The story of Hayman’s Distillery and their unique portfolio of award winning gins is a long and winding road. Not solely because of the six gins they now create (each deserving individual consideration and a moment of their own) but also because the family has been in the gin making business for generations.
The original company of Hayman Distillers was founded in 1820 and acquired in 1863 by James Burrough, the great grandfather of the current Chairman, Christopher Hayman. Famous for their flagship gin Beefeater, the Burrough Distillery quickly thrived. In the early 1900’s new generations entered the family business setting new milestones along the way, notably Eric Burrough who sold the first shipment of Beefeater to the USA as early as 1917. Having built the distillery into one of the world’s leading gin producers, Eric passed away in 1970. His cousins Alan and Norman continued to develop the business by moving it into larger premises at Montford Place, Kennington in 1958 where it still resides today.
Lesser known in the fabled story of Beefeater Gin and the Burrough’s Distillery history is just how many other sites were owned by James Burrough Ltd, which not only sold gin but also a vast range of liqueurs.
Critically to the story of Hayman’s (and where they are based today) Burrough’s Fine Alcohols Division moved from London in the late 1970’s to a site in Witham, Essex. It focused on supplying pure alcohol to the drink, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. At the time, many of the extended family members held shares in the company but the board comprised of James Burrough’s living grandchildren, Alan and Norman, along with their sister Marjorie who was represented by her husband, Neville Hayman. Under the family stewardship, Beefeater Gin and the company survived the darker days of gin’s recent past where demand was at an all-time low. The company remained family-owned until October 1987 when, for a variety of reasons, the majority of the (extended) family decided to sell to the consortium Whitbread.
After the sale, Christopher Hayman (son of Marjorie Burrough and Neville Hayman) who had started working for the company in 1969, became the Operations Director of Whitbread Spirits Group. Although Christopher enjoyed his role, working for a conglomerate wasn’t for him and he desired to return to a family business.
His opportunity soon arrived and on 17th November 1988 Whitbread sold James Burrough Limited’s Fine Alcohols Division to Christopher Hayman, who was backed by other members of the Hayman’s family. Today this business is known as Hayman Limited. Initially creating gins for a number of markets such as the USA and Japan, Christopher, joined by his son James and daughter Miranda, launched Hayman’s Gin Liqueur in September 2004.
Hayman’s Gin Liqueur (also known as Hayman’s 1820) is distilled to a specific gin recipe with dominant citrus flavours before being carefully blended into a liqueur. Don’t be fooled by the name however as the gin is at 40% ABV and while imminently sippable, is no push over. It has both the distinctive character and strength of gin with the sweetness of a liqueur. To taste, the juniper takes a back seat allowing the citrus notes to come to the fore alongside a sugary hit. It makes quite a good addition to use in a cocktail recipe that requires sugar syrup or triple sec, as the Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur can make for an intriguing substitution.
The 1820 statement itself refers to the date when the distillery acquired by James Burrough was first established. The inclusion of the date was a nod to the idea that they too were at the start of their new journey and establishing their own gins from here on in…
The Hayman’s family soon expanded the range and set out to create different styles of classic English gins under the Hayman’s label, recreating old products from the family’s recipe books while slowly moving away from third party distilling.
Although fast-forwarding the story to 2013 and breaking our linear narrative of the Hayman’s family and their range – it’s worth noting that all of the Hayman’s gins created are now made in a traditional 450L copper pot still called Marjorie, named in memory of Christopher’s mother. Previously made at Thames Distillers, it’s fantastic to see that the family has brought it all in house.
Interestingly, all the gins created use the same botanical line up, with the recipe changing from gin to gin to highlight particular flavours and botanical intensity. For example, Hayman’s Old Tom uses almost twice as much juniper as the London Dry, while the Royal Dock has increased spice and the 1850 Reserve leans towards being more coriander seed heavy.
Interlude over – back to a more structured timeline!
Launched in November 2007, Hayman’s Old Tom was the next gin to be created by the family. It is a modern-day recreation of an original family recipe dating from the 1860’s which, perhaps unusually for something of that era, contains sugar (as sugar only really became affordable in the 1900’s).
We’ve written a separate post about Hayman’s Old Tom because the style of gin as well as the significance of the release – essentially bringing back a previously defunct style of gin back into existence – deserved more than a few paragraphs here. The hints of coriander and citrus give a more rounded fragrance, but as with many Old Tom’s it’s the sweetness from both the sugar and the liquorice root that shines through. Suffice to say that Hayman’s Old Tom is the standard bearer in the sub-category of gin.
As the name might suggest, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is a classic style of gin. Distilled to a family recipe using their blend of 10 botanicals, which are steeped for a full day prior to distillation to allow the flavours to release into the alcohol, it is the careful and consistent balance of juniper, coriander, lemon and orange peel which play a vital role in creating this traditional style of London Dry Gin. That said, orris root, cinnamon, cassia and nutmeg all work to underpin the gin and give it the typical dry characteristics and depth of flavour so highly sought after and that, without their inclusion, would have left a slightly one dimensional gin. The flavours are unmistakably classic and bottled at 40% ABV. The gin typifies smooth juniper balanced well with citrus and a touch of spice.
