Williams Chase Distillery Ltd., Rosemaund Farm, Hereford, Herefordshire, England, UK.
Will Chase is the 5th generation
of a farming family in Herefordshire and in the 1990’s had been producing
potatoes for around 20 years. However, the farming business had suffered
terribly with large grocery chain stores driving down prices plus BSE and Foot
& Mouth destroying livestock (and any profit) and they went bankrupt, losing
their 30-acre farm. The tale however does not stop here, this was only the
beginning…a true rags to riches story.
To get him out of this distress Will became a potato trader, sourcing from around the country and selling them in bulk to retailers – managing to earn a living and buying back 20-acres of land. In 2002 they used their farm grown organic potatoes (King Edward’s and Lady Claire’s) to produce gourmet chips (called Tyrrell’s, named after Tyrrells Court the farm he grew up on). At the end of their first year they had achieved a turnover of around $750,000 dollars. In 2007 the business won an Entrepreneurial award and gained a $7.5 Million interest free loan, which was promptly used to buy the neighboring 400-acre Rosemaund Farm and start a Distillery. In 2008 Will sold 75% of Tyrrell’s (retaining the farms) for…wait for it…$60 Million!
Back in 2003 whilst Will was on vacation he had talked with an American who had a bottle of potato vodka. Then in 2004 whilst in the USA looking for chip packing equipment, Will visited a distillery producing spirits from potatoes, which sparked the ideas for recreating this back home. Perhaps the hardest part was sourcing the best distilling equipment and it took until June 2008 (just before the selling of Tyrrell’s) for their first batch of Chase Vodka to be produced. This was the first ever potato Vodka to be produced in England and was carried out with the support of Jamie Baxter, now working at City of London Distillery.
Today Chase Distillery has grown to include a portfolio of other Vodka, Gin and Liqueurs. This, along with the farm, includes the support of the 6th generation of the family, his two sons Harry and James. Producing around 10,000 bottles per week they are now adding another still to provide for the ever-increasing export market – watch out USA, here they come.
The original idea was to use their potato vodka but this spirit base proved too overpowering for the floral aspects of this Gin's botanicals. Therefore more experimentation was required before the first Williams Gin could be produced in 2009.
The Gin is unusually made from an
apple-based spirit. The cider apples are organically grown on the farm and are
pressed before being left for about a week to naturally ferment into cider. The
cider is then distilled in their bespoke copper pot still and batch distilled 4
times. It is then distilled another 2 times in their huge 70 feet tall
rectifying column with 42 bubble plates (apparently the tallest in Europe), to
create their apple Vodka base spirit, a process taking about two weeks.
The Gin is made in their 250-liter Carter head style still, affectionately known as “Ginny”. An equal mix of the apple Vodka base spirit and purified natural well water (from the farm) is distilled for a 7th and last time with the botanicals being vapor infused during this process.
The Gin is presented in a tall clear cylindrical bottle, which is “pinched” in the middle (by about half an inch) to give the impression of being taller. The bottle is screen-printed with the black colored image of an apple tree in winter; the bottom inch is entirely black and has a Union Jack (British) flag on it.
Distilled Dry Gin.
48% (96 Proof).
$$$$$. Not available in the USA yet,
although its coming, perhaps in the next 12 - 18 months. In the meantime try
Master of Malt in the UK but expect to add another 60% for shipping.
The 11 botanicals used include: angelica
root and seeds, apple (Bramley), coriander seed, elderflower, hops, juniper
berries, lemon peel, liquorice root, orange peel and orris root.
Named after the founder and CEO, William
Chase. Note: all their Gin is referred to as “Williams” and their Vodka is
On the nose is strong pine (juniper) and
citrus (lemon & orange) with faint spice (coriander). On the palate this
slightly sweet (due to the liquorice and apples) and velvety smooth creamy spirit
has clear juniper and citrus plus coriander with a backdrop of fruity and
floral notes. The close continues with citrus, fruit (apple) and floral
(elderflower & hops) notes plus a strong warm spicy (coriander &
angelica) dry finish. In tasting, the juniper is up front, the citrus shines
most in mid palate and the subtle nuances come through more in the later part
and finish. Whilst it feels simple it is a very well constructed complex Gin.
This is a nice sipping Gin in its own right but the high alcohol content is certainly better utilized in mixed drinks. This is great in a Gin & Tonic and the taste profile varies considerably depending upon the tonic used (more so than the majority of Gins we have sampled). We’ve tasted this with about 4 different tonics and Fever Tree is our favorite so far but do not let this sway you too much - experiment to find the one to match your preferred palate. Garnish with a slice of apple (this matches the apple in the botanicals and the apple based spirit and helps bring them out) or a citrus slice (lemon or lime – even consider orange and maybe grapefruit) according to your preferences. This garnishing choice is elevated to greater importance in a Martini and we found a Dry Martini (with apple garnish) a wonderful delight. When it comes to floral notes our personal preference is for lavender but the elderflower in this Gin comes a very, very, very close second.
This fully flavored aromatic Gin certainly scales our top twenty, maybe even our top ten - especially for a Martini - and comes highly recommended by us. Go and get a bottle as soon as you can.
Bronze Medal, San Francisco World Spirits
Bronze Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2011.