One dark, cold February night, Seb Heeley headed out into Manchester with a couple of friends in tow. He didn’t know it at the time, but his world was about to change in all the right ways. He was all set to settle down to a pint when across the bar he spotted his soon to be soul mate, Jennie Wiggins. Before his feet could catch up with his brain he was already talking to her. “What are you drinking?” he asked.
“A G&T,” she answered, most wisely.
That was all it took for the duo to become inseparable, and before long they’d worked out a way to spend their days as well as their nights together. “We were going to open a bar,” Seb said, “but when we were researching it we were put in touch with a gentleman who was kind enough to show us around his operations.
“In one of his bars he asked if we like gin, as he was making it in the back room.” This was the proverbial light bulb moment. “When we saw his little 30-litre still we knew that this was the life for us.”
That was back in April 2015. Within the following year, the couple dedicated all of their spare time to learning how to distil, creating a recipe and doodling their way through various branding concepts. Luckily, they had a couple of friends already in the industry, and the Gin world being what it is, they were only too happy to help out. After a little bit of guidance, they felt confident enough to start working on a 60-litre still.
From there, though, they moved at a breakneck pace. Just a couple of months after its release, Manchester Gin had taken home a mad amount of Gold medals, including double at the San Francisco awards. Theirs was, and remains, the only Gin to have ever taken home such a prestigious gong whilst being made in the humble surroundings of a family dining room.
It was a unique record to set, but it ensured that their growth took off at such a pace that the dining room was no longer suitable. Not even a little bit…
In August 2017, after distilling, filling and labelling 25,000 bottles of Manchester Gin, the duo moved production to their current home – a purpose built distillery right in the heart of the city. And while their popularity has only increased and their numbers have reached an almost impossible height (we’re talking 100,000 bottles a year), they haven’t changed their distilling method: Manchester Gin, along with all of its flavoured siblings, is a one shot product.
All of the botanicals are added to the still the night before distillation and are given a good 10 hours or so of maceration time. The distillation itself takes 10 hours too, so it’s a lengthy old process. Still, it’s worth it, because the gin is bloody lovely!
Made up of 10 classic botanicals alongside dandelion and burdock, their Signature Gin is a workhorse flagship spirit. It’s the kind of drop you can apply to all sorts of cocktails and one that would enhance them all.
Manchester Gin to taste…
On the nose, there is an underlying sweetness to the citrus hit, with the sweeter roots (and the almond) playing their part to add depth.
To taste, the citrus gives way to a classic core of juniper and coriander seed. The earthiness of dandelion and burdock root underpins the journey, but cleverly the liquorice and almonds make a big rise on the finish, adding both a sweet touch and some considerable length to the profile. Overall it’s juniper forward, and its classicism is what makes it so user-friendly.
The Manchester Gin portfolio is four strong, with the Signature Gin and Navy Strength, joined by a pretty-in-pink Raspberry Infused and, most interesting (for us, at least) of all, Wild Spirit. The latter is an evolution of their distilling journey, with the more traditional citruses cast out and replaced by sage, thyme, orris, lemon balm and silver birch. On the nose, there’s a subdued calm that gently hums in the glass. It doesn’t give it to you straight as the flagship does. Here it’s a lot more nuanced and subtle – with lemon balm and juniper keeping a firm cloak of mystery as to what will emerge next.
Manchester Wild Spirit Gin to taste…
To taste, it skips the usual citrus intro and goes straight into herbal tones of lush green thyme, with the levity of lemon balm. It’s gentle once more, controlled and beautifully elegant in the way it’s all intermingled, entwined and in harmony.
The finish, as one might expect, is herbal, but here the juniper is a little clearer, as if it’s just reminding you that this is one that also wants a lashing of tonic (and if you do, blackberries and a sprig of thyme would be our go to here). Overall, Manchester Wild Spirit Gin is waxy, herbal and downright refreshing, this is the liquid equivalent of a terrarium.
Manchester Raspberry Gin to taste…
Of course, in a year where the trends favour pink, the Wild Spirit will always be enjoyed, if a little overlooked, and it’s the Raspberry Infused that’s turning the eye of the masses. But naysayers beware, it too is a deceptive tipple that holds its own against the best of them. Open the bottle and the aroma presents what the eyes see, pink fruity tones waft up from the glass.
The gin’s strength lie in the fact that it very much remains a Gin. Clear raspberry and citrus notes expand on the palate, as if the gin is politely waiting for its turn. Juniper and the wider botanical ensemble anchor the profile to keep the sweet fruitiness in check.
Again it’s the gin that is central to the success of this rose tinted infusion. They have had the confidence to leave it in there, to not obliterate it by waves of pink candy tones and allow the two to find a harmony.
It’s fruity and fun, but it’s also a fruit gin. It’s a feat that many would be envious of and a taste that many would enjoy.
While that one-shot method is set to stay for now, Seb and Jen are going to have some work on their hands scaling up, as they’re set to plumb in a still with four times the capacity of their currently overworked copper babies. Many, many distillers underestimate quite how gargantuan a task this is, but to go from producing 500 bottles a time to 2000 is a monstrous feat and one that may need a fair bit of tweaking.
Still, monstrous doesn’t mean impossible, and Team Manchester Gin are used to being busy; in fact, it rather suits their entire ethos. Mancunians are fiercely proud of their industrialism, hence why the city’s emblem is a bee (the busiest of all creatures).
A bee has dotted their label ever since the brand launched, but this year they took it one step further, spending a small fortune on custom glass that represents the honeycomb shape of a beehive. It is utterly beautiful work; the bottle stands out from a hundred miles away, making the gin one that you want to not just try, but own.
This alone would grow the Manchester Gin name (which hipster bar wouldn’t want such a looker on their shelves?), but with increased capacity and the mood to hunker down there will be no more editions for the time being. Instead, the duo will focus on pushing their core four, with Seb and Jen set to make theirs one of the biggest gins in the country.
To hear more from Manchester Gin, visit the website: manchestergin.co.uk
Or say hi on social media!
Copyright © Gin Foundry