Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Chase Distillery in Herefordshire. I was given an extensive tour around the farm with great weather accompanying me. Master Distiller and also my guide for today Jamie Baggott took a good few hours to show me around, taking me through all the processes they work with to create their 70+ variations. Mainly the production of their alcohol was explained to me: Potato for their Vodka and Williams Gin and Apple for thier Williams Gin. The two main agricultural products of Herefordshire are indeed Apples (Producing cider is the big thing in this area) and potatoes, for which the red clay soil is perfect.
Chase Distillery was established by Will Chase in 2008, when he sold his previous company: Tyrrell’s Potato Chips. Having learnt a great deal about potatoes, he recognized the potential of launching a spirit-brand and after a testing period of 4 years he launched Chase Vodka. In 2010 it got awarded Double Gold and best in class at the IWSC in San Fransisco over 249 other brands and it could name itself World’s Best Vodka. I found a great interview with Will Chase here, no need for me to rewrite all that.
Williams Gin is distilled at the farm, where both the apples (gin) and potatoes (vodka) needed for the base-spirit are grown. First, a base spirit made of apples is distilled for the gin. This is then re-distilled with the botanicals, being Juniper, Coriander, Orris, Liquorice, Angelica, Hops, Orange, Lemon, Elderflower and Brambley Apple. They use a small carterhead still for this, making sure the small batch distilling gives it the elegance it needs. To read about their full process of making their products, check here.
The bottle: The shoulder and foot of the bottle are about 2 mm wider than the middle at both sides, creating the optical illusion of a very slender bottle. It is fully transparent, except for the lowest 5 cms, with the absolute minumum of information displayed on the bottle: only the name, origin and some practical information is printed on it. It is decorated with an old apple tree in wintertime and because of the dark bottom, the Union Jack is a nice eyecatcher.
The nose: Creamy and slightly sweet on the nose, with juniper and coriander coming through right after. It has a somewhat damp yet fresh flavour that I recognise from ciders. This is logically caused by the base-alcohol being created from apples. 97/100
The contents: The first taste I get is juniper and coriander. Due to the high level of alcohol (48 % abv/96 proof), the gin releases some of it’s flavours only later. I kept the fluid in my mouth for 10 seconds and I noticed it started releasing more floral and fruity notes. It also reminded me of a fine Jasmin tea. The orange and lemon zest are part of the very long aftertaste, together with apple and elderflower. The mouth feel is silky-like and doesn’t get tart at any point.
You might get the idea that I’m writing a raving review on this product because I had visited the distillery, but I can assure you that this is not the case. I have visited a lot of distilleries (some of them more visitors centres actually) over the past few years and although visiting a location definitely contributes to appreciate a brand more, I’m focussing on the product, which basically is what it is. And on how it combines with Tonic Water. Chase produces both the “Elegant Crisp Gin” and the “Extra Dry Gin”, the latter at 40 % ABV. However, I carried a bottle of the “Elegant Crisp Gin” home with me, so here we go, in the mix!
Fever Tree: I must admit that I expected this to be the perfect match, but it wasn’t. A very dominant bitter taste is produced in this mix. A little strange, since neither the gin nor the tonic are very bitter. Especially in the aftertaste, the bitterness suppresses the palate too much. In the middle there are some sweeter (orange, liquorice, elderflower) and citrus notes. It is not a bad combination, don’t get me wrong, and you can still enjoy this mix for both are great products.
Fentiman’s: This mix goes in a completely different direction, but also not he one I was hoping for. A little too perfumed for my taste, very high on the citrus notes and with a floury (not floral) mouth feel.
Thomas Henry: The first sip indicates that this could be a very good combination. The characteristics of the gin are clearly present, with a nice juniper and citrus note at the beginning. The tastes evolves to more floral and fruity, slight bitterness in still present (quinine of course) but never predominant. The citrus in the gin and tonic work together great an to me this is a great example of how a tonic should serve the gin.
1724: A nice combination with Chase Gin, as it is a very soft tonic water. Especially the aftertaste is long and nice with citrus (both lemon and orange) and elderflower.
Conclusion: This is an amazing gin to taste neat and surprisingly more difficult to match with a the right Tonic Water. Thomas Henry was by far the best combination for me, but as tastes vary, another tonic water may be better for your taste. I also stirred a Dry Martini and this serves the gin much better. It is an amazing product, with a great story behind it that is honest and true (as I have seen with my own eyes), just like the people behind it.