Philip Day looks to North-West England discovering an exceptional gin, rich in botanicals. As its name suggests, Worsley Gin is produced near the industrial city of Manchester and according to Philip it is a ‘complex gin with a smooth mouth feel’.
This detailed feature on Worsley Gin discusses the distillation process in detail and includes comments from the company’s founder, Andrew Niedzwiecki, and, Master Distiller, Dr. John Walters.
According to a recent market report produced by the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA), sales of gin globally have seen exponential growth over the past five years, with sales in the UK counting for over £2bn last year alone. Indeed recent news media reports highlighted the fact that there are now more gin distilleries in the UK than scotch whisky distilleries. This trend for continued gin sales shows no signs of abating any time soon.
The plethora of new gin brands means that competition is rife to establish an identity, let alone grow sales within such a very crowded and competitive market.
Gin brands who succeed in differentiating themselves, creating their own unique selling point by developing new flavour combinations or promoting themselves as premium gins have led the current trend and consequently have experienced increased demand at home in the UK and in international markets too.
One of the recent successful UK premium gins is Worsley Gin, based in Worsley, Salford, Greater Manchester.
In 1759 the building of the Bridgewater Canal by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (21 May 1736 – 8 March 1803) changed the landscape of trade and movement of goods in the UK forever. Some 46 miles of canals connected Worsley to Manchester and beyond, halving the cost of coal and opening access for a future of industry and leisure alike. What made the canal so unique was that it was the first to be built without a connecting waterway, which then became the blueprint for the country.
The birthplace of the Duke’s canal now has also witnessed the birth of a new local creation: Worsley Gin.
The man behind the vision of Worsley Gin, founder and managing director, Andrew Niedzwiecki (known as Ned) together with his team are proud to be part of such a rich heritage that they make sure that as much local influence can be incorporated into their product, which also includes selecting botanicals, ubiquitous to the locality and creating a flavour profile which resonates with the culture of the village.
In a recent interview Niedzwiecki stated:
“Worsley Gin has been my passion since I started on the journey to make a unique luxury gin four years ago. We spent 18 months developing the recipe with our master distiller Dr. John Walters and bringing the brand to life, and I am really fanatical about reaching as many gin lovers as possible with our distinctive story.”
The starting point was as a result of witnessing the surge of high quality, premium vodkas and rums filling the display shelves of bars and restaurants, which inspired Ned to set out on a mission to create a gin which matched the quality and luxury of these brands, without compromising on the principles of distilling a good London Dry Gin.
Together with Walters, they tasted hundreds of samples and experimented with over 180 variations of botanicals and distillations to arrive at their definitive recipe.
The signature gin: Worsley Gin (45% ABV)
Niedzwiecki is one of the rare individuals who believes that you only get out of something what you put into it, consequently his company only produces the purest of base spirit.
“Our equipment is one of the elements in the process that does set us apart. We use a 4.5m (17ft) tall water-cooled refraction column packed full of copper rings (a bit like a honeycomb centre) allowing the alcohol to rise up the column 17,000 times in one distillation. This forces anything other than pure alcohol to be deposited on the honeycomb surface and only the purest of alcohol reaches the top. So at the end of a single distillation, we are producing the most phenomenal base spirit at around 96% + (ABV)”
There are actually only a handful of small batch distilleries that produce their own base spirit, as most small batch distilleries buy in their base in from industrial distillers – which is by definition and the very nature of industrial production, the antithesis of ‘small batch’ production.
The base spirit is then diluted with distilled water to a closely guarded very specific alcohol by volume percentage, kept secret so that nobody else can copy their gin. Afterwards the diluted base is carefully decanted into one of the 200 litre Alembic stills.
Next the botanicals are added to the process at different stages directly into the pot (rather than in a basket above – the method employed by other distilleries- since the basket method gives an extractive bias towards alcohol soluble flavours over water soluble ones). They need to be added at different stages of the distillation run because of their depth of flavour and miscibility (the property of substances to mix in all proportions, i.e. to fully dissolve in each other at any concentration, forming a homogeneous solution.)
The botanical blend employed in the Worsley Gin recipe has been selected based upon three main principles – taste, scent and molecular structure.
“You may be surprised that we have chosen our botanicals on their molecular structure – however we want to ensure that you are transported on a journey rather than just a taste. By understanding the structure of botanicals, we can pair and combine flavours to create a wonderfully seamless journey. It is an essential part of the selection, as it takes into account the solubility and miscibility, coupled with the interconnectivity with other botanicals.
By selecting only the finest ingredients we can produce a spirit which is smooth and delectable, so that you can fully appreciate the piquant flavours and delicate aromas.”
