The week before Top Shelf 2015, I met up with James Chase from Chase Distillery, one of the few field to bottle gin distilleries in the world, to talk about their spirits, in particular about their latest gin, Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin.
James talked me through the history of the family business, which now comprises of his father, William, himself and his brother Harry, who is in charge of the farm.
“Dad started out by buying the farm from his granddad. It had a large debt and it was very tough time. British farming is a hard business to be in with pressure from the large supermarket groups and by 1996 we went under. At that point Dad wanted to move to Australia! However, farming potatoes isn’t very profitable and we began to worry again about how to survive”.
By 2002 William had diversified into artisan crisps (chips) as a means of increasing his profit, but how did they get from snacks to spirits?
James went on “By in 2006 the business was doing well and we went off to New York to research deep-fat frying – where else do you go to research that except America! It was a great trip. We ate a lot of crisps. At that time the restrictions on distilling had been pulled down in the US, so we came across these guys who’d set up distilleries. We were intrigued and extended our trip by 2 weeks and did some research on 5 or 6 distilleries. We’d found our passion”
The Chase family saw opening a distillery as an opportunity to use up their surplus potatoes with the aim of making the best vodka they could. it took them 2 years to get the license and when they did they were the first distillery in the UK to open for 200 years.
If you’ve reading this blog for a while, you’ll have read about Chase’s other gin, William Chase Elegant Crisp Gin. As I said at the time, this is an interesting gin, not least because the base spirit is distilled from cider, made from apples from the Chase family farm. James explained that they chose the base spirit for that gin from cider as it took them a while to find the best way of balancing the flavour of their potato vodka with gin botanicals.
The Chase Great British Extra Dry Gin is the result of lots of experimentation and improved distilling methods. At the request of their Spanish distributor they wanted to make gin that was very juniper-forward, but at 40% ABV (most of the punchier juniper-led gins tend to be higher in proof).
Chase have achieved this well, by using not only the juniper berries, but also the buds, in combination with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon.
The result is a deliciously dry juniper with zesty citrus notes and finishes with some warmth and spiciness. There is also a subtle hint of sweetness from this very smooth gin.
If you like bold, ‘junipery’ gins, but want to keep to a low ABV, this is the gin for you. It makes a fantastic gin and tonic, but is versatile in lots of different cocktails.
Country of Origin: UK
And if you want to see exactly how a field to bottle distillery looks like, watch this (short) video.