Do you think about how your gin is made when you’re sipping a lovely G&T on a warm summer’s day? Aside from trying to identify the botanicals used, other than juniper which is a given, I have to admit to not giving it a lot of thought. I tend to assume that most gin is made from a neutral spirit, such as vodka, and is then distilled using a variety of botanicals. This is not the case with the gins made at the Copper Rivet Distillery, these are proudly made from scratch using locally sourced grains. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to see the journey made by the cereals in this beautiful and historic part of Kent.
Our first stop was at the Burden Bros farm to learn about the cereals used in the gins. Farm manager Ryan was full of information which made me realise how technical farming has become. Although we learnt a lot about the different proteins, nitrogen levels, soil types for the wheat, rye and barley used; the highlight for me had to be sitting the cab of the combine harvester! These massive machines (I wasn’t as tall as the tyre) are pretty much fully automated now, the operator is there just for transport to the field and safety purposes. With an air-conditioned cab with air seats and a fridge inside, the operator may work long hours whilst harvest takes place, but it’s comfortable with a great view.
Our next stop was to see the Dexter cows roaming on the largest privately managed nature reserve in the country on the Isle of Sheppey. Not only did we see these cows, but we also got to feed them with the residual used grains from the distilling process. Some of the party were surprised by this, but I knew how much my chickens love the leftover barley that my partner uses to brew his own beers. It’s a really great way to ensure that there is no wastage, and the circle is complete.
In the past grain was transported to Chatham docks by barge. This time it was our group aboard the Edith May taking a few bags with us. After a safety talk, we finally got our chance to sample some of the range of spirits made at the Copper Rivet.
The Dockyard Gin is an up-to-date version of a naval gin. Firstly I noticed citrus and a little elderflower, quickly followed by spicy cardamom and grains of paradise. It’s nice served with a slice of pink grapefruit. Son of a Gun was interesting, distilled from the 3 grains it’s then aged in oak before bottling which gives it a certain creaminess. The Damson gin tasted like Christmas bottled, but less sweet than many fruit-based gins – delicious.
After lunch aboard the Edith May, featuring a Dexter steak cooked by Stephen, one of the owners of Copper Rivet, we came ashore at Chatham and got to see the distillery.
The distillery uses both pot and column stills, proudly designed and made in Chatham. Using local materials, produce and craftspeople is very important to the owners. If you haven’t been to a distillery before, this is an excellent way of finding out how the spirit is made, and the differences between the types of stills used.
It’s also a great way to try out a new gin or a new cocktail. We were treated to a cocktail made by Will, who’d recently been crowned the best bartender in Brighton. He made his winning cocktail for us, which was spicy, salty and sweet. Something rather more sophisticated than the normal Bloody Mary. Sadly, I don’t have the winning the cocktail recipe to share. I do have one I made up myself.
Basil Heat Cocktail
Ingredients 5 leaves Basil Plus a sprig to garnish
2 tsp limoncello
50 ml Dockyard gin
4 drops Orange bitters or plain Angostura bitters would work
30 ml Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water Or another good quality Indian Tonic Water
Instructions Muddle the basil leaves with the limoncello.
Add the gin and stir well.
Fill a G&T glass with ice and add the mix
Add a squeeze of lemon and the bitters
Top up with tonic and stir. Garnish with the remaining basil leaves
The Copper Rivet Distillery offers tours, tastings, a bar, an attached delicatessen, as well as seating where you can enjoy a perfect G&T and lovely food. Why not pay it a visit, it’s only an hour on the train from London Victoria or just 40 minutes from St Pancras.
Dockyard Gin is available from Harrods, Selfridges, Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt, Co-Op stores, John Lewis Foodhalls and selected Waitrose stores, and also online from the Copper Rivet website
For your own trip on the Edith May check their site
And finally, for your combine harvester purchase 🙂 https://www.burdenbros.co.uk/
Pump House no. 5, Chatham Dockyard, Leviathan Way, Chatham ME4 4LP
T: 01634 931122 E: email@example.com