Ned and Dr. John Walters outline many of the ten constituents of their recipe although a couple of ingredients remain a close company secret.
The blend of fruit of course begins with Juniper, the queen of the botanicals, which provides the base and ubiquitous flavour profile for all dry gin spirits.
“We source the finest juniper berries to ensure that the scent and the taste are a joy to the palate.”
Pink grapefruit is used in preference to other citrus ingredients because it is sweeter than its other citrus counterparts and a perfect companion to the botanical blend. Mandarin leaf is added to compliment the grapefruit to lift and give a heady scent to the recipe. Only the leaf is used rather than the fruit to ensure its notes do not overpower the blend.
The blend of herbs has equally been carefully selected to provide not just incredible scents to the gin but also to add depth to the taste profile which emerges as you drink it. The use of different condiments and tonics as mixers encourage different herb profiles to emerge.
The herb blend includes coriander in conjunction with several wild flower floral notes, including dandelions and buttercups and surprisingly roses.
“The word weeds is completely banned at Worsley Gin HQ; we believe that every flower has a place in the world and the selection of dandelions and buttercups pays homage to this principle!
Wild flowers which grow anywhere and are super resilient, not to mention having the ability to add to the depth of our taste and richness of the spirit will always be heroes in our book.”
The inclusion of roses in the mix is explained by Dr. John Walters:
“Roses are particularly special to our MD Ned, who regularly visits his Dad, Franko, at his home down the road in Worsley where he boasts a wonderful garden full of colourful blooms. They hold a special place in their hearts, and it seemed fitting that they would also perfectly compliment the flavour profile and add a dimension to the palate that makes our Gin truly exceptional.”
About the sourcing of the components of the botanicals mix, he added:
“We take pride in selecting only the finest ingredients for our products.”
Each botanical is carefully checked to ensure it is not over dried, not too oxidised and is what it purports to be before being chopped, split, or bruised, to create the optimal amount of surface area, prior to being added to the distillation process.
During the distillation run only the middle section – the ‘hearts’ contains the spirit that will go on to become the finished product. The initial distillate, the ‘heads’ contain many unwanted volatile elements, some of which could be toxic if drunk and the ‘tails’ the undesirable less volatile substances, often oily and bitter in flavour, which should always be discarded.
Knowing when to cut the ‘hearts’ is down to the judgement, experience, taste and craftsmanship of the master distiller, as there are no pieces of technical equipment available to aid their detection.
Typically, our Worsley Gin distillate comes off at about 79% (ABV), towards the extreme end of the regulations for a London Dry Gin. To be sold as such, according to the regulations, it must be a distilled gin and come off the final still, at over 70% alcohol but less than 81% and it must be colourless.
The final step in the process is to dilute the spirit to allow the botanical profile to be best presented.
Dr. John Walters explained:
“Above 45% ABV we found the citrus note to be overpowering, below 45% we found the flavour profile of the juniper and coriander did not work. It still amazes us how the % ABV of gin can bring about such vastly different flavour journeys despite everything else in the process being exactly the same!”
Great thought has also been given to the packaging and marketing of the product.
Encased in a stunning diamond shaped, Italian glass bottle, using a hand finished process which pays homage to both heritage and science, Worsley Gin can be described as the ultimate decadent gin experience.
The last word should perhaps go to Andrew Niedzwiecki:
“We collaborate with the best craftsmen to create our products. We invest in exceptional packaging to encase our spirits.
We are committed to continuously learning and evolving to ensure you always get the finest products and best service.”
Worsley Gin was first launched onto the UK market in September 2017 and continues to flourish, appearing in many bars and home collections of gin connoisseurs across the U.K. Recently it has seen further success, resulting in very positive overseas sales figures.
Worsley Gin is a complex gin with a smooth mouth feel to aid those who like to sip. It is infused with sustainably and ethically sourced botanicals that give this premium gin blend its unique taste.
On the nose, earthy bursts of juniper are noticeable, with wafts of citrus notes in the background.
After an initial slightly sweet but robustly fresh juniper start, the citrus flavours develop, together with an injection of floral notes, delivering a mouth-watering experience.
It is dry on the lengthy finish, providing a well established rich texture with a slight peppery kick from the coriander.
Worsley Gin combines well with a premium tonic, particularly a Mediterranean variety, although for my preferred taste with a quality Indian tonic water, I would add a garnish of a sliver of fresh ginger, as I find the addition of a spicy note results in a well-rounded drink.
Feel free however to experiment as you will find that Worsley Gin delivers an incredible flavour journey!
Address: Worsley Gin Ltd. 7 Brindley House, 1 Waters Way, Worsley, Manchester, United Kingdom, M28 2AG
Kindly provided by the team at Worsley Gin.