What can you tell us about the history, the family and the original Nicholson Gin
The Nicholson family began distilling gin in Clerkenwell in the early 18th Century. From 1828, the distillery was in St John Street, the frontage of which still stands today. In 1872 William Nicholson acquired the Three Mills site in Bow, much of which can still be seen today, allowing for greater levels of production. The production of Nicholson Gin ceased in the mid 1980’s after the business was sold to Allied Breweries who were primarily interested in the pub estate (Nicholson’s Pubs).
Revived in 2017 by Nicholas Browne and Tim Walker, cousins and direct descendants of the original Nicholson family, Nicholson Gin is once again produced in London, at Thames Distillers in Clapham by Master Distiller Charles Maxwell.
What made you decide to revive Nicholson Gin?
With the gin market showing tremendous growth, particularly at present in the UK, we saw an opportunity to revive what was one of England’s great gin brands with tremendous history and heritage, providing today’s consumers with the finest of classic dry gins. As well as wanting to return this historic brand to the UK market, the Nicholson brand is fully entwined within our own family heritage. As we are both direct descendants of the original Nicholson founding family this revival even more special.
How did you go about recreating Nicholson Gin - does it differ from the original?
We took the original family recipe and conducted a trial distillation in exactly the same proportions. We then reviewed this with our distiller and other experts over the course of a few months, making very few minor tweaks until we were satisfied it would stand out in today’s market. It is a faithful replication of the original family recipe.
Can you tell us about the distillation process?
The gin is produced in a traditional pot still which is charged with neutral grain spirit which has been distilled to over 96%. Then botanicals are placed in the body of the still with the spirit and water, then closed. Heat is applied by very hot water being pumped through a jacket which surrounds the still.
The alcohol starts to boil once the temperature exceeds 76 degrees centigrade. During this process it catches upwards and binds with the oils from the botanicals. The vapour is collected and cooled down by passing through a cold water tower which turns the vapour back into liquid.
A distillation takes approximately five hours and the heart of the distillation is used to make the gin, coming off the still it will have an ABV of approximately 80%. The heads and tails of the distillation (the “feints”) are put to one side. When it comes to bottling, more neutral grain spirit is added and then the blend is “broken back” to the bottling ABV of 40.3% with de-ionised water.
How would you describe Nicholson Gin in 3 words?
Classic, Complex, Substantial
What makes your Nicholson Gin different?
We pride ourselves on the flavour profile of our gin. Championing the original recipe, Nicholson Gin cuts through the tonic allowing the flavor of the spirit to come out. Ensuring the tonics and mixers are an accompaniment to the spirit and not vice versa.
What's your favourite way to drink Nicholson Gin?
Nicholson Original Gin is ideal for classic cocktail serves as well as with tonic due to its complexity and flavour profile. We detail several classic sreves on our website including the Nicholson 66 which is a variation on the classic French 75 – 25ml Nicholson Original, 10ml each of fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup, shake and top with English sparking wine, garnich with sprig of lemon thyme. Our signature G&T serve for 2017 is garnished with a twist of lemon and English rhubarb.
The red and yellow symbolism of our garnish is a nod to the brand’s original striped colours on the bottle and the connection with the MCC and Lord’s Cricket Ground:
William Nicholson (1824-1909) MP & Chairman of J&W Nicholson & Co, was a keen cricketer making 148 known appearances for MCC, Middlesex & England between 1845 & 1869. In 1866 he loaned the MCC funds to purchase the freehold of Lord’s, saving the ground from property developers and thereby securing the future of the club. In 1889 he loaned further sums to finance the building of the present pavilion.
It is generally accepted that because of his generosity MCC adopted the Nicholson ‘egg & bacon’ (yellow and red) colours, now instantly recognisable across the sporting world. In 2016 MCC recognised him as ‘the man who saved Lord’s’ in an exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of securing the Lord’s ground.
What's next for Nicholson Gin, any exciting plans?
At present, we at W Nicholson & Co are concentrating on reviving the Original London Dry Gin to tell the brand story whilst engaging customers to build a natural affiliation with our brand. However, there is a wealth of history to explore with further expressions of gin and other spirits but much depends on consumer tastes and market conditions.