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Review

Blackdown Sussex Gin

Distillery

Blackdown Artisan Spirits, Lurgashall Winery, Lurgashall, Nr Petworth, Sussex (the base spirit is made by an undisclosed distillery in Cambridgeshire – probably Cambridge Distillery), England, UK.

Website

Blackdown Cellar and Lurgashall Winery.

History

In 1985 Sarah Thompson, and another business partner, set up Lurgashall Winery at Woodfallwood, a 38-acre site in West Sussex, England. At the time a winery in England was a bold business venture but it has continued to steadily grow, today employing over 20 people and producing around half a million bottles per year.

One additional side of the business has been producing fruit liqueurs  - using a base of Gin and Vodka, brought in from a third party supplier (probably The Cambridge Distillery). This got Sarah thinking and she decided to try launching her own spirits. In conjunction with her husband Nathan, Blackdown Artisan Spirits was born, with a small range of Blackdown spirits launched in summer 2013. Using forgotten flavors, from locally sourced ingredients and hand made, their motto “Distilled from the heart” has real meaning and underlines their undeniable passion for what they do.

Sarah and Nathan plan to build (Nathan has a background in plumbing and heating) and open their own distillery on site to produce their own spirit – perhaps in 2015.

Production

The Gin is made from a 100% British grown wheat grain base and distilled seven times by a third party distillery in Cambridgeshire. The 7th and final distillation is in a copper pot still, including all of the botanicals except the silver birch, and is charcoal filtered 7 times. The resultant distillate is transported to Blackdown Spirits where it is reduced to bottling strength and the silver birch syrup is added – it takes over 100 gallons of silver birch sap to make one gallon of the syrup! It is then bottled and labelled, ready for market, using the facilities at Lurgashall Winery.

The Gin is presented in a clear squat bottle with a slightly curved bottom and shoulders plus a black wax sealed cap. There is a large rectangular white label with black, silver and green text and a silver coat of arms at the top.

Category

Distilled Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

37.5% (75 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$ - $$$$$. Not available in the USA but is available in the UK. Try online direct from Blackdown Artisan Spirits (within the UK only) or from Master of Malt, however be prepared to add another 50% for shipping (outside of the UK). 

Botanicals

Uses 11 botanicals including: angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon bark, coriander, juniper berries, lemon peel, liquorice, nutmeg, orange peel (bitter & sweet), orris root and silver birch sap.

Surrounding the distillery and winery are over 40-acres of silver birch trees and these provide the sap to make the syrup added to the Gin.

Name

The distillery/winery is at the foothills of the South Downs a series of hills which run East to West, around 20 miles North of the South coast of England. The tallest of these hills closest to them is Blackdown Hill (hence the name) where the poet Tennyson lived in his summer residence Aldworth House.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are juniper, light lemon citrus and a delicate woody aroma. On the palate this smooth, soft and viscous spirit starts with a strong woody and earthy taste (silver birch) with juniper, grassy greenness (angelica) and lemony (coriander & lemon) citrus notes developing plus a slight sweetness (liquorice & silver birch). On the close is subtle peppery spice (coriander and cinnamon) with a strong fruity dry finish.

This is an unusual Gin (in a good way) and this is clearly due to the addition of the silver birch syrup, pairing well with the angelica to create a crisp dry spirit. Blackdown designed it to be drunk neat and we certainly found this pleasant enough especially over ice. However this was very good in a Gin and Tonic where we found fever tree tonic water and a lemon wedge as garnish worked best. It really worked best of all in a Martini, although many like it better the drier it is we like it better the wetter it is, particularly when using Blackdown’s own Vermouth - the first English bianco version ever made. When drinking the Martini it is hard not to be reminded of a beautiful spring day in the English Sussex countryside – perfect!

This is recommended as a nice Gin to try with an interesting and unusual botanical. It is a testament to the great job carried out by Sarah and Nathan and we look forward to their continuing bright future.

Awards & Accolades

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2015.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2014.

Bronze Medal, International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2014.

Gold Medal, Gin Masters, 2013.



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