OVER the last few years, gin has shaken off it’s ‘mother’s ruin’ image and emerged as the tipple of choice for movers and shakers throughout the UK.
In fact, UK gin sales reached over £1 billion in 2016 and, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Brits bought over 40 million bottles of the stuff last year.
The city is particularly proud of its own Liverpool Gin which has gained a huge following, becoming the best-selling gin in many stores and supermarkets and placing the city firmly on the gin-making map.
The artisan gin is now created at Halewood Wines and Spirits on Huyton Business Park which specialises in producing wines, spirits, beers and ciders including famous brands Crabbies and Lambrini.
The company acquired the Liverpool Gin brand in 2016 and has invested in a new gin and vodka distillery in Liverpool where female head distiller Lora Henry plans to propel the company into crafts spirits space.
“I’m so pleased it has stayed at home,” said Lora. “It’s a Liverpool brand so it had to stay in Merseyside – our most important market is here, it encapsulates the spirit of the city,” said Lora.
Taking Good News Liverpool on a tour of the distillery, Lora showed us the impressive new ‘still’ which is dedicated to producing the drinks.
Affectionately known as Judy Halewood, the shiny copper potstill was made by German manufacturers Arnold Holstein.
Lora explained: “When making Liverpool Gin, the distillation process begins with ethanol – then we add the botanicals. When the liquid reaches the boiling point of 78 degrees, it rises through the still – we want to the vapours to have contact with the copper.
She added: “Copper has been used in distilleries for hundreds of years – the properties of copper are very important as they help to refine and polish the spirits. This still has a wide stillhead which is great for capturing the essential oils and fragile aromas in the gin.
“The still cost £140,000 and takes 8-10 hours to run a distillation – it was a big investment for the company but it’s important to run it as slowly as possible. Liverpool Gin is made in small batches and is bottled, sealed and labelled by hand here.”
Liverpool Gin is a classic Bombay style gin which is designed to be crisp with a hint of spice.
Explained Lora: “We have kept the recipe the same featuring the finest organic botanicals such as juniper, coriander seed, cardamom seeds, licorice roots and cassia bark. It has a warm, spicy base, while angelica root gives it a sweet earthy quality and the cardamom delivers a delicate spicy note. Orange and lemon peel give it a fruity aroma.”
Lora relies heavily on her nose when it comes to producing premium spirits. She said: “I have to smell and taste the ingredients to make sure they are of top quality. It also involves visual work – looking at the berries – checking to see they are fresh and oily.
“I actively avoid drinking at home when I am working because it can throw your senses out,” Lora revealed. “I avoid spicy food, tea and coffee and even burning scented candles.”
Lora honed her craft at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh where she gained a master of science in distilling – the only university in the world to offer such a qualification.
“I was always interested in aroma and flavour,” says Lora. “I initially considered a career in perfumery before I became interested in spirits – but I use perfumery concepts when developing new recipes.”
Indeed, Lora has helped to develop new flavours in the Liverpool Gin range – Valencian Orange and Rose.
She explained: “Valencian Orange Gin is made with organic Valencian orange peel – it smells delicious, it’s my favourite aroma! It’s not too sweet or citrusy but keeps the character of gin with a hint of orange flavour.”
“It’s perfect served with fever tree tonic and a slice of orange and actually works well with Crabbies – a Liverpool classic!”
Lora also uses her love of music to develop new recipes. She said: “I was a sound engineer for 10 years and I’m at my most creative when listening to music, part of this job is listening with your nose!”
So, after a long day at the distillery. How does Lora relax? With a G&T of course! “I sip it with tonic or opt for a slice of passion fruit,” she added.