In a state of the art distillery on the Staffordshire border with Derbyshire, former chef Neil Harrison distils his award winning Nelson’s Gin and teaches the craft of distilling to a steady stream of gin enthusiasts at his gin school.
Neil had been a chef for many years learning how to combine and balance different flavours in his recipes. A yearning for a new challenge coupled with a long held fondness for gin inspired Neil to pursue a different path and establish a distillery to create his own gin.
Neil decided to name his gin Nelson’s Gin in honour of his grandfather Nelson James Harrison and also after Lord Horatio Nelson, the renowned British naval admiral who was famously fond of gin. Indeed, the Royal Navy’s association with gin has a long history, as no ship ever left port without its complement of navy strength gin. This gin had to be distilled at a high enough strength so that gunpowder would still catch fire if it came into contact with the gin – a minimum of 57% ABV!
Starting in 2014, it took over two years of extensive and painstaking research to develop the recipe for Neil’s first gin. As well as discussing ideas and distilling techniques with gin distillers up and down the country and tasting an impressively large number of gins to hone his palate, Neil attended a gin school run by none other than renowned master distiller Jamie Baxter on no less than seven different occasions. Each time he experimented with different botanical combinations creating seven batches at each visit. By the forty-ninth batch, Neil had perfected his recipe and, in honour of the number of visits to the gin school, he named his flagship gin, Nelson’s London Dry Gin No. 7.
Neil established his distillery in a converted warehouse surrounded by verdant fields just outside the village of Grindley on the Staffordshire and Derbyshire border. He commissioned a copper pot still from renowned German still manufacturers Arnold Holstein, which he christened Victory, after Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. The distillery also contains a state of the art resin filtration system through which water drawn from a reeded pond, which acts as a natural filter, is purified and made ready for distillation.
Neil’s recipe for his flagship gin uses no less than 27 botanicals, each carefully balanced to create a harmonious and full flavoured gin. Neil combines more traditional botanicals like coriander, orris root, angelica and lemon and orange peel, and of course the essential juniper, with rich spices such as nutmeg, liquorice, vanilla, cinnamon and pink peppercorns, as well as a selection of unusual botanicals including kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, lavender and fennel. These botanicals are added to neutral grain spirit and carefully distilled in Victory to preserve the fresh flavours. The spirit is cut down to 42.5% and left to settle before bottling. The result is a tremendous gin with a delicious blend of classic and modern flavours perfectly balanced.
Nelson’s London Dry Gin was released in 2016 to wide acclaim amongst gin enthusiasts. Not content with one gin though, Neil had another two he was keen to introduce to the gin world. First, a navy strength version of his London Dry Gin, distilled with the same 27 botanicals but increases the quantities to adjust the flavours to a higher ABV of 57%! His third gin is an inspired idea – a rhubarb & custard gin, modelled after the boiled sweets that used to delight Neil as a child. He infuses his original No. 7 gin with natural rhubarb essence and Madagascan vanilla to make this extraordinarily delicious concoction. Bottles at 41% ABV, this is a brilliant gin and has been established itself as a firm favourite here at Craft Gins.
A few months after its launch, Neil decided that the bottle for Nelson’s Gin should reflect its Staffordshire heritage. He teamed up with celebrated Staffordshire pottery manufacturers Wade Ceramics, founded in 1867, to create a striking and beautiful ceramic bottle which really stands out on the shelf. Neil has also established his own dedicated gin school on the distillery site which gives a steady stream of eager gin enthusiasts an opportunity to learn more about gin and also try their hand at distilling! A wonderful gin distillery which we cannot recommend highly enough.