During my whistle stop visit to McHenry and Sons Distillers, I was invited by William McHenry, the master distiller to make my own gin. How could I refuse?
I have blended my own gin , thanks to Bass & Flinders, but I hadn’t distilled gin before and couldn’t wait to have a go.
The workshop takes place in the tasting room at the distillery. it’s also where the whisky and barrel-aged gin are aging nicely. Perfect surroundings!
First, guests are invited to select their botanicals from an array of the usual and very unusual botanicals…onion flakes anyone?
I’m afraid I was very conservative in my choices. This was such a unique experience for me that I didn’t want to go home with something undrinkable! My choices were juniper (obviously), coriander seeds, orange peel, lavender and orris root. William helped me crack the coriander seeds to allow the flavour to be drawn out more easily.
Next we set up the miniature distilling pot. Vodka was poured into the flask and placed into the heating unit. Cold water flowed around the condensing pipe to assist with distillation. Then it was time to add the heat.
William explained that when distilling properly using his copper still there are three different temperature gauges to prevent the pot from over-heating. If this happens there can be a reflux effect where the alcohol boils up and overflows into the condenser, spoiling the gin. With the small unit we had to rely on our eyes. A rolling boil was what we were after, as seen in this video.
It wasn’t long before the spirits were flowing and I couldn’t resist letting a drop or two fall on to my fingertip in order to taste it. Quality control and all that!
What was interesting was how the different botanical flavours come through at different points during distillation, all distinct from one another.
Before bottling, William did a quick test of the ABV which came in at 78%, clearly requiring the gin to be cut with water! Usually, he does this with the guests at the time of the workshop, but it was easier for me to transport home in a smaller bottle!
Making gin at McHenry and Son workshops are available through Bespokse Tasmania and can be booked here. Grateful thanks to William McHenry for gifting me this fabulous experience.