Like all good ideas the idea of starting The London Distillery Co started over a drink or two at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, where two friends asked themselves why there was no whisky being distilled in London? Determined to change this, in 2011 The London Distillery Co was born.
As you may know, the legal requirement for whisky is that it is aged for a minimum of 3 years. So to keep the roof over their heads they made gin of course! Back in 2011 the interest in premium or ‘craft’ gin was just starting to pick up steam and Dodd’s Gin was created.
Why Dodds Gin? As we were looking into the licensing for a company we realised that the London Distillery Company had already been established, albeit over 200 years ago by a chap named Ralph Dodd, a prominent Victorian engineer and philanthropist. Delving a little deeper, we discovered that Mr Dodd’s main aim was to provide quality spirits to people at a time when gin was not-so-affectionately known as ‘Mothers Ruin’ due to the plethora of home-made gin and unsophisticated distilling methods. Some of you may know that some of these gins were poisonous which eventually coined the term getting ‘blind drunk’. Ralph Dodd had a vision to create quality spirits from one of the first known examples of a ‘crowd-funded’ distillery. In fact, the crowdfunding concept was so novel at the time, that the project was quickly shut down by the authorities and not a single drop of gin was ever produced.
The gin we’ve created today is a contemporary take on a classic 1920’s style gin that is Juniper forward with delicate spice notes and a long oily finish. It works great in a Negroni, Martini or a classic Gin and Tonic with a twist of lemon.
Although it is designed as a London Dry Style, to be a true ‘London Dry Gin’ by definition it needs to be exclusively distilled in a single distillation. With Dodd’s we have chosen to use a secondary distillation process in our rotary evaporator Little Albion. This is where we add our delicate top notes of Bay Leaf, Cardamom (both green and black) and Red Raspberry Leaf. We find that we can extract these delicate flavours better using the rotary evaporator than in the body of the still to give a more refined character.
It is important to note at this point that we are an entirely Organic Distillery. All our botanicals are sourced from our Organic supplier and are certified by the soil association.
Also inspired by our Victorian predecessors, we have our Old Tom variant of Dodds. This is a nod to the original, traditionally sweeter style of gin called Old Tom where sweeteners were added to the gin. This sweetness was unfortunately used to mask an immense amount of impurities and toxins like Turpentine. Whilst the sweeter style of gin has lasted the test of time, luckily distillation methods and regulation has come a long way since then and now Old Tom style Gins are sweetened with ingredients like sugar. However in our case as we are an organic distillery and like to do things differently we use Liquorice and Fennel Seeds to sweeten our Old Tom instead of sugar. You’ll notice the additional notes of Liquorice and the sweet spice of Fennel seeds that compliment the other citrus notes of Lemon and Lime.
In 2013 we were approached by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to form a partnership to devise a gin that showcased the variety of plants and botanicals grown on the Unesco World Heritage site. Whereas Dodds is bold and Juniper heavy, our Kew Gin is more light and floral with the addition of Coriander seeds to give it spice and compliment the big citrus flavours of Grapefruit, Lemon and Lime. There are 24 botanicals in total in Kew Organic gin and we are the only distillery in the UK with a license to forage at Kew Gardens and it’s within the garden walls where we get Eucalyptus ¨, Lavender and Santelina that is then lovingly distilled into a concentrate, ready to be added to each batch we produce. The reason for the concentrate is that those 3 ingredients do not grow all year round so we harvest when they are in season for the best possible flavour. Working with the botanists & archivists at Kew affords us the opportunity to create incredible spirits with packaging that really stands out as it is based on the drawings from their archives.
The delicate citrus and deep floral notes of the Gin pair spectacularly with Tonic, for a glorious summertime G&T. Kew has won a Silver at the International Wine and Spirits Competition for the best G&T.
We have a further expression of Kew in the Explorers Strength edition. This Gin is a nod to all the botanists who travelled with the Navy around the world collecting plants to take back to Kew Gardens and which now grow within the vast number of gardens and greenhouses. The spice notes in this Gin are much more exotic and pay homage to the pioneering spirit of the travelling botanists, collecting botanicals and spices along the international Spice Routes. In this gin we have Szechuan Peppercorn, Nutmeg, Cubeb Berries and Cinnamon which along with spice add a really wonderful smoothness to the spirit.
With smoothness in mind it is worth pointing out at this point that our Explorers Strength is ‘over proof’ at 57.3% ABV. Don’t be frightened, it packs a punch but Marzio our distiller has done a fantastic job of balancing the botanicals with the strength of the spirit which means people are very surprised how easy drinking it is! Interestingly, the term ‘Over Proof’ comes from the Navy ¨ with sailors taking small amounts of their hooch ration, mixing it with a bit of gunpowder and setting it on fire. If the mixture went up in flames it was ‘Proven’ to be alcoholic and hand’t been watered down by thew ships captains!
Today, we are proud to say that our distillery lies in the centre of London, in the shadow of Tower Bridge where we make and bottle all our spirits by hand. We also welcome visitors at weekends for spirits masterclasses and gin blending experiences where you can make your own gin! We hope to see you at the distillery sometime soon.