Chilgrove Gin is a new, small batch gin whose roots lie deep in the heart of the South Downs. It is the brainchild of husband and wife team Christopher and Celia Beaumont-Hutchings who one day thought that they would like to make a gin of their own. Unlike most people who idly daydream about such projects, they actually put their money where their mouths were and did it. The idea was fermented, as it were, in the beer garden of their local hostelry, the White Horse, in the small West Sussex village of Chilgrove, after which it is named.
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Chilgrove Gin lays claim to being the first English gin to be made with a neutral base spirit produced from grapes. The base spirit is sourced from the Spanish wine-growing region of La Mancha. It is not the first gin that we have sold that is made from grape spirit. That honour would have to go G’Vine Gin from France. With the massive increase in English wine production, particularly sparkling, of recent years I would not be surprised to see a few more gins made from a grape spirit base appearing on the market soon. Grape spirit was originally the base spirit for the fore-runner of gin, Dutch Genever, before Genever producers were forced to switch to grain spirit due to mainly political reasons.
The idea behind Chilgrove Gin is a stripped back, less is more approach, which is rather the opposite to some other new gins who seem to be having a competition to see how many botanicals they can use. So, why grape spirit? Most gin is made from a neutral base spirit made from grain, but it can be made from a base spirit distilled from just about anything including sugar beet, sugar cane, potatoes or even apples like Williams Chase Elegant Gin. Grape spirit is a more refined, elegant spirit than grain spirit which allows the full expression of the 11 carefully selected botanicals to produce a crisp, smooth, yet complex, gin.
Chilgrove Gin Botanicals
Grains of Paradise
Chilgrove Gin is made at Thames Distillers in London by eighth generation master distiller Charles Maxwell. It is here where the neutral grape spirit is redistilled in the presence of 11 botanicals to flavour the gin. If you are a gin-lover you have no doubt imbibed some of the gins made at Thames Distillers already. The distillery has two 500 litre stainless steel pot stills named Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. They make over 60 brands of gin for various company’s including Jenson’s, Juniper Green, Portobello Road and Fifty Pounds Gin. After redistillation with the botanicals the last thing that needs to be done is to reduce the gin down to the chosen alcoholic volume, in this case 44% abv. The water used to do this is the other South Downs connection. Chilgrove gin is made using water from the Southdowns Water Co., a natural mineral water supplier whose spring is located on the West Sussex / Hampshire border at Southbourne. This spring water is naturally filtered through the chalky South Downs. It is naturally high in calcium and low in sodium and brings it own individual character to the gin.
Chilgrove Gin Tasting Notes
From distiller Charles Maxwell,
“A big, powerful, complex gin. The neutral grape spirit base helps to give a soft mouth feel and bring forward floral notes as it combines with the citrus botanicals. Overall there is a gentle delivery of the botanical flavours which end up with a spicy peppery note delivered by the grains of paradise working with the juniper.”
Fareham Wine Cellar Tasting Notes
Chilgrove gin has a sweetish nose with a big hit of citrus, tangerine, and more subtle floral, violet, juniper and spicy coriander notes. There are also menthol / eucalyptus nuances. It is a powerful full, rich and complex gin with with a viscous mouthfeel. The palate is dominated by juniper, coriander and spicy, peppery flavours with more mint notes. Is my mind playing tricks or is there some red berry character here too? It has a very pleasing, fresh, clean, crisp and dry finish. Bottled at 44% abv.
Chilgrove Gin really seems have hit the ground running and it is quickly becoming the favourite gin of the yachting community – it was the official gin of the 2015 AAM Cowes Week and it is the official Spirits Partner of sailing company Sunsail. I also notice that it pops up in Pork and Gin sausages at O’Hagan’s Sausages in Fishbourne, in sorbets and ice creams at the Sussex Ice Cream Company and is now available in Canada!