first clue what I was doing.

Step forward David with his expert eye to help me craft my drink and, after establishing my naivety with gin, we decided to forgo the juniper berries (as I didn't know about dry or otherwise) and instead create a vodka.

I went through my thought process and ended up with the cubeb pepper, one very spicy and pungent, as well as botanicals of bitter orange, chillies, green cardamom, dandelion, lemon peel, coconut and lime peel.

It doesn't look much, but it'll make a fine vodka

After measuring out the right amounts into the measuring beaker, we all put together our stills, which are legal here as the place is licensed, but would earn me a custodial sentence if I ever decided to put one together at home.

Once this was done and the heater put on, I deposited my botanicals in the main pot with the water and alcohol and set up my beaker under the main tap which, after the still was heated to 70 degrees, would begin to pour out the fruits of my labour.

It was a chance to look at what other people had done and see how their drinks were developing, with some having gone for stronger flavour, while one person had decided to create a rum.

After a while, the first drips came out, with everyone invited to take a taste of what turned out to be 85 per cent alcohol. Very strong and would fix any cough or cold.

Blend the botanicals with water and alcohol and you get magic

After going through the long process of waiting for the beaker to fill, then adding to a bottle in front of me, David came and checked the alcohol content, a guide of what you could stop dripping and have the final work done on your drink.

The time came and my bottle was filled with water, a process which saw oils move around the bottle, releasing flavour and texture and giving my vodka the flavour burst from the botanicals.

Upon the first taste, I got the citrus feeling straight away, then felt a pang of chilli as the flavours began to mix and coalesce, leaving me with a strong, but very nice taste.

For my mum, her gin was dry with a sharp and flavourful taste, saying that the botanicals really mixed well together to create a nice and drinkable gin.

After naming and labelling our drinks, we added wax seals at the top to give a final touch of class and bring to an end a really fun, enjoyable and informative day.

The range of botanicals available was large and flavourful

I would heartily recommend giving Nelsons Gin School a go as you will learn so much from David, as well as take home a lovely momento of the day that you give life to.

To find out more and to book a day, a single still experience is £115, while a shared still experience is £155 and can be booked at