So when I found out that there was an actual distillery not too far from my house, I had to go have a look. Note the word “distillery” – this is not just a place where spirits are flavoured but where not-booze is turned into booze, and then turned into stronger booze!
We got a brief tour (they do ask that you ring ahead but if you don’t they’ll be nice to you anyway) and an explanation of what they do and how they do it. Sadly the “Dr J” of “Dr J’s Cambridge gin” was not in, as it would have been extra interesting to hear from a biochemist.
Apparently the major difference between their small-batch-produced booze and high-throughput booze produced in a rolling/continual process is that they are able to take the more volatile chemicals (the things that evaporate before the alcohol, like acetone, which smells like nail varnish or pear drops) and throw them away. This “head” is what gives other vodkas that hairspray sharpness at the back of the throat.
We did a little tasting – I don’t normally drink spirits neat but I could appreciate the differences here (especially when we compared to some Smirnoff!). The tasting was in a fresh-from-Homebase-looking shed, which was actually leaking in the rain. Who needs glamour when you have good drinks?
So here’s what we came home with:
Dr J’s Cambridge gin
“Cucumber gin” – or cucumber-ginned vodka. It’s vodka with cucumber in. The process is called “ginning”. Is it gin? Is it vodka? It’s not legally gin because it has no juniper. It’s nice though.
Raspberry liqueur – great for making a kind of kir royale ( I normally call non-champage kir royale “kir pleb”, but this is not very plebby)
Finally I have a cocktail recipe. Cucumber and elderflower collins. You want 2 measures of cucumber gin (or Hendricks), 1 measure of elderflower cordial (elderflower liqueur would work beautifully if you have any), a ribbon of cucumber, top up with soda water.
*Yes I know I don’t have any, but I can pretend.