An urban London based distillery inspired by the past and making its own history as it grows.
Anyone who has been following the progress down at the Battersea Distillery, from the arrival of the Christian Carl still – now named ‘Christina’ – to the early experiments that lead to the Testbed Gin series, will have been both excited and eager to see what London’s newest gin distillery was going to create.
What has emerged is Dodd’s Gin and we’re happy to confirm that we’re mightily impressed. Dodd’s Gin is something discernibly different in a crowded market place, not just another gin. It’s the perfect example of a team producing something that’s both good & different and in doing so, The London Distillery Company really showcases the difference between cashing in on a category and adding to it.
Before we get to the gin, let’s take a detour over some history. The London Distillery Company finally got the boost it needed through the power of crowd-funding and officially launched in 2011. The distillery was the brainchild of Darren Rook, former London branch manger for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Master of Malt strategic project manager, and Nick Taylor, angel investment expert and former microbrewery owner. The team also includes Head Distiller Andrew MacLeod, a former engineer who joined after having completed a MSc Brewing and Distilling course at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Their main goal was to set up the first whisky distillery in London in over a century and Dodd’s Gin is just the start of it.
It’s worth noting the distillery’s strong eco-credentials. The botanicals and base spirit are 100% organic and approved by the Soil Association. Not to mention the honey is collected from local urban brothers, the London Honey Company and heat energy from distillation is recovered and reused too. The greenness of Dodd’s has even seeped into the branding, labels are printed on carbon neutral paper made solely using wind power. The company have also promised to plant two trees for every one cask used and grain remnants are given to local bakeries. Future plans to power the distillery from solar power alone is something they are investigating and an underground spring has inspired hope for a continual water supply. It’s an impressive feat and it’s easy to forget just how difficult it is to achieve this as, with any new and large scale ventures, fiscal pressures mount fast and the first compromises are often the ones born from idealist aspirations. It’s fantastic to see a distillery team hold true to their beliefs and see that these measures have been successfully implemented.
Given its individualism and the magnitude of building a new distillery in London, it was essential that their first product distilled on site had a name to match the scale of their ambition.
They chose to name their gin after Ralph Dodd, whose story heralds from the 1800’s when he first raised capital to set up The London Distillery Company. Darren Rook stumbled upon Dodd’s stories while researching into the history of London’s lost distilleries. Given they shared the same distillery name, Darren came across Ralph rather quickly but it was after many weeks of research than his full story began to emerge. It is said that Ralph Dodd was known most of all for his failure to create a tunnel under the Thames River and instead chased a dream to produce a better gin spirit for London. However chasing is all he managed, as he sadly failed to register the shares correctly and lost the legal case that ensued in 1802. It should be said that this man is not a failure, but rather had ideas ahead of his time. In 2013 it was decided that the gin would bear his name and it was then that a man, renowned as a failure, would have his dreams realised over 200 years later.
The London Distillery Company is housed in the old milk store known as The Cold Room, formerly the Victorian Dairy, in Battersea, where the still sits proudly on display. Neutral spirit is infused with eight botanicals namely juniper berries, angelica root, fresh lime peel, bay laurel, green cardamom, black cardamom, red raspberry leaf and honey from The London Honey Company. The process begins with the more generous share of the botanicals being steeped and distilled in Christina, a traditional 140 Litre capacity copper alembic pot still, with fragile botanicals being distilled via cold vacuum instead, in a rota-vap called ‘Little Albion’. These two distillates are later blended for several weeks before being bottled at 49.9% ABV and hand-labelled. Dodd’s Gin is now complete.
Fractional distillation is not unique to Dodd’s Gin, with many distillers using rota-vaps opting for the same distilling and blending methods. On a larger scale, Hendrick’s Gin do the same, combining the distillates from their two separate stills. The key thing to note for all those who choose to do this is that it’s about quality. It’s just not possible to distil certain things at certain temperatures. In the case of bay laurel, black cardamom and red raspberry leaf it would either be lost in the overall mix, over heat during the distillation and loose some of the more delicate elements etc.. Under vacuum in a small glass jar, it’s easier to control and, crucially, replicate the results time and time again to achieve a consistent product.
On tasting, Dodd’s Gin has a big dose of juniper, angelica and plenty of heat from the cardamom. Zingy citrus teases its way into the mix too. A few more sips and the citrus is a little clearer. Big flavourful gin that is lovely in lots of ways. There’s a full mouth feel too – not viscous – but rich and full bodied from the use of honey as a botanical.
The branding is handsome and steers clear of the often overused iconography that comes with distillation, such as stills and barrels. Instead United Creatives, the chosen graphic design agency for the project, took inspiration from trigonometry, geometry and engineering diagram, once again inspired by Ralph Dodd. The result is visually striking and sets it apart. It also adds the crucial super premium feel, a big necessity given a 50cl bottle costs £37 or more.
Given the whisky is on it’s way and the team are laying to rest hundreds of barrels a year, access to barrels, other bases and equipment makes for numerous possibilities for future products. Expect to see the team push to establish Dodd’s Gin and cement it’s place on shelves and back-bars alike since they will be reliant on it to help their cash flow until their whisky stock has matured. Once established however, no doubt they will be releasing other gins (or variants on Dodd’s Gin) over the next few years as their inventive spirit and creative minds look for a new challenge.
The price tag is steep. There’s no hiding from this. But, if you can afford to – buy this gin. You’ll be supporting a new distillery, endorsing a team that went the extra mile to build something the right way, with their core values embedded from the start. Dodd’s is a fantastic gin that holds it’s own ground (flavour wise) and own identity, it’s not samey, nor is it a bandwagon product. The bottom line is, it’s worth it.
The future’s bright for The London Distillery Company, and with excellent gin in kickass packaging under their belt the team can walk tall having proved they can step up to the mantle and become big players in the UK’s craft distilling scene. Well done boys, can’t wait until the next one!
For more information about The London Distillery Company, visit their website: www.thelondondistillerycompany.com
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