They say the third time is the charm. But sometimes, the fourth, 10th and even the 24th don’t fit the bill.
Ask Adam von Gootkin. When it came to creating the right recipe for Highclere Castle Gin, to say the Highclere Castle Spirits CEO was picky is an understatement.
“We took about a year to develop the recipe,” said von Gootkin. “I was adamant that it had to be a product that I personally would love.”
Call it kismet, fate or plain luck, but everything needed to create Highclere Castle Gin ended up being right at Highclere Castle itself, best known as television and film’s Downton Abbey.
“Walking through the gardens at Highclere is where the recipe really happened,” said von Gootkin.
The beautifully fragrant oranges of the Victorian-era orangery beckoned. Nearby, so too did the lavender, which had been planted on the grounds back in the ninth century by the bishops of Winchester. Other botanicals made the list as well. And then there was the juniper—after all, you can’t have gin without juniper berries—grown on the estate since Ancient Roman times. Von Gootkin recalled:
We gave that list to the team at our distillery and started playing around. The very first thing I decided was to pull back on that juniper a bit. I didn’t want it to be a pine-heavy, juniper-heavy gin as so many of them are. We went back and forth so many times: ‘a little less lavender,’ ‘a little more citrus,’ ‘let’s smell the orange peel without necessarily tasting it,’ ‘let’s have a creamier finish.’
Finding that soft finish was the final challenge.
“The 24th iteration was 95 percent there, and we really liked it,” said von Gootkin. “I was so close to saying ‘it’s good, roll with it.’ But then Lord Carnarvon, spirits partner and owner of Highclere Castle, suggested throwing some oats in.”
A glass container with only “25” written on it arrived via Fedex direct from the distillery several days later that summer of 2018. Lord Carnarvon happened to be stateside with von Gootkin at the time. They found tonic in the hotel suite’s bar and called down for limes to give number 25 a try in a classic gin and tonic.
“We just knew as soon as we tried it that this was it,” said von Gootkin. He continued:
Our gin has that long, pillowy, soft velvet finish. It’s difficult and rare to get that in a spirit. With most, you’re tasting them and ending with an alcohol base, but with Highclere Castle Gin you have eight long seconds where you can keep extracting different flavors on the palate, almost like what happens with wines. And I think a lot of that has to do with the oats.
Patience, perseverance and a lot of trial and error proved to be key in creating this unique super-premium London dry gin. So toast the oats, the bishops of Winchester and even the Romans when you enjoy your own Highclere Castle Gin.
Visit Highclere Castle Gin for more information.