Gin was once notorious as ‘mother’s ruin’, but it is fair to say that since legislation was relaxed to allow small gin distilleries, there has been an undeniable boom in craft gin and it’s popularity has rocketed. We may not be back to the halcyon days of gin in the 1700’s when we were consuming 10 litres of gin per head, but we’re not doing badly! In fact Kantar World Panel reported that “Gin is officially the nation’s favourite spirit (having overtaken whisky) – over a quarter of the population have purchased Gin (including flavoured/gin liqueurs) in the last 12 months, up from just over 10% 4 years ago. Gin brands have also really succeeded in connecting with younger consumers: 4 years ago, 43% of 18-24s told us that they drink gin, it’s now 55%.”.
I was lucky enough to visit the Silent Pool Distillery (a week to the day after World Gin Day which was on Saturday 8th June) and despite the highly enjoyable tasting at the end of the tour, I managed to learn a thing or two about their unique approach to gin distilling. So if you are a fan of possibly Surrey’s most successful craft gin (they now export to 32 countries worldwide) please do read on…
Their iconic brand and bottle design stems from their location on the banks of the ‘silent pool’ on the Albury Estate in Surrey. As well as being apparently a place where Druids once worshiped, is also reputed to be where a knight (who turn out to be King John – made famous by the Robin Hood tales) once startled a bathing maiden, which sadly led to her drowning in the pool. Much like the actual silent pool water (a highly filtered version of which is used to cut the gin down to its final alcohol percentage at the end of the distilling process) this tale has been ‘drawn upon’ to inspire the bottle design, which includes (if you look very closely) a knight drowning maiden and a crown, along with the 24 botanicals including in the gin. Whilst the colours of Silent Pool branding – the turquoise and copper are taken from the colour of the water in the Silent Pool and the copper of the still.
The gin recipe was created by the founders along with their Master Distiller, who they recruited by travelling up to Heriot-Watt University where you can study distilling as a Masters, to find the very best distiller possible – Tom Hutchings – who is still with the company.
The whole operation runs from ‘The Major’ the lovingly restored steam boiler which heats the original Juliet still (made by famous still makers Arnold Holstein). A masterpiece of classic engineering ‘The Major’ requires tender loving care and a lot of attention, but as the site was off the national grid when it set up in 2015 steam was the only answer and he’s still going strong to this day. Now they also have a much larger still Ophelia which has helped them keep up with the growing domestic and international demand for Silent Pool.
The recipe for Silent Pool includes 24 botanicals including locally sourced ingredients; (reworded) honey and elderflower from Surrey, lavender from Mayfield Lavender Fields in Carshalton and juniper berries from the Balkans. There are three kinds of botanicals used – those that are macerated and steeped in the alcohol, those that are set up high in the still and essentially steamed (basket botanicals) and those that are so delicate they are infused to make a ‘gin tea’. The unique taste of Silent Pool is something that the distillers have to ensure is consistent through testing the outputs (#ToughJob) at just the right time to find the tail the heart and the head (the heart being the good stuff).
They may be famous for their delicious gin, beautiful bottles and stylish glasses but they also have a number of other strings to their bow, including flavoured gins, and for those who aren’t gin fanatics, even an award winning smooth vodka (all distilled on site using the smaller Juliet still).
Although the beautiful bottles can’t currently be re-used (the machine to sanitise them to the required standard is very expensive) they are being up-cycled into beautiful candles using the bottom of the bottles (available online here).
The final gin is an ‘orange forward’ floral gin. The perfect serve is to have it with straight tonic (not flavoured) and a slice or twist of orange served in one of their beautiful glasses. Equally it has been developed as a sipping gin so can also be enjoyed without a mixer.
Thank you to the team at Silent Pool and out lovely tour guide – we have a fabulous morning and would recommend a trip along to any gin fan. If you’ve been inspired to visit and learn more about your favourite tipple, you can book any one of their events or tours here, enjoy! In fact you can even win a tour on their website here (competition live at time of publication).
Keep reading! Why not read our blog on It’s A Gin Thing!