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John McCarthy Adnams 3
Written by Gin Foundry

The Adnams team have two unique and memorable gins, one of which was even voted “World’s Best Gin 2013” - quite the accomplishment for a distillery that’s less than a decade old…

Adnams distillery based in Sole Bay Brewery in Southwold has been brewing beers since 1872 and have recently expanded their repertoire to spirits, namely handcrafted Vodka, Whisky and now Gin. Although beer still plays a central part in their every creation – yes even in the gin - in 2008, the chairman of Adnams brewery began exploring the idea of distilling. Following years of hard work, the distillery was up and running in early 2010.

This meant that the entire distilling production - from grain to glass – is now undertaken in-house, an impressive feat that is noteworthy not just for the level of care that is placed in each step, but also because Adnams are one of very few distilleries who have the ability to actually do this.

Fergus Fitzgerald doesn’t only have a name with great alliteration on the tongue, but is also Adnams Masterbrewer. With East Anglian malted barley as the base for the gin, he begins the process of crafting the gin by creating a beer ‘wash’ which is fermented to around 6% ABV without the addition of hops. Once it is at this stage, the wash is then put in the very capable hands of Head Distiller John McCarthy, where it takes a journey through their beautiful stills, winding it’s way up and down columns and more spirit geekery happens until a pure, clean spirit is created.

Talking to Gin Foundry in late 2015, McCarthy outlined this early process: “The first part for us is to make a Wash (basically a beer with no hops), which is made in our brewhouse and fermented using Adnams 80 year old yeast. This is then pumped into the distillery and, using a Beer Stripping Column, is converted to what we call Low Wines.

This is around 80% ABV, but still contains all the higher alcohols and fusel oils which need to be separated out. The next stage is to do this, this time using our pot still, in conjunction with rectifying columns and a polishing column. The rectifying columns, use 40 plates to get the spirit to above 96% and allow us to separate into Heads, Hearts and Tails. The Polishing Column, removes any Methanol in the spirit, another legal requirement.”

However at this point it is still not yet gin… sigh.

And so the spirit retraces its journey to the copper pot still one last time to become gin. It’s reduced to 50% ABV where juniper, along with six other botanicals are added directly to the spirit in the copper pot still, where after an overnight maceration, it is distilled.

Adnams Distilled Gin to taste…

Adnams Distilled Gin (also known as Adnams Copper House Gin) is made with juniper berries, orris root, coriander seed, cardamom pod, sweet orange peel and hibiscus flower. The cardamom & hibiscus flower burst through in the gin. It’s a touch oily and has a particular mouth feel – perfect for a Dirty Martini. The Hibiscus, while not unique to Adnams Gin, sets its flavour profile apart and makes the gin quite distinct. The bitter, floral flavours of the petals make for quite a particular taste and it’s one to seek out if you see it on the shelf of a bar.

First Rate Finest Cut Gin to taste…

Not content with just one gin, they also produce a second called First Rate Finest Cut Gin. This is a much bigger beast in comparison to its sister. Made with a complex blend of 13 botanicals rather than six, and a higher ABV of 48%, it feels like a bolder, more potent gin. With the usual suspects in the botanical mix (juniper berries, coriander seed, cardamom pod, orange peel & liquorice root) it delivers aromatic spices mingled with a softened Juniper and hints of citrus. The more unusual vanilla pods, caraway seeds, fennel seeds and thyme add to what is a really complex mix. It’s very balanced too, with the juniper re-emerging on the finish.

Gin lovers will definitely gravitate towards the First Rate Gin, however that’s not being dismissive of the regular Copper House Gin, it’s just that the higher ABV and more complex botanical mix has a magnetism that a simpler offering can’t deliver. Copper House Gin is a good, classic London Dry gin with a unique flavour twist, First Rate Gin however is a class apart.

Adnams Distillery is a must visit for any spirits fan in the UK too. The tour around the Southwold based distillery is both great fun and highly engaging. The glorious copper still sits in the refurbished Copper House. The glazed front gives visitors a glimpse into the world of Adnams and their handsome copper distillery chamber, not to mention the panoramic views across the countryside and out to the roaring sea.

The Adnams empire incorporates five hotels, 70 pubs, ten Adnams Cellar & Kitchen stores as well as an online store. The Adnams brewery lays claim to one of the most energy efficient in the UK, with hot water by-product being reused to wash casks and all distilling waste being processed in their anaerobic digestion plant. In plain English, it’s converted into renewable gas to power their production line. Impressive! The gins they have created extend on this expansive portfolio, but crucially, have been made with an astute sense of balance and individuality - making them much more than just another Adnams product in stores.

If you see either of the Adnams Gins on the shelf, don’t hesitate to taste them – they are well worth it.


For more information about Adnams Gin, visit their website: www.adnams.co.uk

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