Sacred Spirits Company Ltd., Highgate, London (found about 100 yards from the top of Highgate Hill, the highest point in London), England, UK.
Running up to 2008, with the financial and
economic down turn at that time, former Derivatives trader turned city
headhunter Ian Hart found himself at a loose at the end. He tried his hand at a
hand full of ideas before looking to improve wine from poor vintages using cold
distillation techniques with a vacuum still. Whilst this method of wine
improvement was successful he realized it wouldn’t unfortunately be viable as a
commercial project. So, armed with this new equipment to “play with”, and being
a keen Gin drinker, he turned to making this spirit. After much trial and
error, not to mention ample amounts of creative ingenuity and knowledge gained
from his Cambridge degree in Natural Sciences, in 2009 he started his own micro
Joined by his life partner and co-founder Hilary Whitney, this is not your usual distillery. Operated from their residential home there are no traditional copper pot stills, instead it looks like a small chemistry lab in a family room looking over the backyard. With the garage and children’s playhouse providing storage facilities, an informal tasting group helping them agree upon their 23rd recipe (loosely based on one from 1660), their original Sacred Gin was launched in May 2009.
This botanical flavored Gin using Juniper we believe was launched around 2011.
The botanicals are distilled separately,
undergoing 3 different macerations (one with alcohol and a further two with
water) to get the very last bit of flavor out of each, before being distilled.
The process uses triple distilled English wheat grain spirit (bought in from
the Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers) where the botanical
macerations are distilled in glassware under reduced temperature and pressure
in a vacuum using either a 2-liter of a 6-liter Rotavapor. Each resultant
distillate is blended and hydrated with purified water to produce the final
Gin. We have simplified the process but Ian Hart has added many aspects to it
including vapor extraction at three different boiling points, cooling using 2
different methods to capture every drop and methods to prevent oxygen
contamination. Sacred were certainly the first to use vacuum distillation in
London (if not England) and we suspect are the first to use this particular and
unique set-up for distillation. This Gin is made from a blend of 95% Bulgarian
juniperus communis distillate and 5% from orris and angelica distillates.
The Gin is presented in a tall clear cylindrical bottle with rounded shoulders and a medium length neck. The label has evolved through several changes and the most recent was implemented in November 2011 by brand design consultancy Elmwood. In general the labels are colored purple with Gold foil and the lettering “Sacred” and “Juniper” written on it, plus an image of a crown. The new design is dominated with individually styled iron gates based on the famous Highgate Cemetery gates. Key aspects of the design include: Hearts lining the top of the crown referring to co-founder Ian surname; Serpents abound as these are said to guard the Frankincense tree (one of the botanicals); Ink pen nibs form the hinges of the gates as a nod to the many literary greats buried at Highgate Cemetery and the journalistic career of co-founder Hilary; the subtle images of birds are discreetly placed representing the Nightingales found throughout the Highgate woodland; and we also like the use of the laboratory style glassware images scattered around too.
Flavored Gin - Juniper.
43.8% (88 Proof).
Uses 3 organically
sourced botanicals including: angelica root, juniper berries and orris.
Named after the Boswellia sacra tree (also
known as Hougary Frankincense), one of the 12 botanicals used in the original
Sacred Gin, and the key flavoring botanical for this Gin.
On the nose is resinous woody pine
(juniper), almost like methanol, with peppery spice. On the palate this
semi-sweet floral spirit is clear juniper with fruity citrus and a hint of
soapiness. On the close the strong methanol-like aspects burst through, similar
to a strong breath freshener, with a lingering warm peppery finish.
This is for the true ardent juniper forward Gin lover and even then it may prove too much for some! However, Gin lovers will be taken back (in a good way) using this in a Gin and Tonic and it certainly has to be tried to be believed. This makes an almost incredulous Martini with the juniper forward nature combining well with all the herbal aspects brought forth as a close second.
We really like the description from Simon Difford: “Like having your mouth spring cleaned with and spray cleaned with pine-fresh cleaner” - their full article regarding Sacred Spirits can be found at Diffords Guide. Although this might sound unpleasant to some, it really shows the effect juniper has on Gin and the resultant flavor profile is a must taste experience. This is strongly recommended, if only for the novelty value, because you may become a convert to the Gin also.