Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Wine-influenced gin with Chapel Down’s gin

Two of the great loves in my life are wine and gin. I was really excited then when I recently received as a gift two bottles of gin from a distillery run by giants of the English wine scene - Chapel Down. Chapel Down have been experiment with their product line for a little while now. Their beer “Curious Brew” is really worth looking out for - it features on the drinks list of some pretty great restaurants, particularly a couple of high-end Indian restaurants that I have been to.

So, when I received these two bottles of gin I was intrigued. I was ever more interested when I looked at the bottles and saw that the two bottles had been made by distilling the grape skins of two of the grapes that they use for their wines - Bacchus and Pinot Noir; the idea being that the spirit created would take on some of the characteristics of the grapes that were used in the base spirit. Interesting… my inner wine geek is curious - time to make a taste test!  

Bacchus Gin


I started with the Bacchus. Bacchus is a Germanic grape that many people feel that the climatic conditions in England could lead to this becoming the preeminent grape for still white wines. It tends to display gooseberry and elderflower notes; with a very high, rapier-like, acidity which gives it bite and freshness. In their gin Chapel Down distilled the base spirit with botanicals of coriander, elderflower, lavender and orange peel (amongst others). Neat in the glass, I could tell that this was a very aromatic gin - on the nose I got a little hint of that coriander spice, along with the more expected citrus notes. 


I made this into a gin and tonic with an 100ml serving of Schweppes Signature Collection tonic water and added a garnish of lemon peel. This made for a very fresh and clean GnT, which really picked out those lemon / citrus notes. I also thought that I got a bit of those elderflower notes that I was expecting from the Bacchus influence and the botanicals. 


To experiment a bit further, I made a Gin Martini with the Bacchus gin - which is probably my all time favourite cocktail. I love it because it is both simple (only two ingredients) and complex (because you can play with it so much and I am quite particular as to how I like it!). Here is the recipe that I followed:


70ml Chapel Down Bacchus Gin

20ml vermouth (I used Sacred English Dry Vermouth)

Stirred not shaken*

Garnish - twist of lemon


I am not one of those people who only puts a hint of vermouth in their martinis, or who just uses it “to coat the ice”; I like to taste the influence of the vermouth in the martini - and when you have an award-winning, highly-crafted product from someone who know what they are doing, why wouldn’t you want to taste it?! This was an excellent Gin Martini, I really think that the aromatic flavours from the gin came through nicely and complemented the twist of lemon. 

because James Bond is an idiot and doesn’t know how to make cocktails.

Pinot Noir Gin


I probably don’t need to introduce Pinot Noir too much, but worth noting that it is one of the four grapes that goes into Chapel Down’s Sparkling Brut - in fact it currently makes up 42% of the blend (some of you may be thinking “four grapes? What’s the fourth grape?” Good question - there is 5% Pinot Blanc in the Brut). The gin is infused with botanicals of coriander, dried red berries, Angelica root, citrus fruits, rosehip and rosebuds. The first thing that you notice about the gin is that it does have a slightly rose colour to it in the bottle. On smelling it you really do notice a different flavour profile - this is more floral, it as a kind of prettiness that reminded me of a rose blooming away happily in June. I thought I detected some red fruit notes of strawberries and red cherries, but I wondered if I was looking for that because I knew of the PN influence and the botanicals. 


I made this into a Gin and Tonic using the same measure of tonic as in the Bacchus, but I added a different garnish, this time frozen strawberrries, in order to bring out those aromatics. This drink really gives you a lovely, lush and fruity GnT - but those floral notes are still there too. I really enjoyed this. Whereas the Bacchus was a classic, summery GnT; this felt a little more autumnal - which is quite appropriate right about now!


To play with this gin, I went in a different direction and to my other gin-cocktail-favourite: the Negroni! I figured that the red berry notes would make for a good accompaniment to those bitter Campari flavours. Negronis are really simple to make, I used the following:


30ml Chapel Down Pinot Noir Gin

30ml Campari

30ml Asterley Brothers Dispense Amaro 


This made for a really rather excellent negroni, I was very pleased with my hunch that this would go well.


So there you have it, two really excellent and interesting gins that would make the perfect gift for the wine lover in your life, or a nice addition to your own selection. Both bottles can be bought from the Chapel Down shop for £35/bottle, but they are doing an offer on two as a pack for £60.