Me and my hubby went on the Bullard’s Distillery Gin tour at the Ten Bells, St Benedicks Street, Norwich today (past tense now!) – we won the tickets in a Cocktail making competition but that’s another story. If I’d have known, before what I know now, I’d have gone on it sooner and been more than happy to pay the very reasonable tour price. I wasn’t expecting much, I mean I was expecting to enjoy it but in my imagination, I thought I’d be in and out in an hour, maybe a short talk, a mini shot or two with a couple of people – maybe a sales pitch on time share! But it exceeded all expectations – –
Friendly staff in this cooler than cool rustic but designer steam punk chic city centre pub, lead you to the back room where tables were set out for the ‘wait for it later’ taster.
A quick introduction and welcome, when we were then split in to two groups of six. My group got taken by Rory in to the bottling and infusion room for an introduction in to the world of micro brewery bottling, infusing and a guess game of the botanic’s that make their fabulous award-winning gins.
There was this big container of gin stocked with 20 kilos of fresh strawberry’s swimming in fragrant pleasure, seeping for 4 days to make their Strawberry and Black pepper Gin. The aroma in the room was blissful –
So, there they are every week or so with 20 kilos of Gin marinated strawberry’s – – – strong in flavour and packed with alcohol, there’s no further use from them, so they get thrown away – ‘throw them away’ I murmured in shock.
My brain worked on over drive – Margaritas, Daiquiris, Eton Mess, Mess smoothie, Jam n Gin, coulis, Chilli Gin sins, chocolate coated, jelly shots – – – ‘Please let me have some’ Bullard Boys, I feel the need to experiment. I also strongly believe I can convince someone to make something magnificence with them to sell as another great Norfolk product – Adults only of course!
Then Peter the Distillery Bloke took you in to the copper room with ‘Flo’, the ‘Pot Still’ –that’s not its name, in fact it hasn’t got a name. So, I’ve named it secretly after my poor old Great Nana Flo (Florence), her mother was an alcoholic on Gin – in the days when Gin was mothers ruin. The drink of the poor, cheap and readily available and the ruin of many a fisherman’s wife of which my great, great nana was one. Born around 1880, I can’t even remember her name but her husband was a skipper with his own boat, a great success story in Lowestoft in those days – you were made if you had your own boat. But one fateful day his engine blew up taking both his life and the boats leaving my great great nana with nothing but 5 hungry mouths to feed including her youngest, my great nana Flo.
So, I guess Gin was her only release, what else would she turn to in the 1900’s but Gin even if it was 80* proof and full of bad stuff – the sort of stuff that would pickle your insides and eventually did.
My nana, great nana Flo never drunk – I’ve just realised why, but she would love to think that we now drink Gin for pleasure – – – so much smooth and aromatic pleasure!
‘Back in the Room’ – there we were looking at Flo, Flo-ing in more ways than one (see what I did there), a 30k American copper monster with knobs, steam punk windows and a massive port hole for the hard stuff. A monster that can distil 150 bottles of the good stuff in a day – but of course we are talking microbrewery here, so all the bottles have to be filled and labelled by hand, making it even more gorgeous, bespoke and tasty.
Rory gave us a lovely story on how he arrived at the rather enviable role of head distiller for Bullard’s coming up with the award winning recipe for their London’s Dry Gin. Do you know its voted the best micro-brewery Gin in the World – – yes, the best Gin in the world is made right here in Norwich.
Of, course I’m not going to tell you hardly anything further that they said on the tour, all the secrets, all the ingredients, all the tales like the Banana story, NO, you’ll have to go on the tour for that, is secretly locked in my newly found Gin & Tonic drinking brain.
We then went down to the tasting table where we were given a really interesting and informative story of the History of Gin, starting from the Dutch.
Of, course my dad knows better and told me later in the day that Gin came from the Arabs, where in the Lebanon they’ve been growing juniper berries for century’s, which were used in ancient civilisations to make a brew. I’m not sure that was anything like todays Gin in fact I’m convinced it’s not.
No google search lead me to the Middle East only to The Netherlands in Medieval days where it is said to be given to soldiers for some Dutch Courage. But then the British put the botanicals in to Gin and we certainly put the Tonic in to the stuff.
You’ll find out all about that too (Not my dad’s bit!) – while you work your way through 4 Gin’s first to smell, then to sip, then to add a flavour to like lime, then to swig, then you add a tonic to enrich the experience – the different flavour profiles are without doubt delicious in definition.
I loved the Old Tom – sweet and mild and probably very feminine but it worked so well with lime and elderflower tonic. There’s a confusing story linked with Old Tom, supposedly in Victorian days a cat ended up in the vat, to disguise the flavour they added sugar – hence the sweet gin was born. But I’m sure even back in them days they had a lid on the vat, I’m not sure a cat would be stupid enough to open it and jump in – I mean, ’I would’ but not a cat, whom neither likes water nor Gin. But it’s a nice story and that’s why all ‘Old Tom’ bottles have a cat on them.
Three and a bit hours later and a tad drunk we rolled out happy, full of Gin knowledge and even prouder to promote yet another amazing Norwich foodie product at its finest.
To go with the award winning Gin try this award winning cocktail –
The Norfolk Pudding
Forget Dessert go straight to cocktails – shake this well to release the subtle flavours of the pepper and rosemary. It should be cold and creamy with a nice coffee kick.
30ml Bullard’s Dry Gin
20ml Amaretto (or Disaranno)
30ml cold espresso coffee
20 – 30ml single cream
1 small sprig rosemary (optional)
- Shake vigorously over ice, strain in to a martini glass and enjoy.
- Made by my Hubby Nick for Norwich cocktails Week – – winner winner Gin Gin Dinner!
by Zena Leech-Calton ©