What did you do before creating your gin and distillery?
After graduating from university with an honours degree in Chemistry I went into the steel industry, where I started as a graduate apprentice and worked my way up to a senior managerial position. In the 1980`s the whole steel industry contracted, with massive plant closure. So in 1988 my wife Penny and I moved into horticulture in South Devon, where we grew soft fruit.
What made you decide to create your gin and distillery?
From soft fruit growing, we moved into producing fruit liqueurs as a means of adding value to the farm’s surplus harvest. This lead on to making sloe gin, which in turn became experimenting with and refining our own gin recipe. When Penny and I decided to retire, my son and daughter (Michael & Felicity) took over the business and decided to work on perfecting our London Dry recipe.
6 O’clock Gin was launched in 2010 and the name is inspired by a long-held family tradition of indulging in the first G&T of the evening at 6 o’clock; a very British custom still enjoyed at the distillery and shared by gin-lovers all over the world.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
Our family-run distillery is self-contained, compact, and nowadays an absolute hive of activity, day in and day out thanks to our growing team.
Our custom-built copper still, Kathleen, has a capacity of 200 litres and a unique double-sphere still head, specially designed by Michael. It has the advantage of creating an extra-long ‘dwell time’, meaning the spirit has more contact with the copper walls of the still head, which is part of what enables us to make such extra-smooth gins. Its other unique feature is that it is powered by solar panels on the roof of our distillery – just one of many green credentials we are very proud of.
Can you tell us more about each of your gins and their botanicals?
Our London Dry botanical pallet is centred on a classic, bold juniper flavour, supported by coriander, winter savory, orris root, orange peel, angelica and elderflower. The resulting gin is elegant, crisp and fresh, with refreshing and balanced notes of citrus and subtle spice.
Our Brunel features the same selection of botanicals, plus an additional six (green cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cassia bark, cubeb pepper and lemon) for a bolder, richer flavour, an earthy sweetness and a dry, spicy finish.
Our Damson and Sloe gins are both fantastically fruity, with the gin steeping on mounds of whole, stone-in fruits for a minimum of six months. The resulting gins are delicately balanced and not over-sweetened, with delightful marzipan notes drawn from the stone of the fruit.
Last but not least, Romy’s Edition – Mango, Ginger & Lime is a vibrant, exotic gin with a carefully blended palate of honey notes from the mango, zesty freshness from the lime and warming spice from ginger, cardamom and cumin.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery?
The distillery tour is intended to be informal and intimate, so numbers are normally limited to a maximum of 16 guests per visit. Our expert tour guides walk guests through the history of gin and our brand story, demonstrating the distilling process and our traditional liqueur making methods. The effect of different botanicals and distilling methods are explored during an in-depth guided tasting session, where guests have the opportunity to ask any questions they have about all things gin whilst sampling products from our range. The tour lasts about an hour and a half.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Our biggest challenge was learning how to run our new gin still when she arrived at the distillery in 2011. The physical equipment was completely reliable and intuitive to use, however understanding the absolute best way to run it was a very steep learning curve, with many failures along the way. Despite all the scientific advances over the years, good gin distilling utterly relies on meticulous attention to detail and remains something of an art. Above all, it cannot be hurried!
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
If I am drinking gin sociably, I enjoy a G&T with plenty of ice and a twist of lemon peel in a traditional copa de balon glass. In the comfort of my own home, or if I am tasting a new gin for the first time, I like a tumbler with 1/3 Gin and 2/3 tonic at room temperature and no ice, so I can really get to know the flavours and nuanced botanicals.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Our gin is classic, balanced and ultra-smooth.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
Other than our fantastic 6 O’clock Gin range of course, I would go for Plymouth Gin or Sipsmith Gin as two classic, traditional London Dry gins.
What's next for 6 O'Clock Gin - any exciting plans?
We are constantly experimenting and developing new ideas and flavours. In 2020, we launched our Romy’s Edition – Mango, Ginger & Lime gin in collaboration with celebrated chef Romy Gill MBE. This gin has been so well received that we have decided to inaugurate it into our core range.
We have also released a range of convenient ready-to-drink cans, meaning that our customers can take the taste of our strikingly smooth 6 O’clock Gins along to garden parties, barbecues and picnics, or indeed wherever the spirit takes them this summer.
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