Fancy crafting your very own gin? Gayle Ritchie has a whale of a time at Blendworks in St Andrews…
A unique blending experience from Eden Mill distillery, Blendworks has just launched at Macdonald Rusacks Hotel in the home of golf, St Andrews.
It offers gin lovers the chance to craft their very own spirit, from selecting botanicals right through to bottling, naming and labelling.
It’s a fun, educational, boozy way to while away a few hours.
I attended with colleagues from The Gin Kin and we were taken through the session by charismatic Blendworks manager Jasper Daly.
Sporting an impressive beard and braces, Jasper blew us away with his vast knowledge of gin, kicking off with the history and science of the spirit and taking us through its evolution.
Once we’d quaffed introductory G&Ts, we sat down at a wooden bench set with drinking glasses, beakers and jugs. It was somewhat reminiscent of a school science class minus the Bunsen burners.
The first test was to sniff (nose) a liquid and identify its source.
“What are you picking up?” asked Jasper, and the most potent scent was clearly citrus.
Asked to clarify further, I took a long, deep breath and came up with orange and lime.
Fellow participant (and Blendworks ambassador) Steve Lowrie McKay, meanwhile, picked up “furniture polish”!
Luckily, Jasper is not one to be offended.
“I get where you’re coming from,” he said. “That’s probably the woody pine coming through.”
The next step was tasting (my favourite) and Jasper recommended swilling the liquid round the mouth, allowing the tongue to be fully coated.
This time, I detected a really strong peppery taste while Steve picked up “icing sugar”.
Having revealed the key botanical was juniper (surprise!) Jasper moved on to the next stage of the proceedings – sniffing and tasting the “base spirits”.
There were four to choose from – spice, sweet, floral and citrus.
I was drawn to spice, which consisted of coriander seed, angelica root, liquorice root, black cardamom, black pepper and ginger, while Steve preferred floral.
“Everyone starts with juniper and then it’s a case of deciding whether you’re looking for something sweet, or maybe something spicier,” said Jasper. “Do you want to emphasise the citrus elements of juniper, or perhaps bring out the spiciness?”
Then it was time to pick our botanicals and Jasper recommended choosing around four, although some gins can boast up to 25.
I’m one of the most indecisive folk around, and I ended up with six – strawberry, cassia, orange peel, vanilla, black cardamom and lapsang souchong.
“This is very autumnal and warming, apart from the strawberry!” grinned Jasper.
Getting the right amount of each botanical is hugely important and Jasper was keen to keep the black cardamom and lapsang souchong to a minimum as they’re potentially very overpowering.
Measuring out all the liquids was fantastic fun and, miraculously, I didn’t spill a drop (or smash anything).
My final product had 320ml of juniper, 270ml of spice, 10ml of cassia, 10ml of vanilla, 20ml of strawberry, 10ml of orange peel, 2ml of black cardamom and 4ml of lapsang souchong.
We then filled three 20cl bottles with our bespoke gins and were asked to come up with a name.
Without thinking, “Volcano Spice” popped out of my mouth, probably because I’d just been to Bali where talk of a volcano erupting was high on the news agenda.
The labelling process was fun too, and we were even allowed to sign it, choose our bottle tops, and colour of seal.
I chose a black bottle stopper and red seal as it somehow seemed reminiscent of volcanoes.
The fun didn’t stop there. While staff prepared my bottles in a gorgeous gift-style box, complete with Blendworks glasses and a certificate, Jasper gave us a wee masterclass in how to make the perfect gin Martini using any leftover product.
I ended up quaffing the most delicious Dirty Martini, and then it was time to leave, which I did with a huge grin on my face.
So what did I make of the Blendworks experience? Absolutely epic!
The £150,000 tourist attraction, called Blendworks, is housed in a specially-designed spirits emporium overlooking the iconic Old Course 18th hole and is designed to reveal the secrets behind the spirit.
The Blendworks experience will run twice daily and costs £95 per person including a gift pack with three 20cl bottles of the gin, Blendworks glasses and a certificate.
Guests will also enjoy three cocktails during the session with two of them crafted from their own recipe.
During the 2.5 hour session participants will be guided through the science and history behind the spirit before exploring different botanicals and flavour profiles in a nosing and tasting session led by an Eden Mill expert.
Fore more details and to book a session, see edenmill.com/blendworks