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Victory – a glorious piece of 21st century steampunkery

‘Mother’s ruin’ – gin is going through a bit of a renaissance – it’s a bit trendy.

As I’ve sampled a few(!), Julie thought it would be a good idea to see how it’s made, so she took me to Nelson’s Distillery and Gin School, in Staffordshire.

Our collection of botanicals – at least 40% Juniper berries (or it’s not gin)

We started by browsing cocktail books, history books, and recipe books, and the rows of herbs, spices, and other botanical samples – just to get our gin-brains going. Then we spent the day blending and distilling our own bottle of gin. We each had a mini desktop copper still, chose our own blend of ‘botanicals’ and were steered through the process by the owner, distiller extraordinaire, Neil Harrison.

Neil, the man himself, supervises the fine art

Julie and I were a little concerned that the amount dripping from our still was not going to be enough to make a bottle, but once the specific gravity (a measure of the strength of the alcohol) was checked, it was apparent that we were going for quality, not quantity. We achieved a maximum of 89% ABV (alc. by volume). As the strength of the final product would be adjusted so each bottle was around 40 – 50% there would be no issues for us.

While we waited for the gin to ‘appear’ we were introduced to ‘Victory‘, the special, one-off still produced specially for Nelson’s – a glorious piece of 21st century steampunkery, in gleaming copper and stainless steel. A real beauty.

We also got to try the company’s mainstay product, Nelson’s No 7. A suitably large sample appeared and was consumed without complaint. The tone of the gathered would-be distillers became a tad more boisterous after that.

Nelson’s also produce a ‘Navy Strength‘ gin. By tradition this has to be at least 57% ABV as it was stored next to the gunpowder, and if a spillage should occur (heaven forbid!) the gunpowder must still ignite when soaked with the gin. Seemed like a good plan.

With our gins bottled, it was blended with pure water to bring it to the required strength. We called our product, ‘All at Sea’ to maintain the maritime tradition. It was finished at 45.2% ABV. The strongest in the class.

Anyway, my task now is to design a suitable label for the bottle. I shall partake a small measure as inspiration. Watch my other blog for the nautical artwork to appear …

[Visit nelsonsgin.co.uk for the full story of the distillery, school, and their gins]

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