Sussex by the Sea

Sussex is known as a county home to those with an ‘independence of thought’. Our unofficial county motto is ‘we wunt be druv’ which is a Sussex dialect way of saying ‘we won’t be driven’. In other words, that we don’t like being told what to do or indeed how to do it!

I’ll be honest, I suspect many of my old teachers (not that I suspect any of them reached old age after putting up with me…) would agree that typifies me rather well. So, when I started out making my own spirits, there was little doubt I’d add my own spin to it, yet I still had to find a logical starting point for this journey and discover how to make distinctive spirits that reflect the best of Sussex and the Living Coast.

London Dry Gin

That’s what led me to the London Dry Gin method. Firstly, just so we’re all on the same page, it’s a common misconception that for a Gin to be ‘London Dry’ that it has anything to do with originating from the big city. It’s in fact a method of gin production that has been outlined in European law (Annex II – 22.) and was developed and popularised by British distillers, with good reason, as it remains to this day one of the best methods for making excellent gin and naturally flavoured spirits. The essence of the process is that a London Dry Gin should be made from a neutral base alcohol of agricultural origin of over 96% ABV. In other words an almost tasteless starting point to which only natural botanicals can be added for flavouring. This concoction must then be distilled in a ‘traditional gin still’ (the majority of which are/were pot stills) to ensure the vast majority of the aromatic essential oils, and thus flavour, from the botanicals are captured in the final spirit. Lastly, pretty much no other added ingredients are allowed. There are some other nuances, but that’s the jist of it and as gin making goes, it’s a great method and for my purposes an ideal starting point!

If it ain’t broke…

So, if it’s such a good method, why tinker with it? Well, time has moved on and with it technology, even in the often rather antiquated world of distillation, but perhaps most importantly to me was my motivation to create distinctive sipping gins and spirits that harness local terroir. As an avid whisky fan and quite honestly, a lover of most, quality dark spirits, I believe that the hallmark of any premium spirit should be how well it stands up when enjoyed neat. Particularly in the UK, Gin for many years had become a drink quaffed with several or more parts tonic and whilst the noble GnT is a fantastic drink, 4 parts tonic can ride roughshod over some significant flaws. To achieve a bold flavoursome Gin, as enjoyable when sipped neat as when served long, presented an interesting challenge. Besides, there’s a reason the Sussex flag consists of six gold martlets on a field of blue. In heraldry the martlet is depicted as a small swallow lacking any feet. This supposed inability of the martlet to land is said by some to symbolize a constant quest for knowledge, learning, and adventure. Innovation, always moving forward, is literally in our blood.

The Sussex Flag with Six golden martlets representing the six rapes of Sussex on a blue background.

The Sussex flag has been official since 2010 due to a local campaign, but has been in existence since 1611.

Sussex Dry Gin

So, I did my research and after embarking on a gin sipping marathon one of the first things that stood out was that an excessively dry Gin was not always very ‘sippable’ at all! Also that many classical Gins were well suited to a GnT, but those that were excessively juniper forward were often too astringent or heavily ‘perfumed’  to enjoy neat. I soon became convinced that not only was it possible to make smooth sipping Gin, but that tinkering with herb bills and botanical loadings would only get me so far towards this goal.

So, for the next six months I devised recipes, but also examined the effect of changing process steps on the final result. I wont give away all my findings, but suffice to say that is how my method for producing Sussex Dry Gin was born and I think it’s a keeper! I now use this production method, which borrows the best parts of the London Dry method (neutral base spirit, natural botanicals as only flavourings used, no added ingredients), but adds my own flair to the process from start to finish; whether it’s growing, foraging or sourcing & preparing botanicals by hand, or fusing old and new distillation techniques and spirit resting processes. By virtue of developing my own processes and recipes, I take great pleasure and pride in ensuring only the very best spirits leave the distillery. Don’t just take my word for it though, order a bottle today and discover the only ‘new’ gin you’ll ever need!

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