Silent Pool Distillers sits on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills, next to the mythical and beautiful Silent Pool – a spring-fed lake linked to a rather cheerless folklore tale in which a beautiful young woodcutters daughter takes a risky skinny dip and gets caught by none-other than Prince John, who was said to be so enamoured by the her beauty that he tried to woo her. Instead, he learned the somewhat valuable lesson that a naked, startled young woman is as impossible to charm as she is easy to terrify – she swam to the centre of the pool and drowned, and it is said that her screams can still be heard at midnight.
Luckily for us, Silent Pool Distillers story gets off to a considerably cheerier start: Former ITV director Ian McCulloch and drinks expert James Shelbourne combined their financial resources to fund their gin spinning endeavour on this lake-side site owned by the Duke of Northumberland. Fusing science and folklore, the duo managed to create a unique, standout gin that reached sales of 1500 bottles per-week within its first year.
The inspiration for Silent Pool Distillers came from Scottish makers; McCulloch and Shelbourne wanted to see if they could replicate the ability that whisky makers and ginsmiths north of the border have to create a spirit that captures the romance and narrative of its home region, by using local botanicals to tell the story of a place.
In this instance, North Downs is the place and the botanicals harvested from this region include elderflower, chamomile, pear and honey, the latter of which is taken from hives owned by the vineyard next door. In total there are 24 botanicals in Silent Pool Gin, each of which was treated as a separate element when establishing the recipe.
The more durable plants – angelica, bergamot, bitter orange, cardamom, cassia, coriander, cubeb, grains of paradise, honey, juniper (from Bosnia if you wanted to know), liquorice and orris are macerated in the base spirit for 24 hours before being transferred to the 250-litre Arnold Holstein copper pot still.
The more delicate ingredients – chamomile, elderflower, kaffir lime leaves (from Essex, of all places), linden flowers and rose petals are macerated separately in a higher proof spirit, then they are filtered out and the resulting spirit is transferred to the still to join the durable botanicals.
Finally, more angelica, bitter orange, coriander, grains of paradise and juniper (from Macedonia), as well as lavender, lime, orange and pear (fresh and dried) are added to the gin basket, which hangs inside the still, so that the vapour picks up an extra lick of flavour on the way up.
By the time the alcohol has travelled up through the 10ft rectification column it reaches an ABV of around 90%. The hearts cut – usually around 135 litres – is then taken to a 2000lt stainless steel holding tank and blended to bottling strength – 43% – with filtered spring water taken from the Silent Pool.
Over a year was spent trialling and researching different ingredients, with distiller Cory Mason at the helm and distiller Tom Hutchings – at the time a student at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Scotland – devoting his MSc Thesis to the project.
Silent Pool Gin to taste…
There is a really fresh, floral sweetness on the nose of Silent Pool Gin, lifted somewhat by the honey. These sweet floral aromas conspire to shout over the rest of the pack, though play somewhat of a trick on the tongue, as to taste the gin is far more spicy and savoury than the nose would attest. The elderflower sweetness is there at the fore, but this is quickly displaced by the citrus and then by the spice of the cubeb and grains of paradise, though coriander does hold the citrus in place a little longer. Juniper plays a subdued role here, though does come out with a little coaxing.
Overall, the gin is well balanced and makes for a rounded flavour journey that has both depth and subtlety. There is no overarching factor; every botanical comes across quite evenly, although if pushed, we’d place it towards the more floral side of the map in a chart purely because of the soft aromas. Our recommendation is to serve it up with either a thin orange wheel or a mint sprig in a G&T.
Locality is something that Silent Pool Distillers has incorporated into its brand quite elegantly. The bottle is stunning – a clear, aqua-green glass with copper coloured illustrations representing both the legend and the botanicals used in the gin. The illustrations were created by Laura Barett, who drew all 24 botanicals, hiding amongst them the stars of the aforementioned Silent Pool legend.
The colourings are all set to those of the pool itself – the aqua-green representing the water and the gold evocative of the moss that crawls across it. It is instantly charming – one you’d give pride of place to on your shelf and which will no doubt help the gin seed its place into bars and shops alike in the next few years.
Currently, the gin is selling well in Denmark and is going through approval for US distribution. The distillery is working on new gins, too, and has just released a Navy Strength edition – Adminal Collingwood. With so much thought behind every element of this gin and backed by a team that combines those with a love of the craft of gin making, healthy budgets and experience within the drinks trade – Silent Pool Gin is one that you can expect to see proliferating across bars the world over.
For more information about Silent Pool, visit their website: www.silentpooldistillers.com
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