On Saturday I finally made it to Falls farm in Harrington (Northamptonshire) to see the Warner Edwards distillery. I've wanted to do this for around 4 years now (basically since they opened and I heard about them) and thanks to my friend Grainne for getting us tickets and driving (thank you, it was a fab birthday present) we've finally done it (even though it took us 4 months to coordinate a date - how is it that as you get older these things get so hard?).
Warner Edwards went into production in December 2010, following reasonably hard on the footsteps of Sipsmith in the vanguard of small craft distilleries - it's all gone a bit crazy since then with new gin brands popping up all over the place with bewildering speed, but Warner Edwards are particularly interesting. Started by two friends who felt if they were going to be working as hard as they were they might as well be doing it for themselves they set about looking for a way to exploit their farming backgrounds.
The answer turned out to be a small barn on Tom Warner's family farm - and this is one of the things I find really exciting about gin distilling - the scale can actually be really small, certainly compared to whisky making, and still be commercially viable. They currently have a main still (Curiosity) that can produce around 700 bottles worth of spirit a time, and a baby still for experimenting with. The farm provides provenance for the flavoured gins they produce (elderflower, Mellisa, sloe, and, rhubarb) and a romantic background for the whole story. It's also quite exciting that this is a project that can support jobs in a rural community.
The gins themselves are great. I bought the Harrington dry because it's just the sort of traditional juniper forward sort of thing I love. Really liked the Mellisa (lemon balm) gin which I already had unopened at home - it's more pungently herby than the basic dry. Was impressed by the sloe stronger than most and not too cough syrupy in flavour, so a definite winner, and surprised by how much I liked the elderflower. The rhubarb gin is an old favourite.
Elderflower isn't a flavour I'm always overly keen on and I had doubts about this one. I'd tried, and disliked, Gordon's elderflower but this is something else. Again it's strong enough (40% abv) to have a proper punch, isn't too sweet, and the flavour is fresh and appealing. There are various suggestions for cocktails on the website, but Grainne and I both thought it might be really good as a rickey with lots of ice, lime, and soda water. It's available from M&S which makes it one of the easiest to find.
Altogether it was a pretty good tour, and not least because you get to try the whole range which makes it very good value as well as informative. My personal highlight was seeing buckets of used botanicals and having the fun of spotting what went in the gin (it's the kind of detail I like) and I can thoroughly recommend going.
https://www.warneredwards.com for more details.