How did you get into gin into the industry?
Kate & I started hanging out after she got divorced and whereas some mums have coffee mornings, we had gin evenings on our child-free days. Kate rang me in an excited fervour after listening to a radio programme about the gin renaissance and told me that we were going to start our own distillery.
How did you get from the idea to the finished products?
We did plenty of research, sampling gins to find out what sorts of flavours we liked (and didn’t like). We wanted to make a gin that stood out from the crowd. We then started experimenting with juniper from different countries. Like grape varieties, we discovered that the quality and flavour of juniper berries depends on the conditions it grows in and so we choose the juniper that best shows off our botanicals. Selecting and combining different botanicals to produce unique but obviously Gin Kitchen gins is one of the things that we do really well.
We sourced herbs, flowers and spices from all over the world to ensure that our gins have the best quality and flavour and luxurious mouth feel that is distinctly our brand. Once we believed we had a combination that worked, we threw a tasting party! Our friends with discerning palettes then made the ultimate decision (by draining the bottles the fastest) as to whether we launched a new gin or headed back to the kitchen.
What's the inspiration behind your gins?
Dancing Dragontail was inspired by the cardamom mountains of Cambodia. We love green cardamom and when we paired it with fresh pink grapefruit we knew we had a winning recipe. Our friends loved the gin straight away but the name and bottle design was a little more difficult to converge on. We named it after the tiny Dragontail butterfly native to cambodia and when we asked our friend Helen Sweeting to paint us a butterfly garden to use as our bottle design. We knew we had made a gorgeous “summer-in-a-bottle” gin.
Gutsy Monkey was inspired by a sachet of spice mix from our local butchers shop. Helen distilled it and creating a terrible gin tasting like cold, watery curry, but I recognised something special in the combination of citrus and spice and adjusted the quantities in an experiment during one of our infamous tasting parties. It took less than an hour to get from concept to Gutsy Monkey and our friend said “oo it tastes like Christmas, that's a real Winter Gin" so we called it that and launched it the following month in time for Christmas 2016.
What's The Gin Kitchen distillery like?
We converted a beautiful 170 year old barn into a small distillery with a working area and space for hosting tours, tastings and parties.We have a working area where we have our traditional copper pot stills, Dinky and Daisy, maceration kegs, shelves of beautiful botanicals, sinks and working surfaces and a bottling area.
We recycle and repurpose as much as we can so we made our cocktail bar out of the pallets we get our lovely porcelain bottles delivered on. It was actually the first thing we built in the barn as a focal point for guests. We also open late on Thursdays and Fridays so people can pop in to try our bespoke cocktails. In addition to being skilful passionate distillers, all of our staff, including our events staff, are trained mixologists so they can show off our gins.
Can you tell us about the distillation process?
Our gin is a real labour of love. We only make around 60 bottles a day so each and every bottle receives personal care and attention. From start to finish each batch takes about five days to complete.
We begin by macerating juniper and botanicals in organic neutral grain spirit. We sort and select the seeds and botanicals by hand to ensure that only the best quality are used in our gin as our gin gets its wonderful flavour from the essential oils under the skin. We use a precise blend of botanicals in every run. Then we pour the wash into our charming copper stills, seal then in the traditional way using rye flour and water, and gently heat it to release the essential oils and flavour. When the stills are bubbling away the distillery smells gorgeous! After distillation, we dilute the 80% gin with spring water to a less outrageous 48%, and following a short rest, the gin is then bottled, sealed and labelled by hand. The time and effort getting the flavour profile and smoothness just right is reflected in the taste of our gin.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Gutsy Monkey is unique, punchy and velvety
Dancing Dragontail is zesty, floral and versatile.
What makes The Gin Kitchen's gins different ?
Our gins are made by gin lovers for gin lovers. We spent a lot of time carefully developing the flavour profiles of our gins so they are smooth and distinct. We use lots of fresh ingredients and don't chill filter out the essential oils so our gins burst with flavour when you add tonic and are smooth and tasty enough to drink neat. The gin goes pearlescent when diluted because the essential oils are only soluble in high strengths of alcohol. All have a luxurious mouthfeel that feels "like a Gin Kitchen gin" and our bottles are beautiful. A must for every gin shelf.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
We love Gutsy Monkey in a negroni or muddled with blackberries in a sorbet.
Dancing Dragontail is lovely with a yuzu tonic, frozen berries and grapefruit, in a copa glass.
What gins do you always have on your gin shelf?
We have a huge collection of gin in our bar after swapping bottles with other distillers, but at home when she’s not sipping Gutsy Monkey, Helen has Poppies Gin with Mediterranean tonic over ice.
What's next for The Gin Kitchen?
We’re about to launch Blushing Monkey our Pink Gin, which is basically the love child of Gutsy Monkey and a bashful bunch of sweet black grapes that turns neon pink with the addition of tonic. We’d also love more guests to visit our lovely little distillery nestled in the Surrey Hills.