Okay I’ll lay my cards on the table; I’m a bourbon man. Sure I like gin, Christ I love a gin & tonic on a hot summer's day, but I’m by no means an expert or fanatic. However that said, I was more than tempted to try the Gin Lab Experience at The City of London Distillery (COLD). For £125 you get to try gin, make your own gin, learn about gin, and actually brand, bottle and take home your own concoction of yes, you guessed it - gin!
Housed in the COLD bar where the distillery is, this is the perfect setting, as you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of London above. With gin expertise running through the building (they produce their own double gold medal gin from that same distillery) and of course with their extremely knowledgeable staff on hand, we were all set up for a fantastic gin journey.
After a refreshing G&T (of course), we were first taken to the mixing lab and presented with a clipboard, scales and a host of botanicals. Our guide talked us through the process of making gin i.e. it ideally contains juniper, coriander seeds and angelica root…the rest was up to us. Do you want a spicy gin? A sweet gin? A fruity gin? A smooth gin? By mixing in lots of different botanicals you create your final concoction. I went for a blinding mix of spicy and sweet; I won’t give away my secret blend though!
With our pot of botanicals we headed into the distilling room and had our own mini copper stills – all named after the seven dwarfs; I got bashful…which didn’t last long after a few gins down my neck! We then saw the process happening right before our eyes; without drowning you in gin-speak, it was basically a mixture of our blend, alcohol, heat and cooling which produces a drip-drop of your final gin. As this process took place, we got a quick look at the huge stills used to make their award winning gin. 20 minutes later we had 500ml of 80% proof handcrafted gin; a wee taste of that blew our head off. Mixed with water we reduced it to 40% proof with some high-tech measuring thingy and there you have it – your own 750ml gin ready to be bottled.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough we then got to name the gin, create a label and wax seal the finished product. Then came the blind taste test…who had made the “nicest” gin?! Mine came third out of four, neat, but in pole position when mixed with tonic. I had indeed made my own ridiculously tasty G&T!
With my bottle proudly in hand, I walked out of there with a real spring in my step; partly because of all the gin but also because I had enjoyed a magical two hours of learning and fun. The price might seem steep at a glance but for what you experience and get to take home, it was worth every penny.
You’ll now find me on some sunny rooftop sipping my own gin and tonic, and maybe one day you’ll be able to ask for 'The Persistence of Gin' at a bar near you.