Old Bakery Gin
Ian Puddick is a bit of a geezer – the sort of fellow (almost certainly pronounced fella) that could turn his hand to just about anything and succeed at it. From working as a management consultant (advising the likes of Buckingham Palace and the Cabinet Office on crisis communication) to running his own leak detection firm, Leakbusters, to… well there’s other stuff, but we’ll let you Google that. It’s complicated, contravertial and a little distracting and all we want to do is talk about his latest project, Old Bakery Gin.
Back in 2013, Puddick took on a couple of run down properties in Palmers Green. One of the buildings, an old bakery, had a beautiful 140ft chimney jutting out of its roof. As Puddick worked to restore the units to their former glory, two things became clear: 1. The chimney wasn’t safe and would have to go. 2. Over the years the land registry had become blurred, erroneously stating that the chimney belonged to the building next door – a domestic home. As Puddick began tracing the history of the Old Bakery he stumbled on a fun fact: one hundred or so years ago, it was harbouring a naughty little secret – it was illegally making gin.
Puddick was a big gin fan, but as excited as he was by the building’s illicit history, it didn’t quite occur to him right away that he could (or should) capitalise on it. In fact, it wasn’t until he bumped into his physiotherapist, Steve Varney, at Junipalooza a couple of months later that the idea took shape. As they stood there sipping gin, Puddick recounted the buildings history. “You’ve gotta do this,” Varney said, gesturing around the room.
Puddick quickly went on a mission to trace the family of the former bakery owners, and while he didn’t quite get the recipe, he did get four ingredients (plus a suggestion from Uncle Bert in Lincoln that stinging nettles were involved). The ingredients, after all that work, are very much a secret, but we can safely assume that juniper is involved (and probably make a bit of a guess on coriander seed, too).
Old Bakery Gin is made onsite by Puddick’s dad, ex-soldier Ron Puddick. A life in intelligence and counter terrorism rarely makes for a quiet retirement, so he was all too happy to get stuck into a project such as this. With no booze nouse to speak of, the duo did what anyone does in this age: they logged onto YouTube.
Trial and error, then, was very much a part of the initial process – especially when they tried to work in Unce Bert’s stinging nettle suggestion. Sadly, that botanical didn’t make the cut (“the taste was awful,” Puddick said), but the rest are there, and while the ingredient ratios have likely been tweaked to suit modern palates (and presumably – very different stills), it remains a gin that delves right back to the time that weirdo “star” botanicals forgot. As old misers, we couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Old Bakery Gin to taste…
There is nothing particularly extraordinary about Old Bakery Gin to nose, but then, that’s the whole point. The gin is based upon a recipe created by people who lived so long ago that a taste of one of the star-botanical gins of today would cause some sort of revolution. No, this is a gin that smells like nothing but good old fashioned gin. Juniper is present, something rooty too, and a hint of something bright. An educated guess – but absolutely a guess – the four would be juniper, coriander seed, liquorice root and grapefruit peel.
Specifics aside, the taste is a little more nuanced, with that twang of zesty grapefruit meets caramelised blood orange sensation at the fore, joined by a weighty root that fills the cheeks with a soft, viscous sensation, easing the liquid down the throat with not a hint of burn in site. (This in itself is pretty incredible, actually, given that this is a 41.7% ABV spirit being sipped at room temperature. An incredible amount of skill has been deployed to get Old Bakery Gin as smooth as it is, which is remarkable given that Ron was new to distilling prior to this venture). The juniper oscillates wildly, flitting between an earthy, dusty pine and a more berry-like clarity, but never really overwhelming proceedings. It’s great, solid stuff, and something Gin geeks should strive to get hold of.
Gins that keep their botanical list nice and short tend to do well in a G&T. Dilution allows each ingredient room to flourish, and flourish is what the parts that maketh Old Bakery Gin do. An initial sweetness greets the tongue, though this is batted away by that gorgeous juniper, which has an incredibly crisp, fir-tree taste to it that utterly dominates the finish. We’d add a grapefruit peel as a garnish to highlight the citrus undertones going on in the gin and accentuate it further.
The four botanicals are macerated (or, as the team puts it, cooked) for nine hours ahead of distillation. There are four stills going at any one time, each 25-litres in capacity. This is a fiddly task, no doubt, and one that Puddick is looking to address; a 400-litre still has been commissioned for the distillery, a sign that things are not looking to shabby for Old Bakery Gin. Bottled water is used in the distilling process as the costs of getting a commercial water main installed were sky high. The irony of a leak detection specialist having a lack of water wasn’t lost here either…. but let’s hope that there’s some sort of recycling system going on for the outsourced water, as with the success they’re showing, there’s no doubt they’re churning through a fair few palates worth each month.
When Puddick took on the old buildings, there was the ghost of a sign for the bakery fading on the external walls. After a little more research (and a few more visits to the old family), he learnt of the yellow tones that once coloured these buildings and had the sign restored. That daffodil hue may be offensive to some eyes in its brightness, but there’s no doubt that allowing it steer the branding for Old Bakery Gin has done Puddick some favours. The label – a replica of the sign, albeit with a sweet picture of good old Ron added in – is bold and bright, noticeable from a thousand yards. It performs nothing short of an assault on a back bar, inviting people to notice it (whether that transfers to sales 100% of the time is anyones guess, given that the yellow has a faint air of warning about it).
Variants are a tricky topic when a core part of your brand identity is your faithfulness to an old recipe, but in a fickle age and an industry that just can’t stop itself experimenting, Puddick has had little choice but to get stuck in. Thus: Old Bakery Gin Bakers Strength, a 57% ABV edition of the original gin, with a handful of black peppercorns thrown in for good measure. This is due to launch in June 2018, so check back in then for tasting notes!
We are always the first to celebrate the story behind a brand, and what Old Bakery Gin does is go one step better. Yes, it’s the story of Ian Puddick fighting a land dispute and ending up with a brand new hobby, but its also the story of gin: of its rise and fall, of its often dark twisting and forgotten history. It’s the story of London and Londoners; of people who will find their way over or around hurdles to get what they bloody well want. If only we could see what this particular chapter inspires a hundred years into the future…
For more information about Old Bakery Gin, visit the www.oldbakerygin.com
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