Paul Dunn created his own gin at Ginstitute in the Portobello Star.
It’s summer, the festival season and the Wimbledon is upon us, so gin fever is taking over the big smoke again. The capital has been undergoing a renaissance with distilleries popping up from Hoxton to Hammersmith, so Eat Travel Live thought it was high time to attempt to make our own spirit, courtesy of the Ginstitute tour experience in Notting Hill: itself a homage to Victorian gin palace hidden away above the Portobello Star.
The tour is an immersive experience: temporally and literally. We were greeted with an own brand Portobello Road No 171 London Dry Gin (very large) and 1724 tonic.
By the time we entered the second-smallest museum in London, decorated with rare gin bottles and artifacts transporting you back to the 19th-century, we were on our second libation, a Tom Collins, and becoming the soaks Hogarth’s pictures warned us about. Our guide regaled us with stories of the dangerous nature of the spirit before helping us create our own bottle.
Moving to the upstairs laboratory, we were introduced to Copernicus II, the smallest copper gin still in the capital. Apothecary jars containing pre-distilled gin with botanical flavours line the lab such as juniper and citrus, plus surprising flavours such as bergamot, wormwood, asparagus and even Yorkshire tea.
Our expert explains that most brands feature “the big four botanicals” including juniper, coriander, orris root and angelica, which makes up 60 per cent of a bottle.
When imbibing gin, the “first wave” of flavour is juniper, then “top notes” like citrus and coriander. Thirdly, you receive the short-lived flavours grasses, florals, teas – and finally, the longer flavours, like spices.
Our job is to choose from six and 12 botanicals to personalise our effort whilst being fed endless gin and tonics. My fellow bootlegger Jim (now known as Gin) Joliffe makes a dry spirit for martinis with pink peppercorns and orange peel. I plan a zesty summery spirit but three more doubles later I switch to a spicier more wintery concoction by adding a smoky finish with lapsang souchong.
We are told that our recipes are kept at The Ginstitute and extra bottles can be ordered, then given a martini downstairs in the bar for good measure.We exit with two bottles of gin each – our own creations plus a bottle of Portable Road No 171 – and I just about remember drinking a Guinness (no more gin please) and eating some chips at the Electric on the way home.
When I can face trying my hooch a week later, it is surprisingly good. I’ll eat in advance next time though.
Words Paul Dunn. Paul is a lifestyle and sports writer, you can ctah him tweeting @twunnsy