QUESTER 6 - Visit to Winchester Distillery - October 2019
A dismal Monday morning found Questers 6 enjoying a gin cocktail at the start of a visit to the Winchester Distillery in Old Alresford. The distillery was established 5 years ago as the first craft distillery in Hampshire and has been on its current site for 4 years. The vision for the Distillery was that it should produce a gin rooted in Hampshire. Work began on testing different recipes and after a year it was the 84th (secret) trial recipe that was chosen to start production of 'Twisted Nose Gin'.
The tour began with a resume of the long and colourful history of gin through the centuries, the different processes used and types of still and the need for regulation, together with a comprehensive explanation of the production process employed by the Winchester Distillery.
Distillation of Twisted Nose takes place on the site by heating the spirit, water and 10 botanicals in small batches in an 180litre pot still (named Persephone) using local ingredients wherever possible. The 96% neutral spirit base (ethanol) currently comes from UK grain but it is hoped that in future this could be distilled wholly from Hampshire grain. The botanical that gives this gin its unique flavour is fresh watercress from the adjacent watercress beds. The juniper berries which must be added for spirit to become gin, are sourced from Macedonia.
After distillation the strong spirit is diluted to bottling strength of 40% ABV with the mineral-rich spring water from the site, giving a production run of 250 bottles. Bottling, labelling and packaging are all done by hand.
We next progressed to the tasting. Besides Twisted Nose and Winchester Dry Gin, the distillery produces limited seasonal gins (including one infused with the locally grown wasabi!) Each of the 6 gins presented was 'paired' with a matched tonic water eg Twisted Nose is best enjoyed with an elderflower tonic.
The tour was extremely enjoyable. With such a small team involved with the distillery our guide was very well informed and the small scale of the operation made the whole process easier to understand.
... and the reason the gin was called Twisted Nose? It is because the Romans knew watercress as nasturtium which literally translates as 'twisted nose' due to the effect the peppery plant had on the nasal passages.