THE BLOG

Williams Chase Gin: The Distillery Tour

25/02/2014 10:42 GMT | Updated 26/04/2014 10:59 BST

I love Chase Gin SO much I travelled for hours to visit a muddy farm in Herefordshire to discover where the magic happens.

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Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Rosemaund Farm is five miles outside Hereford and is massive. There are 400 acres of land where apples and potatoes grow and a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle graze. It's here where Chase Gin and Vodka begin their journey from field to bottle.

Chase

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Chase Apple Orchard

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Chase Apple Orchard

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Alex is one of the distillers here and not only is a charming gentleman he knows his stuff and is passionate about the brand. He's the kind of chap you learn good factoids from, statistics to wow people at parties where gin is drunk.

Alex Chase Distiller

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

A little bit of history pre-tour and I find out that not only are Chase the only single-estate distillery here in the UK, everything takes place on site from the potato, the cider apples as well as the filling, bottling and sealing. Chase wanted to be the very best at making vodka before they embarked on making any other spirit. Their goal was to produce a top-level English potato vodka.

Chase Vodka

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Once they got that mastered, they started to look at gin. Not many know that gin is distilled from vodka so it was a natural spirit to move onto.

Chase Extra Dry Gin

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Chase Crisp Elegant Gin

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

My favourite gin, and at 48% ABV, a martini made with this is a great start to any evening!

So the tour begins outside, even I get a little excited at the machines used to wash and sort the raw ingredients.

Sorter

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Sorter

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Discarded potatoes Chase

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

From the cleaning and peeling area, the potatoes move to the mashing vessel where they're broken down with heat and enzymes so that the starches convert into fermentable sugars.

Chase Distillery

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Once the potatoes are mashed, a vodka yeast is added to ferment it into potato wine which is between 9.5 and 11% ABV. This is then distilled into a low wine at around 85% and that is sent into the still where it's distilled through this and the rectification column, twice. The spirit is distilled through 119 bubble plates raising the ABV to around 96.5%.

Brewer's Yeast

Mash

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Chase Distillery

Chase Distillery

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Retrification column

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

It's here that the spirit is almost entirely ethanol and well on it's on it's way to becoming vodka.

Apples are taken from harvest and left unpeeled, they're run through a belt press to produce a juice which is allowed to ferment naturally, given a helping hand by the yeast found in the peel. The cider is distilled just like the potato vodka, and the first distillation produces a low wine at 85% ABV and then moves to the copper vodka still and rectification column. It's here where the 42 bubble plates raise the ABV to around 96.4%.

To make my favourite tipple, apple spirit is diluted with water in their carter head copper gin still, which is infused with their botanicals. The alcohol is boiled and directed through the carter head, through the bagged botanicals, before it reaches a condenser and the distillate receiver. Vapour is used to infuse the gin opposed to boiling the botanicals in the still itself.

The gin distillate produced is a two-shot distillate meaning that it's blended back with more apple spirit. Water is added to bring the ABV down to the correct level.

Once it reaches 48% ABV it's then bottled with the label Williams Elegant Gin and at 40% ABV Williams Extra Dry Gin.

I'm whisked upstairs where the botanicals are stored, hessian bags filled with juniper; coriander; angelica; liquorice; orris; orange; lemon; hops; and elderflower.

Juniper

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

It's also here I get to see the operation from above and to wonder at the rectification column which is a whopping 70ft tall and the tallest in the world. This is fitted above the tank with condensers which come off at different heights. The column is hot at the bottom and cool at the top. It allows substances with low boiling points to condense at the top. As the blended alcohol and vapours rise, they enter the column. Bubble plates span the column and control the speed of the process and ultimately the taste of the product. All vapours condensed on the bubble plates in the column work their way back down to the column and eventually back into the vodka still.

Alex keeps his ingredients-to-spirit ratio very close to his chest but I'm able to delve into the sacks and pull out handfuls to sniff.

Botanicals

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

I'm talking about the gin because I've not tasted the vodka, which is plentiful here at Chase - their marmalade vodka makes the perfect breakfast martini.

Chase Marmalade Vodka

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Rhubarb Vodka

Photograph by Rebecca Williams

Willy's Cider has been made here on the premises since 2009 (it's this they distil to create the gins) but in 2013 they decided to bottle the lightly sparkling high-end cider.

The time flies and I don't get to try any of the gins or vodkas on the shelves in the Distillery or catch my train. I have the perfect excuse to return. The Distillery organise tours and I would thoroughly recommend one - just keep an eye on your watch!