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Review

Warner Edwards
Victoria's Rhubarb Gin

Distillery

Warner Edwards Distillery, Falls Farm, Harrington, Northamptonshire, England, UK.

Website

Warner Edwards

History

Tom Warner is from Falls Farm, Harrington, Northamptonshire in England and Sion Edwards is from Bryngwyn Mawr Farm (Big White Hill Farm), Rhuallt, near St. Asaph, Denbighshire in North Wales. In 1997 they met at agricultural college (Harper Adams University) and, coming from farming families and sharing a mutual love of rugby, became firm friends.

At the end of college they went back to their individual lives, always frustrated by the struggling lifestyle for farmers, although keeping their friendship alive (both being Best Man at each others wedding). However, they had always discussed starting a business themselves and over the next decade or so they tentatively looked at and discussed possible options. By 2010 these discussions had become earnest and it was clear they liked farming and wanted to do something allied with or complimentary to this industry and, as sometimes happens, one idea generated further thoughts.

The key idea was to produce essential oils from crops they would grow on the farm in Wales (e.g. lavender). To produce the oil, distillation equipment would be required, but this would mean this expensive still would sit idle outside of the growing season. So they looked at other uses and came up with the idea of producing alcohol. Once this idea had germinated they began planning to make Vodka on the farm in Wales. However, a key component of any good liquor is a quality source of water. It just so happens Falls Farm is described as being “built on rock and water”, with an abundance of natural springs across the farm (once the site of a medieval manor house). Fortunately, following a tasting from the 6 various springs, the best and sweetest water was also near to a barn that was available – now their dream had a venue and work could start in making it come true.

After nearly 3-years of hard (physical, mental and paper) work not to mention experimentation, the distillery was completed in the early winter of 2012 (following the arrival of their bespoke still in October), and safely housed in their 200-year-old barn they had converted for the purpose. One change to the plan was they liked Gin & Whisky, both providing greater artisanal creativity than Vodka, and they wanted to make great quality spirits with flavor. So, with Whisky potentially taking numerous years to produce they decided to drop the Vodka idea and make great Gin (with Whisky an option for the future).

This Gin, their fourth product, was launched in summer 2014 with a limited release of 8,000 bottles.

Production

This is a true hand crafted small batch distilled Gin. The base spirit is made from barley and flavored with botanicals, including some sourced from the two farms in England and Wales. Each batch of 700 bottles, taking around 7 hours to run, is produced in their bespoke 500-liter (53 gallon) copper pot still made by Arnold Holstein from Markdorf, Germany. The still has been named “Curiosity”, following the discovery of paw prints made by a neighbor’s cat in the wet cement, when they were laying a new floor in the distillery (where the still is sited).

“Curiosity” has a 4.3-meter (14 feet) rectifying column, housing 8 bubble plates, and several other features including: a partial condenser (called a deflegmator) and a special patented catalyzer using copper (to increase the contact time for the spirit with this metal), thus improving the smoothness of the end spirit. The impact of this still is in providing a one-shot distillation technique, that uses the London Dry method, and creating a higher quality result. The distillate is rested for 16 days followed by the addition of rhubarb juice and sugar. The rhubarb juice is prepared by softening the stalks in the still, using warm heat for several hours, which are then pressed to extract the juice. This is followed by the Gin and juice mixture being diluted with their own spring water, to bring it down to bottling strength, with each bottle comprised of 56% of this natural water.

This light pink colored Gin is presented in a clear rectangular bottle with rounded corners and shoulders. On the large oblong label, the usual roofline has been scalloped like the perforated edges of a postage stamp. It is colored grey-black with an image of Queen Victoria’s head flanked by rhubarb leaves. The resultant image creates a style based on the Penny Black – the world’s first adhesive postage stamp from 1840 that featured the English Queen Victoria’s profile – all the work of Bluemarlin Brand Designers. There is a weather vane above this (showing “W” and “E”) and on top of this in clear white text is “Warner Edwards”. Further still above this, in copper foil, is a Welsh dragon and an English lion toasting each other with a Martini glass and the tagline “United in Spirit”. All of this relates to the cross-nation friendship between the founders Tom and Sion. The “W” stands for Warner, Wales and West (Wales is in the West of Great Britain) while the “E” stands for Edwards, England and East (Harrington being towards the East of the country) – this really celebrates just how much they are “United in Spirit” – but these can also stand for the key ingredients used in making the Gin their own: Elderflower and Water. Each bottle is filled, labeled and wax sealed by hand with a cap label showing the individual batch and number. Finally there is a quirky coil of copper wire wound around the neck of the bottle.

Category

Flavored Gin - Rhubarb.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

40% (80 Proof).

Price Range

$$$$ - $$$$$. Not available in the USA but is available from Fortnum & Masons in the UK, just be prepared to add another 90% for shipping.

Botanicals

Uses 12 botanicals including: angelica, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, elderflower, juniper berries, lemon peel, nutmeg, orange peel, pepper and rhubarb. The remaining botanical remains a closely held secret by the distillery.

The type of rhubarb used was originally grown in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, for Queen Victoria, during the 1800’s. Since this time the rhubarb has migrated, via the Irish President’s garden, to another British Crown residence where it is still cultivated today. It is maintained in a traditional Victorian kitchen garden without any artificial or chemical additives, just straightforward honest organic matter (that’s manure to you and us).

Name

Simply put, it comes from the combined surnames of the founders Tom Warner and Sion Edwards and the key botanical flavoring (and it’s heritage from Queen Victorian).

Tasting Notes

Unfortunately we have not yet had the opportunity to try this uniquely flavored Gin. According to Warner Edwards the Gin is “Smooth and earthy with an exquisite fruity balance of sweet and sour. The rhubarb combines natural acidity with a fruity sweetness to create a real palate cleanser that's exceptionally quaffable." This description is borne out by others, and a good review of this Gin can be found by Oliver Ward at Gin Foundry, with their recommendation to try this in a Martini.  We understand this also does well in a Gin and Tonic and with Ginger Ale (with a lemon garnish).

Awards & Accolades

Unknown.



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