Hope On Hopkins
Fresh from travelling across Europe and Morocco, ex-lawyers Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk – encouraged by the rise of craft liquor observed whilst living in London, and inspired by the distilleries they visited when on the road – returned home to South Africa (with cat Mimo in tow) to start up Cape Town’s first licensed artisanal distillery – Hope on Hopkins.
The duo undertook several distilling classes, with Lucy becoming a qualified distiller in 2014 after completing a correspondence course at the International Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Since then it’s been hands on, from finding and renovating their warehouse, to learning how to use the distilling equipment, to tinkering with recipes and sourcing botanicals, to making a skin-of-their-teeth, six-hour round trip in a rented truck to collect their first batch of wheat and barley (after their initial 1.5 ton order was deemed to small to be delivered). Even Mimo has been put to work, prowling the warehouse to keep the barley safe from pilfering mice.
It took Hope on Hopkins a year to get licensing in place, with their London Dry seeing its official launch on World Gin Day 2015. The name, then, seems relevant to the trials experienced by the duo, and the crossed fingers depicted on the logo may well have taken inspiration from Lucy and Leigh. They are an overwhelmingly positive duo, though, and find the harder-than-expected work to be incredibly rewarding.Highlights, according to Lucy, include educating people on Gin and experimenting with Gin and local botanicals.
All of their efforts seem to be paying off too, with Hope on Hopkins now boasting three gins in its repertoire: London Dry Gin, Mediterranean Gin and Salt River Gin, all bottled at 43%.
The latter, named for the town in which they are based, is an obvious ode to South Africa: the citrus notes are furnished by hand peeled lemon and orange zest from Cedeberg, the rosemary is harvested from a friends garden and the buchu grows in a farm on the Winterhoek Mountains. The staple botanicals are less local, with Macedonian juniper and Belgian angelica root playing a part. This is a decision based on a refusal to compromise on quality according to the Hope on Hopkins duo, South African juniper does not produce enough essential oil to create the requisite flavour.
Flavour is something that has been considered right down to the last detail at Hope on Hopkins. They make their own base spirit using South African malted barley, a component that Lucy is keen to point towards as a flavour enhancer, especially when coupled with their Bulgarian coriander seed. The barley flavour is intentionally kept in, says Lucy, “and while it is a base spirit essentially becomes our first botanical.” This grain to glass approach is no easy feat to accomplish and is not just commendable (as many do not take this step) it’s a huge testament to Lucy’s ability as a new distiller.
The grains are triple distilled to make a single malt vodka, and then put through the ringer a fourth time to meet with the botanicals that make up their gin profiles.
The distillery has are two stainless steel stills hard at work to create the Hope on Hopkins spirits nicknamed Mildred and Maude. Two pot still runs are performed in Mildred before the liquid is transferred to Maude, an 8-plate copper rectification still used to bring about the essential smoothness. After this, the spirit is put back into Mildred and diluted down to 50% ABV for the gin run. The hearts are then collected and blended to bottling strength with Table Mountain water, sourced at the Newlands Spring.
Hope on Hopkins London Dry Gin
Hope on Hopkins London Dry Gin is made using a single malt vodka base, and employs the London Dry one-shot method. Lemon peel works hard to acquaint itself with the nose, and while the first sip is a little sharp, the juniper and citrus come through well, before mellowing into a surprising, but completely welcome, floral finish.
As for G&T garnish suggestion? We feel a stick of lavender works to accentuate the floral elements, while a sprig of rosemary helps usher the herbal, resinous undertones to the fore as an alternative
Hope on Hopkins Salt River Gin
Sold as a more contemporary liquor, HOH Salt River Gin is a celebration of South African flavours. This gin also uses the London Dry one-shot method, and while this shares a similar base to the HoH London Dry, it is quite different indeed. There is a piquant flick to the nose with a floral hint. This is herbal to taste, with a hint of sweetness not unlike gooseberries, and a bigger citrus finish than in its counterpart.
Try a pink grapefruit peel as a G&T garnish but we felt this was a gin that was particularly tasty as a dry Martini served with an olive.
Hope of Hopkins Mediterranean Gin
The third offering from Hope of Hopkins, their Mediterranean Gin, is an altogether different gin to the London Dry and Salt River…
It is made from a bought in triple distilled grape spirit and infused with Mediterranean flavours olives, rosemary, and thyme amongst them. To smell, there is a strong citrus sweetness almost as though a candied lemon peel was sitting at the top of the bottle. On first sip, the juniper is less boisterous than in the London Dry offerings and there is a great cardamom kick. It is a smooth gin with a full feel, and can be held in the mouth quite comfortably.
We felt that basil was delicious as a G&T garnish while alternatively, a lemon peel also worked to add some fresh acidity.
Hope on Hopkins makes approximately 300 bottles per batch, and at the time of writing produces just under 1,000 bottles a month. This is set to grow however as the gin is not yet available countrywide, having only been in the market for nine months, let alone internationally. Without doubt this is a matter of time and having tasted all three take our word for it Hope on Hopkins will soon become a familiar name in South Africa.
In 2016, it is already starting to pop up more widely and with the South African gin revolution continuing to take hold they are perfectly placed to ride the wave of interest and into bars and gin cabinets alike. Quality over growth is important here, though, and reaching giant status isn’t in their sights. Far from it in fact as Lucy says: we are still small and will never be very big.
Looking to the future, there are plans in the works for more adventurous drinks, including an Old Tom (which we hope Mimo gets a name check on!), which is likely to be a distillery only offering, and will allow them to create a History of Gin session in their tasting room at the distillery.
Its worth also mentioning that there is a engaging level of transparency in the way Lucy and Leigh work too their website and blog details the hows, the whys and the ways involved in establishing a quality distillery. The fact that they are already offering tours shows just how keen they are to spread the gin love.
We wish them all the best, and fingers crossed, there will more gins rolling out of the workshops for all to enjoy soon…
For more information about Hope on Hopkins, visit their website: www.hopeonhopkins.co.za
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