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Can 31Dover make
their own Gin?

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Can 31Dover make their own Gin?

Whilst we like to think of ourselves as a knowledgeable old bunch when it comes to booze, we're not so skilled in the actual making of it. We tend to leave that to the more than capable professionals, whose wonderful wares we then peddle... to you lovely lot.

But when City of London gave us the chance to try our hand at making our very own 31Dover.com gin, well, we were keen to find out just how tricky it is.

Armed with a pen, paper, tempted tastebuds and curious minds we headed to the City of London distillery...

city of london distillery

Discreetly nestled down Bride Lane in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral (whose iconic domed roof inspires City of London Gin bottles) away from the hustle and bustle of the Square Mile, C.O.L.D is a gateway to gin nirvana.

Down the stairs lies not only a bar serving formidable gin cocktails made with City of London's five-strong range of gins, to be enjoyed in the soft leather armchairs in this underground haven, but the working distillery itself is on full view.

city of london full gin range

Behind the glass "the two fat ladies" - the copper stills Jennifer and Clarissa - are busy creating COLD's small batch gin. With an output of  just 200 bottles, the girls have recently been joined by Elizabeth, who overshadows them both with her 1000 bottle capacity in the hope to up production and propel City of London onto the national and international gin-scape.

city of london distillery stills

But it is behind these stills that the real excitement takes place. Through a back door, the secret Gin Lab lies, and it is here that we take our seats for an afternoon of learning about, tasting and crafting our very own London Dry Gin.

First lesson was first. City of London do not ferment their own base spirit. In fact, very few distilleries are "single-estate", from farm to bottle. City of London take an imported base spirit, clean and then flavour it - with a strict scientific process, careful balancing and secret botanical recipe making up the formula for their fantastic range of gins.

We were not therefore about to get all technical "fermenting grains" to make alcohol, but instead we were to focus on the botanicals added in order to produce our very own, bespoke gin release.

juniper berries in gin

So on to lesson number two: juniper.

The key ingredient in any gin is juniper berries. When sipping a gin neat, the “first wave” of flavour is usually from the juniper. Then come the livelier top notes such as citrus and coriander, followed by more ephemeral flavours – grasses, florals, teas – and finally, the insistent lingering spices.

Most gins will feature “the big four botanicals” – juniper, coriander, orris root and angelica – and City of London recommended that over half of our gin should be made up of these.

gin botanicals city of london gin

We are tasked with choosing 6-12 botanicals in total based on our personal preferences and that would deliver a good flavour profile . For example, did we prefer a floral gin, a spicy one, or a more traditional juniper-led gin? This dictated which botanicals, and the amounts, that would help provide those flavours.

Whilst certain gins have very few botanicals (Tanqueray for example has only four) others have in the tens (take Monkey 47 which has, rather unsurprisingly, a massive 47). Grouping the various botanicals into different flavour categories, we're presented with jars of spices, dried flowers, fruits and seeds. Measuring these out, we weigh our choices under City of London's expert guidance.

how to make gin angelica botanical make own gin gin botanical bitter orange

We learnt about flavour spikes, that more liquorice would balance out citrus and more juniper would help create a more harmonious blend. For added citrus, the key was more coriander, while the addition of angelica helped dictate the smoothness of the gin.

Satisfied with our bowl of botanicals, we then head to the lab to start distilling.

We're greeted by a variety of small copper stills, named after the seven dwarves.
Choosing Happy, we're given our final lesson: the distillation process.

how to make gin copper still

In goes the botanical mix and raw spirit into the copper still. The pure alcohol is made up of methanol and ethanol. Consumption of methanol would cause a build up of formaldehyde which would embalm you from the inside, having gone blind first... so we really don't want any of that in our gin! (This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "blind drunk"...)

Therefore, the heat into the still is gradually increased to about 70 degrees, with methanol evaporating at 67.4 degrees. The methanol is then discarded - but in larger scale distilling can be collected and used in the likes of nail polish remover. The more friendly ethanol remains for us to collect separately at between 79 – 80% proof, which is then diluted with water.

A nifty gadget called a refractometer helps test the gin's strength as too much water causes the botanicals to lose their flavour profiles. The only thing then left to do is to bottle, name and label our gin, finishing everything off by dipping the neck in a red wax seal. Fancy.

The day ends with a G&T made using our hot-off-the-still gin, relaxing in the bar, and making inebriated purchases of the fabulous range of City of London gins. Impressed with our chemistry skills, and arguably biased by the brilliance we've created and hold in our hands, we sip and start planning the production of 31DOVER.com gin...

Fancy making your own gin too?
If we can do it, anyone can... Find out more.

Thirsty? Leave the hard work to the experts and shop online now.

Tagged in: Gin, city of london, make your own gin. Categories: That's The Spirit, Spotlight On..., Just For Fun.

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