Tradition was vital to the life depicted in “Downton Abbey,” and it is important to Highclere Castle Gin —created at the estate that served as the setting for the hit television show and film—as well. Can you get more traditional than using an over 100-year-old recipe with ingredients grown on the same estate since the ninth century? Actually, you can.
You find a distillery that respects tradition and history as much as you do.
Langley Distillery, in Birmingham, England, and used by Highclere Castle Gin, is no stranger to custom—which was definitely part of the appeal to the Connecticut-based spirits company.
No one, perhaps, personifies this sense of tradition at Langley better than Natalie Wallis, who is a sixth-generation distiller.
“I was born into gin,” said Wallis, Director at Langley Distillery. “Our family-owned and run company dates back to 1805, so alcohol is running through our blood. It was only natural that this would be my chosen career path, too! I am proud to be able to carry on the legacy my great-great-grandfather started.”
Langley Distillery was originally a brewery built upon land sitting over the crossing of three wells.
“It’s a great natural water source,” said Wallis, “and very important for us as it is used in the distillation process today.”
Langley produced its first gin in 1920 “just as prohibition hit the States,” according to Wallis, and as the spirit was making a significant resurgence in popularity worldwide.
“It was this first gin that sparked the love of the spirit by my grandparents, who continued distilling throughout wartime Britain,” added Wallis.
Choosing Langley for Highclere Castle Spirits was easy, according to company CEO Adam von Gootkin.
“When you consider the fact that it is one of England’s oldest distilleries, that tells me that they have a passion and quality standard,” said von Gootkin. “If they can last 200 years, then there’s something to how they do things.
“We looked at quite a few distilleries, and Langley has a really good reputation for making very successful yet bespoke craft gins.”
Distilling gin follows—what else?—a traditional method. It takes three days do distill the spirit and Langley uses copper pot stills, some of which date back to the early 1800s.
“We have five of varying sizes, all named after influential women in the company’s history,” said Wallis.
On the first day of distillation, according to Wallis, botanicals are loaded into the ethanol-containing stills and gently warmed to release the fragrant oils. This is then allowed to macerate overnight, and early the next morning the stills are turned to full temperature and distillation begins in earnest.
“Our team watches the still for eight hours constantly, nosing the gin to ensure only the best parts of the distillation are used for Highclere Castle Gin,” explained Wallis. “On the third day, once the still has cooled, we empty the used botanicals and send these off for anaerobic digestion—all part of the distillery’s efforts to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”
Wallis called it a privilege to work with the team at Highclere Castle to source the finest botanicals to make the gin. In particular, she found that the Castle’s Victorian-era orangery, with its exceptional citrus fruit, and the home-grown oats add a depth and smoothness to the gin like no other.
“Highclere Castle is such an iconic British landmark and to capture the essence of the Castle was so important to us,” said Wallis.
“That they were able to achieve the flavors we specifically wanted and never lose patience with us—because we were very nitpicky—they’re a great partner,” stressed von Gootkin. (See 25th Time Is The Charm: Finding The Perfect Recipe For Highclere Castle Gin.)
And how does Wallis enjoy her Highclere Castle Gin?
“Over ice,” she said, “to allow all of the aromas to be fully released.”