In part 1 of this post, we explored what it would be like to distill your own gin using the "one pot" method. At the end of that part, we pondered whether it would be any easier to blend a gin from different distillates of the botanicals used in the gin. So instead of putting all the botanicals in the still with neutral alcohol and then distilling it, the distiller distills each botanical individually and then marries the different distillates together at the end. No different to how blended whisky is created, we guess.
Having tried the single shot method of distillation in London, once back in Sydney, we toddled off to Archie Rose Distillery to try our hand at the blending technique, the same method used by them to create their signature dry gin.
As the first Sydney urban distillery in over 160 years when it opened in 2015, Archie Rose produces a vodka, gin and white rye spirit with a whisky on the way. Located in Rosebery, the distillery compound also houses a bar that is worth visiting in its own right in all of its copper covered glory. It's here that the gin blending workshops are held from time to time, where for 2 hours, ordinary punters get the opportunity to test their blending skills using an array of distillates. Archie Rose's Signature Dry Gin is itself uses 14 different botanicals that include some native Australian botanicals like blood lime, Dorrigo pepperleaf, lemon myrtle and river mint. Each are individually distilled in a pot still and then blended by master distiller Joe Dinsmoor. Though less than a year old, the gin has already garnered a gold medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Straight off, we are going to say that gin blending is HARD. We were presented with about 10-12 different distillates in separate glasses and a syringe with which to drop as much or as little of our chosen distillate in a separate master glass. Encouraged to experiment in small quantities in the beginning (and by small, we mean in quantities measured by the drops), once happy with the overall result, you could then scale up to fill the 200ml flasks to take away with you.
In principle, it's no different to the process of wholly distilling all the botanicals in one hit - identify the character of the end spirit you want, then work out the botanicals that'll give you that profile and the proportion of each in the formula. But trying to make it all work with separate distillates requires you to have the nose of a master perfumier with the palate of a master chef. Perhaps the most difficult was balancing the profile we wanted to achieve on the nose with the profile we wanted to achieve on the palate, each botanical having different strengths on the palate. So for example, add to much of the lemon myrtle distillate and risk overpowering all the other botanicals, even though on the nose, it might still smell ok. Our resulting concoctions were nothing like what we had set out to achieve, and had a rather bland, dull nose to it with a palate that was not much better, despite us wanting this vibrant, zesty gin - we are definitely not going to be giving up our day jobs soon.
Our lesson learnt? Making a world class gin is difficult, whether you are distilling everything in the one hit or blending. However, if like us, you still want to make your own gin, but have the nose and palate of a water buffalo, then Archie Rose has come up with a pretty nifty initiative called Tailored Spirits where you can create your own customised gin (or vodka or rye) based on a selection of botanicals they've set out. Choose your botanicals, select your preferences and they'll adjust the strength and even customise the label for you. More details can be found here.