I recently used my voucher my husband bought me for a gin making experience at Adnams in Norwich and I wanted to write about it. Because it was a great afternoon and it’s a fab idea for a present for someone who loves gin! You spend two and a half hours learning about the history of gin, trying lots of different Adnams products, learning about the botanicals which can be used in gin, making your own recipe and distilling your own gin to take away with you. You even get to name your own bottle. Read on to see what I thought of the day.
The Gin Making Experience takes place in a “Gin Lab” at Adnams Bury St. Edmunds, Southwold and Norwich Westlegate stores. I called to book my place in their Norwich store and gathered I’d be in a small group, on a Saturday afternoon. The session was 2.30-5pm. When I rocked up and realised it was only me on that days class, my heart sank a bit. Oh, this could be awkward, I thought. But I needn’t had worried, as Oli the guy running the session, and Jodie the store manager who was sitting in, made me feel so welcome. We chatted the whole afternoon and really, it was fine. It would have been a lovely experience to do with a friend but at £90, I didn’t really feel like asking anyone to pay just to come with me. (Although my friend later told me she would totally have come!)
So what’s involved?
First things first they make you a G&T with the Adnams Copper House gin. An excellent start, especially at 2.30pm! You then watch a presentation all about the history of gin. Some of this was familiar, because I’ve done a tour of the Bombay distillery when we were on holiday in the New Forest. The presentation wasn’t too long, and we chatted and laughed along the way when interesting things came up. They even then gave me a sample of what we think the first ever gin made in 1585 tasted like. (I think? Apologies if wrong I didn’t make notes at that point!) Anyway, it was savoury, a bit medicinal and not great, if I’m honest! I didn’t drink it all!
You’re then given six samples, ranging from Adnams vodka to different gins. Despite doing the Bombay distillery tour I hadn’t realised that gin is essentially just vodka, flavoured with juniper berries in. The spirit must have juniper in to be classed as gin. And then any other botanicals to make up the flavour you wish. In addition to trying the six spirits on the tasting card, you also sample some other Adnams vodkas and Gins. My favourite were the Adnams Quince gin which was quite sweet, and their pink gin. I was not such a fan of their rye hill vodka, which tasted almost like whiskey to me! It’s not surprising sipping all of this made the gin go to my head! I didn’t drink all of the samples but still, sipping samples of pure spirits in the middle of the afternoon gets you a bit tipsy.
Oli then told me about all the process of making gin, and the different botanicals that they have to put in your gin, from juniper berries and coriander seeds, to liquorice and orris root, lemongrass and thyme. There are 17 different botanicals you can choose to add. You can even try these if you want to. As someone who doesn’t like liquorice I was sure I wouldn’t want to add that in my gin, but I was told it’s there for sweetness. As liquorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar! 50 TIMES! And chewing on the tiny bit of bark, I can confirm, that’s true!
As you’re making your own gin it’s important to know what you like and don’t like, and more importantly how much of the botanicals you’d need. Oli gave me all the info on suggested quantities whilst I made notes. At this point I was feeling a blog post coming on! There’s also a gin bible for you to look up ingredients in brands of gin you like.
Then the fun part! The distilling! In order to make your own gin you first need your base spirit, which is a bottle of Adnams triple malt vodka. It’s creamier than the basic vodka. That goes into the little distiller and you then add your botanicals which you weigh out. My recipe had juniper, hibiscus flower, orris root, lemon peel, orange peel, lemongrass, liquorice root, angelica root, grains of paradise and cassia bark in it.
From what I remember, Oli told me ethanol boils at 78 degrees centigrade, so once you’ve added your botanicals the spirit is heated to this. What you’re left with is pure ethanol flavoured with whatever botanicals you’ve chosen. At this point I think I was onto my second G&T, and therefore my memory and notes are a bit sketchy! It takes around 45 minutes to distill your gin, and during this time we watched a video about Adnams and came up with my gin’s name so my label could be printed. One of the things I remember is that Adnams is one of only two UK based gin companies that makes their own base spirit, whereas other manufacturers buy it in from abroad. So that’s a nice selling point for them and another reason to buy local gin!
Your own bottle of gin!
Once you have the liquid from the stills they add still water, and that’s your bottle of gin! Once it was done they put it into my bottle with my own “Mummy’s Special Juice” label. You also are given a can of Gin and Tonic, an Adnams glass, a bottle of their tonic, and the best bit… a bag of posh crips! Which I enjoyed on the bus home. You definitely don’t want to have to drive after this experience!
All in all I was really pleased with the afternoon. Despite thinking it’d be a bit crap to be on my own, the guys who ran the class made it. Plus it was nice to have some child free time!! And of course, sampling the gin was great. They recommend you don’t open your gin for two weeks so I have another week to go before I open mine and test it. If I like it, the amazing thing is, I can call up with my recipe and order another bottle! How amazing is that!!! Your own personal gin! If it’s good it’s also great to make special one off presents for family and friends too.
To find out more about the Adnams Gin Making Experience visit their website. Big thanks to Oli and Jodie for a lovely afternoon, and my lovely husband for buying the gift experience for me!