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 Liquorice 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% Spanish
Glycyrrhiza Glabra root distillate and 5% from juniper, 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 “Liquorice” 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 - Liquorice.
43.8% (88 Proof).
Uses 4 organically
sourced botanicals including: angelica root, juniper berries, liquorice root
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 a light sweet liquorice
aroma with earthy pepper notes. On the palate this bittersweet spirit has a
strong woody liquorice flavor with peppery spice. On the short close is a
continuing liquorice taste with a spicy pepper finish.
This is certainly an unusual Gin - whilst
the flavor is not unfamiliar, a Gin using it (as its key flavor) is very unique
and thus unusual. It is not unpleasant but we could only find limited redeeming
qualities beyond the novelty value and taste experience it provides. In a Gin
and Tonic the bitterness is enhanced to a high level and unsurprisingly the
sweetness is akin to an Old Tom style Gin, a citrus slice garnish (with a
squeeze) certainly adds a welcome slant towards better balance. We did not try
this in other mixed drinks and suspect there is a reasonable amount of trial
and error required to find suitable options in using this Gin.
Overall another quality, if somewhat unusual, Gin from Sacred Spirits, and is perhaps difficult to use effectively. It gives a pleasant experience and is worthwhile spending time in finding its niche for your palate.