Our kinda school review: gin school. Yippeee!
Hands up if you wanna learn how to make your very own gin! Form an orderly line and take a swig on our review of Silverstone Distillery's newly launched Gin School.
Grab your lab coat and protective goggles girls, we’re going back to science class and, I promise you, this is one chemistry practical you cannot fail. At the heart of Silverstone village, Muddy Award Winning Silverstone Distillery opened their doors during the dreaded P-word, but it hasn’t stopped this boutique business from going from strength to strength, and I’m not just talking about the ABV here, they’ve even bagged themselves the 2021 Muddy Award for Best Local Producer (Food/Drink), voted for by you lot. Not bad, huh?
Their range of artisan gins and vodka includes tantalising ingredients such as 5,000 year old petrified oak from a nearby estate, wild apples and hawthorn berries, so there’s a real sense of local heritage infused in both the booze itself and the brand ethos, which is the brainchild of Steve Hancock, landlord of village pub The White Horse, who runs the distillery alongside his tight knit team Joe, Ajay and Emma.
Joe, our teacher for the day, meets us at the bar in the bijou distillery, a swish stone-built barn conversion bedecked with scaffold board shelves which are stocked with dozens of glass jars full of botanicals. “Would you like a drink?” It’s 11.30 in the morning but, come on, we’re at Gin School, so we’re going in. Armed with a very large glass of Heritage No.1 Oak Rested Gin (the one with the petrified wood) and tonic, we are introduced to our copper mini still. There are 6 of these set up at tables and you can have either one or two people at each still. I brought my friend Antonia along, who’s a cocktail connoisseur.
The really good thing about the Gin School set-up is that everything is portable, so it can be cleared away to make room for events in the distillery They host all sorts here from weddings and parties to gin tastings and pop up theme nights including a Halloween Bar Takeover coming up on 23 Oct with Muddy faves Muddled Lime and a Special Edition Halloween Gin School on 30 Oct. It also means that the gin school can come to you! Yes, babe, if you’ve got a big enough space to set up the paraphernalia, you can have your very own Gin School.
MAKING THE GIN
Beside the mini still on our table are also lots of mind-boggling measuring containers, weighing scales and other sciencey stuff. I’m reminded slightly of Breaking Bad as we begin to carefully measure out our dried spices according to Joe’s tried and tested recipe for pomegranate gin, but it’s actually really easy to get to grips with it all. In go the juniper berries, which are an essential botanical ingredient in all gin, alongside lots of other gorgeous smelling spices (there was a lot of jar sniffing at this point), including coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark, liquorice root, cardamom, nutmeg, lemon and orange peel and, of course, a hefty slug of pomegranate peel. We sling our botanicals into a gauze bag and add it to our grain neutral spirit, which is the base for our gin (essentially mega-strong vodka). It all goes in to the mini-still, which sits on a hot plate, heating it up from the ambient room temp to about 80°C. And we wait for our gin to emerge.
After half an hour or so, we have 500ml of beautiful gin in our glass measuring jar and it’s time to gauge exactly how alcoholic it is. I volunteer to take a swig to check, but apparently there’s a proper process and a measuring tool called a hydromoeter, so we go with that method instead. Our gin is 75% ABV and we calculate how much filtered water to add to bring it down to 44%, then BINGO! Suddenly we have our gorgeous pomegranate gin and we’re bottling it up and labelling it, ready to drink as soon as we get home. I mean display tastefully on a drinks trolley…
SCOFF AND QUAFF
All that measuring out and concentrating is quite exhausting, so Joe provides liberal amounts of gin and tonic throughout the day, which helps with getting to know your fellow scholars, and whilst we’re waiting for our gin to emerge from the magic copper still, we’re also presented with an amazingly generous lunch platter packed with cheese, deli meats, crackers, chutneys and fruit, which we happily scoff whilst chatting to Joe about his love of gin. I’d say the sustenance is probably an essential part of the day if you’re partaking of the house booze. You can also get your mitts on bottles of gin and vodka to take home with you at a 10% discount on the day, worth taking advantage of.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone who likes gin, anyone who likes geeking out on how things are made, hen do’s, stag do’s, girls’ nights out, birthday parties, team bonding and frankly anyone who fancies trying their hand at something fun and different, whilst drinking gin.
Not for: Teetotallers, obvs. Full disclosure though, I had been off the booze for a while when I went along, but gave myself a free pass for the day and I didn’t regret it.
GET 10% OFF YOUR GIN SCHOOL BOOKING USING THE CODE MUDDY10 AT CHECKOUT
Silverstone Distillery, 4 Green Lane Silverstone, Northamptonshire, NN12 8ES. Email: email@example.com, tel: 07943 210269 (Steve).