Portobello Road Gin
Portobello Road No. 171 Gin was created in 2011 by three cocktail bartenders and restauranteurs, Jake Burger, Ged Feltham and Paul Lane, above a converted nineteenth-century pub in Notting Hill, in what would become the second smallest museum in London, dedicated to the history of gin distilling and drinking in the capital.
Jake, Ged and Paul had purchased the Portobello Star pub in 2008 and after a refurbishment quickly established it as one of London’s leading cocktail bars. After a few years of living in the rooms above the bar, Jake moved out (much to the delight of his partner!) and they decided to convert the space into a museum charting the history of gin in London, resembling an antique gin palace and suitably named the Ginstitute. The trio decided that the centrepiece of this unique gin experience would be their very own artisan gin, created at the Ginstitute itself.
They acquired a 30 litre alembic still which was promptly christened Copernicus the Second. Nine months of experimentation followed with different botanicals distilled and tasted and blended together to create interesting (and sometimes never to be repeated!) flavour combinations, in a process that enthusiastic ‘ginterns’ at the Ginstitute would emulate in the gin blending sessions regularly held there since 2011.
After much trial and error and fine tuning, they found the perfect recipe of nine botanicals including juniper and orris from Tuscany, Spanish lemon peel, bitter orange peel from Haiti or Morocco, nutmeg from Indonesia and cassia bark from South East Asia. These botanicals are steeped for 24 hours in English wheat spirit before distillation and the spirit is then cut back to a bottling strength of 42% ABV.
With Copernicus the Second’s diminutive size of only 30 litres – the smallest licensed copper pot still in London – it soon became clear that they needed to upscale the operation in order to distill sufficient volumes of their gin. They enlisted the help of eighth generation master distiller Charles Maxwell to distill Portobello Road No. 171 Gin at his distillery in Clapham, South London, working with Charles to ensure that the taste and texture of the gin was faithfully recreated in a larger copper pot still.
Copernicus the Second was given only a temporary respite from its distilling duties, as Jake individually distils around 35 different single botanicals in Copernicus (including asparagus, Yorkshire tea, wormwood and other unusual and outlandish herbs and spices) for the Ginstitute blending sessions. Customers at the Ginstitute are invited to taste, assess and blend these individual botanical distillates together to create their own bespoke gin, the recipe for which is then stored on the Ginstitute’s files for posterity.
These experimental distillates encouraged Jake, Ged and Paul to create a special limited edition gin in the summer of 2015, the Distiller’s Cut, distilled in Copernicus the Second with some unusual foraged botanicals including gentian root and asparagus. Each year a different Distiller’s Cut will be created and released on 21 October, the birthday of their gin and also one of its founders, Ged Feltham. Only 1000 bottles are distilled each year so look out for news on our blog but in the meantime a bottle or two of their outstanding Portobello Road No. 171 Gin will do nicely!