Launched in 2008, Hayman’s London Dry Gin is often overlooked in favour of the family’s other more unique gins, but do so at your peril. Hayman’s London Dry Gin is a classic and at such an affordable price tag, this gin is an easy bottle to keep returning too, knowing that it will deliver each time.
Made to a recipe from 1850, this gin is distilled in batches of 5,000 bottles with each bottle being individually numbered, then subsequently rested in Scotch Whisky barrels for a month following the tradition of the Gin Palaces of that era.
While intentionally barrel-aged gins are still an uncommon sighting on shelves around the world – wood and gin have been paired for many years. In the 1850’s gin was transported, stored and served in wooden barrels rather than in a bottle. Prior to the bottling act, introduced by William Gladstone in 1861, all gin was sold by either the barrel or the cask.
Even after the act, in Gin Palaces of the 1900’s it was common place to serve gin from the barrel. Hayman’s 1850 Reserve takes its name from that era and nods to this time-honoured tradition of gin makers transporting and selling their gin in barrels, as well as the effect the wood can have to soften the gin.
While a variety of barrels are used, Hayman’s Family Reserve is primarily rested in old Scotch Whisky barrels, mostly constituting of American Oak wood. The process results in the spirit receiving a very slight straw colour and when tasted neat, Hayman’s Family Reserve seems like a mellow, rounded gin. Although only really notable when sipped neat, it is also possible to discern some slight tannic qualities left by the wood.
There’s a good juniper backbone complimented by citrus and spice notes as one would expect from a high quality traditional full-flavoured gin. For us, the defining characteristic was that it feels softer in the mouth. It would seem that the wood has smoothed the sharp notes out of the gin and the resulting liquid is silky which makes it approachable.
There is something impressive about the fact that despite only being in the wood for a maximum of 4 weeks, the oak has had a considerable effect on the gin. It may be subtle when compared to Scotch Whisky and even to Citadelle Reserve Gin (which is aged for 6 months), but the small time in which Hayman’s Family Reserve is rested in the casks clearly has an effect on the liquid and allows a brief glimpse into what might have been served 160 years ago.
The advantage of having been in the gin making business for generations is that one can always look to the archives to find inspiration from the past. This is very much the case with Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin as records show that it was supplied to both the Royal Navy and trade from 1863.
More precisely, it was delivered to the Royal Dock in Deptford, South London (established in 1513 by Henry VIII) on the River Thames. The Royal Dock and the surrounding areas were infamously known as one of the largest Navy Food and Drinks headquarters, with London being the largest port in England. Other ports famously made their own Navy Strength Gins, notably Plymouth and Liverpool but with the Navy’s thirst for gins reputed to be several tens of thousands of barrels a year – the London dock would have been awash with gin.
Navy Strength Gins are at 57.5% ABV and as a result, Hayman’s Royal Dock has an aromatic nose with citrus and floral notes, namely orange blossom wafting out as soon as you begin to poor. The mouthfeel is smooth but carries an unrivalled botanical intensity of flavour thanks to the higher strength. It’s a classic of the genre and a must have gin for lovers of this over proof style.
Launched in 2009, Hayman’s Sloe Gin is a traditional English liqueur made to a long standing family recipe. Wild sloe berries are handpicked in the Autumn after the first frosts. The sloe berries are then gently steeped for several months in Hayman’s London Dry Gin before being blended with natural sugars. The final blend is a rich ruby red liqueur teeming with intense bitter-sweet fruit flavours.
Sloe Gin has been a popular drink from the 19th Century onwards as a digestive and winter warmer, and was a required bar item during the first cocktail era in the 1880’s. For those of you who, like us at Gin Foundry HQ, find some of the commercial sloe gins too cloying, this one will definitely appeal as it balances out just short of the sickly sweet mark and as a result mixes well in cocktails.
The Hayman’s family may be an institution in the world of gin, but they are far from resting on their laurels. Their continued innovation – bringing back entire categories from the depths of the family archives and presenting them to a new swathe of gin lovers – makes them one to watch in the gin category. The gins they create bear all the hallmarks of their unparalleled affection for the spirit. With production now based in their own still combined with the new generation of Hayman’s family members developing a new future for the brand, things look very good indeed for the future of the company.
Expect some design changes to happen as their portfolio gets a refresh and the bottles get customized, along with some possible new additions down the line. We don’t often say this of gin makers here at Gin Foundry, but we have nothing but admiration for the team at Hayman’s. They have managed to transcend both external and internal family politics to not just hold on to their business, but to make it thrive. Their portfolio wide offering is both unique and of good quality, and while they might be quietly bumbling along under the mass radar – they deserve recognition as ginsmiths whose continued journey creates a wake that many will not only notice; but be influenced by.
Seek them out gin lovers. It’ll be worth your while.
For more information about Hayman’s Gin, visit their website: www.haymansgin.com
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