True artisan distilling: Redsmith of Nottinghamshire’s London Dry Gin
By Abby Brennan, Notts editor
Following a delightful morning’s gin-tasting on International World Gin Day, I followed up with a visit to (at the time of writing) Nottinghamshire’s only gin distillery, hidden away in rural Ruddington, to learn about Redsmith London Dry Gin.
Redsmith gin is the product of three years of hard work and determination on the part of Wayne Asher to learn, from scratch, how to distil his own small-batch gin. He has also put his engineering skills and experience of running a plumbing company to good use by fabricating his own unique copper still – known as “Jenny”.
Intrigued by the name (are they like ships, I thought – always female?), I discovered that all stills must be registered with HMRC and so must have an individual number or name. “Jenny” is named after a family ancestor who was married to a Cornish copper miner (the eponymous “redsmith” is the traditional term for a coppersmith). Until Jenny came along it seems that the last known distillery in Nottinghamshire, also located in Ruddington, closed its doors in the 1860s. The original building still exists in Ruddington but little else is known about the distillery or what it produced.
The recipe for Redsmith gin took a year to develop. Friends, family and local pubs were persuaded to try, taste and provide feedback as the recipe was refined (wasn’t too difficult to get volunteers for that, I should imagine!), and Wayne is the first to admit that a great deal was down to trial and error.
Redsmith is a classic London Dry Gin and, as such, has to comply with certain criteria including the ABV of the base spirit (which must be at least 96%) and the fact that anything added to the gin must added at the time of distillation. After that, nothing else can be introduced.
Naturally, I pushed Wayne on the ingredients that make this gin unique and, naturally, Wayne declined to tell me – but he did reveal his gin contains nine botanicals, including sweet orange for a citrus note, coriander, cassia, cardamom and juniper. A batch of gin takes around a day to run off, but before that the botanicals macerate for 24 hours in the still. The gin then rests in a neutral container for a month, giving a more complex and “finished” flavour.
Wayne is on his third batch of Redsmith gin and the first two batches have flown out of the door. So what are his plans for the future? Clearly, it is time to think about giving up the day job and seriously upping production to meet the obvious demand. It may be that a new and bigger still will need to be designed to take over from Jenny, and Wayne is also thinking of expanding into other spirits.
If you would like to try Redsmith for yourself, it is available at a couple of local outlets – Maxey’s Farm Shop in Kirklington and Weavers in Nottingham – and is also on sale in a couple of bars in Nottingham, including the Crafty Crow. There is an online shop, although there is a waiting list until the next batch is ready. You can also try a drop at the Merchant House in London or the Hanging Bat in Edinburgh, should you be passing through.
Thanks so much to Wayne for hosting me; it is fantastic to see a small, local, artisan producer develop a superior product, rooted in local history. I have a bottle of Redsmith on order (and also had a wee taste of the gin currently resting ready for bottling – purely in the interests of research, you understand).
As a classic London Dry Gin, Redsmith is instantly recognisable as a traditional gin, but with a delicious subtle citrus note and a complex, unique flavour. Right up my street – try it for yourself.