The Gin Bandits
Chapel Down Gin Works
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
This review has not been influenced by anyone at Chapel Down, the views are our own, and we have not been paid for this post.
Last Wednesday, we couldn’t wait for work to finish as we were heading down to the Chapel Down Gin Works to learn the art of gin distillation and to create our own gin. Chapel Down are England’s leading winemaker and have now started branching into the spirits market with their two gins and a vodka. Located just a stone’s throw from Kings Cross in an area of London which is undergoing a significant amount of redevelopment, the building which is on the site of an old petrol station boasts stunning views of Regent’s canal.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Terry who offered us a Bacchus G&T before giving us a brief tour of the building. Downstairs, there’s the main bar where behind the bar you can see through the glass to Helga their 150 litre copper still and distillery room. The main bar has a basket weave texture as a nod to the history of Chapel Down and the days of collecting the grapes. We also loved the slogan on the main bar ‘Great minds drink alike’! We were then shown the upstairs bar where they run gin masterclasses and tastings and is sometimes a restaurant too – this bar has an amazing copper bathtub having above it as a nod to the days of bathtub gin – we thought this was a very cool touch! Outside, there is a great terrace area looking out over the canal – we can’t wait to go back in the summer and sip some Chapel Down Pinot Noir G&T’s out there.
We were then introduced to Ericka and Annie who would be our hosts for the evening to guide us through the gin making process. The gin school is situated behind a window in the main bar. They started the session by giving us the story behind Chapel Down, from making wine, to brewing beer and now creating their own gin and vodka. They then gave us some of their Bacchus gin to try neat while they ran us through the botanicals. It was then time for us to pick our recipe, they had a large choice of botanicals for us to choose from, around 30 in total. Whilst we went through the smell and taste of each botanical, we were given a glass of their award winning sparkling wine to keep us going.
As a couple, we both had strong ideas for what we wanted our gin to taste like so we had to find a middle ground for our final recipe. After some negotiation, we agreed on grapefruit peel, juniper, angelica, orris, liquorice, grains of paradise, elderberries, hibiscus and cranberries. We then weighed out each of the botanicals adding more juniper than the recommended amount. We then added the botanicals to a neutral grain spirit which is 96% ABV and turned the heat up to start the distillation process.
Whilst the magic was happening, we were given another G&T, this time it was their beautiful pink gin which gets it colour from the use of the leftover skins of the Pinot Noir grapes. Terry arrived with a couple of platters of charcuterie and cheeses – it was our first time trying lamb salami and it was absolutely delicious. Ericka and Annie then talked us through the history of gin and the gin acts.
Chapel Down Bacchus Gin and Chapel Down Pinot Noir Gin are currently distilled at Thames Distillery and Helga is only currently used to create one off small batches. The first batch of 80 bottles was produced at the back end of October and sold out quickly selling for £25 a bottle only via CDGW. The next batch is planned over the coming weeks, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for a release date.
Once our distillation had finished, we then diluted the gin with pure mineral water to lower the ABV. Usually for the experience they look to bottle the gin between 40-42% ABV, but we asked if we could try to go for our favoured ABV of 44-45%. With a little help from Annie, we got it bang on 45%. We then bottled, labelled and waxed both of our bottles and then debated on the name. The winner for us was Chapel Bandits Gin. Annie then made us our final G&T of the night using the newly created Chapel Bandits Gin. The gin should be left 4-7 days for the final flavour to come out but both of us were really happy with our creation. A punchy, juniper led gin, with fruity, floral sweetness.
Before heading off, we tried some of Chapel Down’s Vodka, and for someone that doesn’t drink too much Vodka, Mr Bandit really enjoyed it. Mrs Bandit was also converted by Chapel Down’s 2015 Chardonnay. Chardonnay is probably one of the few white wines she has never liked. As part of the Gin experience, we were given a gift bag which contained a ready to drink can of Bacchus Gin, a bottle of tonic, a small bottle of Bacchus wine and a £5 discount to use at their onsite shop. It would be rude not to use the £5 discount so we picked up a bottle of Bacchus Gin, a couple of beers and a bottle of their cider.
We had a great time at Chapel Down Works and we will 100% be returning in the summer for G&Ts and a BBQ on their terrace. Annie and Ericka were very knowledgeable, not only about gin, but wine as well. If you’re interested in doing the same experience, you can do it for £175 per couple or £95 per person. They also have other experiences available to buy, such as their Gin Masterclass at £25 per person and their Spirits Tasting at £15 per person – such great ideas for Christmas presents. Annie told us that a lot of people try to do the full Chapel Down experience by visiting their vineyard in Kent, the brewery in Kent and the gin experience in London – this sounds like a great weekend to us!
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