A Trip To Europe and back; 1500 miles, 5 countries, 1 boat and 1 tunnel.
Ben Bewley-Pope, Distiller
The reason for this grand trip around Europe was water…special water. Water is an important part of gin, after all it makes up more than half of the product! Not much is made of it in the narrative of gin, unlike whiskey or beer, but nonetheless, the purity of water and sometimes the deliberate lack of purity is an underrated and influential component to gin.
My mission was the Alps, where unsurprisingly, snow falls throughout the winter months. Not just any snow, though; one could confidently say that nature's home grown H2O is the purest form of water, and it doesn't come much better than snow fall at altitude - frozen as it falls from the sky, locking out potential contaminants that could otherwise be collected on its journey. It was this ice we were after, for a very special collaboration.
Taking a ferry from Harwich to Holland, we rolled onto the continent at 8:30am. Soon after we were into Germany, presented with the intimidating mileage we needed to cover, heading south on the Autobahn into Switzerland. 12 hours and approximately 700 miles later, we were in a bar sipping a cold G&T.
Whilst ploughing our way through Germany we passed through the Black Forest. Next time we will make time to stop there as it is the home to a very admirable gin indeed; Monkey 47. One of the first super-premium gins to emerge in the early days of the gin explosion, it sits proudly on the shelves of shops and back bars of many smart establishments as the gin to desire the most. Its recipe contains 47 different botanicals. Forty-seven! I don't know of a gin with more. By comparison there are 15 in Original and just 5 in our Smoked. However, the number shouldn't be of focus. It's the quality and the ratios of each against each other that counts. A good chef will prefer a few of the very best elements to make a dish, rather than a full stocked larder with infinite choice.
During the winter, snow lays thick upon the mountains, and lakes remain frozen for months at a time. In the summer, however, slopes that would usually entertain skiers are transformed to a habitat for flora and fauna to flourish. A friend of Fishers who lives there all year round will hand pick the berries that grow on the mountains in the summer months. The one I am particularly interested in is the bilberry. Slightly tangier and darker than its closest and larger relative, the blueberry, this will be a key botanical (along with the water) for our top secret gin concoction.
On the return journey (with as many barrels of ice as the car could carry) we set off on a different route across Switzerland and into France. Breaking up the journey this time over two days, we stopped in Strasbourg. A restaurant/bar was recommended to us by someone I met in Switzerland who happened to have family in Strasbourg. Knowing I was a distiller he said I must go to The Caupona as they have a gin there that is made just for them. So I did! We met the barman who had commissioned its creation and he kindly gave us a G&T and allowed me to taste it neat. I wanted to buy a bottle from him but he said I couldn’t, it was too precious to him.
Regarding the end result of this trip, I'm afraid I'm sworn to secrecy, so there's not much I can tell you, except to sign up for the Fishers Net, our newsletter, and receive updates when announced.