I visited Hayman’s Distillery on the same day as my visit to Beefeater. Given the family connection between these two iconic gin brands, it was a fitting juxtaposition.
I was looking forward to meeting Lizzie Bailey, Hayman’s Master Distiller and one of only 4 female gin distillers in the world. Lizzie has recently joined Hayman’s since they brought gin production back in-house from Thames Distillers in 2013.
Lizzie was kind enough to interviewed and took me around the distillery, introducing me to Marjorie (their still named after Christopher Hayman’s mother) before leading me through a personal gin tasting of their range.
Did you always want to be a distiller?
I love flavour and I come from a farming background and being able to have raw materials and turn it into something is something I’m very passionate about. Gin botanicals and messing about in the lab, I absolutely love it.
Entering the industry I worked at Chase and Sipsmith before learning that Hayman’s were looking for a distiller. Knowing how influential the brand is, it was a great opportunity not only to become a distiller, but also to go out into the trade as the brand ambassador. I love the feedback and seeing people drink gin that you’ve made.
I went for the job and then came down several times for a fairly intense interview process. It was a serious business introducing someone into the Hayman family. Fortunately, having worked at Sipsmith, which also has a Carl still, I knew how to manage Marjorie.
In terms of the gins, is it like Beefeater, more of a custodial role?
Yes, that is partly the case. There are certainly perimeters for the brand, that need to be adhered to, but I do have time scheduled for R&D. We are doing new things, I have a small pot still (called Eve) that I use to try out recipes.
However, we are also serious about bringing back gins from the family archives. From an educational perspective, these are the expressions that show the history of gin.
What’s the most challenging thing about distilling?
I get very excited about distilling, so I enjoy the challenges! The biggest one for all distillers is probably achieving consistency. If Marjorie is having an off-day, for example. In the winter, she struggles a little to get going. My job is to work out how to change things on the still to maintain that consistency in the spirit.
After our chat, we moved onto the more important part of my visit. The tasting!
What we tasted
Hayman’s London Dry Gin (40 % ABV)
The winner of the Best Gin award in San Francisco Spirits award 2014, this gin is a classic London dry with a delicious citrus nose and bright juniper notes. A very well-balanced gin.
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin (40% ABV)
As a fan of classic cocktails, I’ve been using Hayman’s Old Tom for a while. Made to an 1870’s family recipe, it is softer, mellower, and more approachable than the London Dry. It’s not too sweet and is fantastic in a Martinez cocktail.
Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin (41.3% ABV)
This gin is a very old style of gin sold in the 1800s. Before the Bottling Act of 1861, gin was transported and served from old whisk(e)y barrels, as seen here in this illustration.
It’s not an aged gin, but is described as ‘rested’. Lizzie uses 3rd fill whisky casks. The impact is subtle, but adds to the complexity of the gin. This one makes a great gin old-fashioned cocktail.
Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin (57% ABV)
This very gin was supplied to both the English Royal Navy and the trade from 1863. As you’d expect from an Navy Strength gin, it is bold and punchy, but I liked the fact that it was still smooth enough to enjoy neat.
Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur (40% ABV)
Described by Lizzie as “Gin’s cousin” this spirit is the creation of Christopher Hayman’s creation. An original recipe using gin base and adding sugar to create a delicious sipping liqueur. This drink has an extra hit of juniper and would be perfect neat over ice with a twist of orange.
Hayman’s Sloe Gin (26% ABV)
Hayman’s Sloe gin is made by steeping sloe berries in a gin base. Every year Hayman’s runs a little competition amongst its employees to see who can bring in the most sloe berries. The prize is…well, bottle of the finished sloe gin! Lizzie explained that although this is a fun exercise, additional sloe berries are needed to add to the stockpile.
The sloes are left in the gin for 3-4 months and just given it an occasional stir. Sugar is added at the final stage, with the quantity varying year on year depending on the sweetness of that year’s sloe harvest.
My grateful thanks to Lizzie and the team for sharing so much information (and delicious gin) with me.