This time last year, I was at the Beefeater gin distillery in Kennington. It is an enormous place containing boardrooms, an exhibition dedicated to the production of Beefeater gin plus a bar in which to enjoy the spirit produced in the nearby stills. This year I am in search of the same spirit but now found myself on the steps of a house in Highgate.
Instead of passing through large gates and signing in with security, I simply ring the doorbell to be met by Ian Hart, the person behind Sacred Gin. It is one of the newest gins to hit to the market and has already made a considerable impact on those who make it their business to know what’s what with this most infamous of spirits. This year it was awarded Best in Class at the Gin Masters awards with an astonishing 98 points out of 100.
Ian takes me downstairs to his living room where he distils the gin. There on a table is a fascinating collection of colanders, fractionating columns and vacuum pumps, all interconnected and set for distilling. Sacred Gin is unique amongst other brands of gin in that each of its botanicals is distilled separately under reduced temperature and pressure. Knowing a little of the chemistry behind distilling, I discuss various compounds and their different impact on the gin’s flavour. However, when it gets to the stereoisomerisation of terpenes, I try and change the subject as quickly as possible.
The story behind Sacred Gin is as complex and winding as the apparatus currently used in the process of producing it. Originally a headhunter in the City, the economic collapse of last year meant that Hart had a lot of time on his hands. An aficionado of gin, Hart set about creating his own spirit.
Rather than following traditional recipes, Hart based his gin around a formula that dates back to 1660. The recipe itself is secret but is centred around 12 botanicals which are being kept in spirit behind the distilling equipment. These include cardamom, nutmeg and Hougary frankincense. Together they go into producing an exceedingly smooth gin that makes a wonderful gin and tonic as well as being good enough to sip by itself.
Hart is now working on different spirits such as a flavoured vodka, which has an excellent finish thanks to its use of black cardamom. It all just goes to show what can be produced with a little ingenuity and the application of passion for a cause.