Tranquil dawn is the new black according to Dulux. Big and bushy replaced pencil-thin yonks ago in eyebrow world (the inverse seems to be true for elsewhere on our much scrutinised bodies). And those puffa coats that were once the preserve of the outdoor education teacher? Now fashion’s hottest item. And it would appear that gin has had its day too with rum touted as the.next.big.thing when it comes to small batch spirits – I went along to the city’s coolest new opening, Bristol And Bath Rum Distillery, to have a go at making some myself.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, so the same can be said of Bristol And Bath Rum Distillery’s plot on Park Street. Formerly a Jamie’s Italian, the space has been saved from its bland chain beginnings and transformed into something much more in keeping with this independent city. Over several floors, the gang have created a cool bar, restaurant and rum school, each adapted for a different type of night. Walking past spray-painted skulls in cages, neon signs and a cosy mezzanine, the distillery room is on the top floor, and filled with tables, copper pots and different spices to get mixing.
Before I can discover my secret talents as a rum distiller, however, we’re advised to line our stomachs downstairs with a meat-heavy menu from Bristol locals Feast Curators. It’s big, eat-with-your-hands food; a pulled pork and cheese burger (£10) is filled with sweet, coke-flavoured pork and an ever so slightly tangy gin jam, that I manage to dribble down myself in the few short seconds it takes for me to inhale it. I’m glad I did snaffle it all (along with fries topped with baconaise and a Frazzle £3.5), because once our lesson kicks off, there’s no room for lightweights.
They say the best way to learn is do, and that’s a lesson the folks here have taken to heart; almost as immediately as our bums hit the seat, our first cocktail of the night, a Caipirinha, lands in front us. It’s with a smack of lime and brown sugar that we kick off the history, our wonderful guide, James, explaining its origins; from sugar cane fed to slaves through to varieties created according to which country had colonised (rhum vs rum, for example). It’s heavy stuff but the team relay it deftly and sensitively.
As the evening continues, so does our education. I learn that to try rum correctly, you should take two sips – one to cleanse your palate and the other to really savour it. During the rum tasting session, I finish each of my glasses (ranging from a Hemp-infused Dead Man’s Fingers through to a banana liqueur) just to be on the safe side. With the theory done and dusted, we move onto the practical; choosing which spices, herbs and flavours to put in your still. By this point, the labels are looking a little bit fuzzy and the profile I want a little harder to grasp, fortunately, as bottles are made in pairs, my little sister – as ever – steps in to take charge. Finally it’s time for the magic – and two more cocktails – as we pour our muddles into a still, heat it up, distil it off, put it in a bottle and take it home.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Thanks to the 25% discount at the bar (and on food) if you take part in the experience – I don’t actually remember graduating. But from my time back at school, here are some things I can tell you; Bristol And Bath Distillery is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a long time (and yes the five cocktails had a lot to do with that); banana infused in anything tastes great; and Frazzle-muddled mayo is a gift unto this earth. When it comes to what I'm ordering next round, it's time to put down that hand-crafted, small batch gin because there’s a new kid in town, and its name is rum.
The Rum Experience starts at £80 per person (or £120 for two) and includes your own distilled bottle, five cocktails, a rum tasting and lesson. Snap your tickets up here.