The Plymouth Gin Master Distiller’s Private Tour
A few months ago, I was delighted to receive an invitation from Mrs. B to go to the Master Distiller’s Private Tour of Plymouth Gin Distillery. We booked transport and lodgings and before long I found myself speeding down the Great Western Railway to the naval city. Mrs. B particularly enjoyed the coastal views as we passed through Dawlish; something she has wanted to see for a good while now.
Anyhow, I digress. The Master Distiller’s tour is one of three available at Plymouth Gin Distillery (more details can be found at the end of this post or on their website).
Our tour began with an introduction to the history of Plymouth Gin and, following the inevitable stream of questions from yours truly, we were then swept away to see the stills. Naturally, a brief cling of an earthing bar was necessary before we entered the still room, to rid us of any pesky static electricity; good job I hadn’t been working with the old Van de Graff in the morning.
Once inside, we were taken through the production process and the importance of using Dartmoor water was stressed, as this is essential for any Plymouth Gin. I asked a few more questions and then we moved onto the tasting room.
The first thing that I noticed upon entering the tasting room was The Gin Wall, a project started by the Master Distiller whereby he aimed to collect as many varieties of Gin as he could. As a big fan of the juniper spirit, this immediately fascinated me.
But back to the tasting! First, we had a chance to handle and smell the seven botanicals in Plymouth Gin: Juniper, Orange and Lemon Peel, Coriander (Russian), Angelica, Orris Root and Cardamon.
We tasted from the five unmarked glasses of clear liquid that had been placed in front of us, knowing only that inside each was one of five of the biggest brands of Gin in the UK. We added an equal amount of water to each Gin; this cutting, it was explained, reduces the strength of the Gin to around 20% and helps to reveal some of the otherwise hidden flavours in the alcohol.
As we sipped each, we discussed what we tasted: what we liked, what we didn’t. The author, always one to try and show off, decided to try and guess which was which, too. Unfortunately, I only got 3 out of 5 right; not so clever, then! I was just pleased that I didn’t mistake our host’s Gin.
Now, we came to the part that I really enjoyed: making my own Gin. Now that we were familiar with the different flavours and how the botanicals worked, we were led into yet another room and handed a conical flask of neutral spirit, to which some juniper berries had been pre-added (Gin isn’t Gin without Juniper). Into this, we were instructed to add a selection of botanicals of our own choosing. In addition to the seven botanicals found in Plymouth Gin, we could also choose from Cassia Bark, Nutmeg and Liquorice.
Once we had added the various fruit, barks and powders, our potions were placed in small, incubator-like devices and we watched intently as our Gin began to, first, boil, then flow across a horizontal glass tube, before condensing and dripping into our bottles. (OK, I admit that I did wander off briefly to take a few pictures of the Gin Wall at this point).
After the process was complete, the result was a super-strength Gin at 80%. This was cut 50/50 with water to give us a Gin at a more respectable 40%.
Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to our guide, Pippa, Rose, and Harriet in the bar, as well as everyone else at Plymouth Gin. Special thanks must also go to Sean, the Master Distiller, who was kind enough to give us some of his time after the tour to chat. We both had an excellent time and we truly appreciate the many efforts of all who contributed to it.