A couple from the UK with a passion for exploring the world, and enjoying a drink or two while we’re at it!
We want to share our travel experiences to help you plan your next trip, and let you know the best places to enjoy a cold one when you get there!
Gin is all the rage at the minute, it seems like every city and town has their own signature gin distillery, and we love it!
Given gin’s raging popularity, a lot of distilleries have started to offer ‘gin school’ experiences, in which the ‘students’ learn a little about distillation and actually distil their own bottle of gin!
We visited the gin school at Shakespeare Distillery in Stratford-upon-Avon to see for ourselves how Nat’s favourite spirit is made, and to see if we have a future in distilling!
About Shakespeare Distillery
Shakespeare Distillery is an artisan gin distillery based on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. Established in 2015, everything that Shakespeare Distillery produce is in small handcrafted batches, ensuring that their master distillers can devote their time and attention to producing the best tasting spirits.
Stratford is of course best known for being the home of playwright William Shakespeare. The distillery wanted to create something that’s unique to their area, so we think the pretty obvious right choice was made!
To elaborate a bit more on Shakespeare Distillery's inspiration for their gins, here’s a brief history lesson for you. The Tudor period in which Shakespeare lived was an important time for alcohol production. England’s monasteries were pretty much the only distillers of alcoholic spirits at the time, which they mainly produced for medicinal purposes, booo!
Thanks to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, ordinary folks were now able to experiment with distillation. The Tudor period became a time of great discovery and innovation in spirit production. People also started using spirits as recreational drinks for the first time too!
The distillery’s aim is to recapture and recreate this period of innovation by utilising traditional, sometimes forgotten ingredients to create delicious new gins.
The distillery is located on the Drayton Manor Farm Estate around 3 miles West of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Taxis to the distillery are readily available from the town and typically cost between £10.00-£15.00.
Don't worry though, there's ample parking for any unlucky designated drivers.
Experiences & Prices
Shakespeare Distillery offer several experiences at their distillery site. This is a list of the different experiences Shakespeare Distillery have on offer to their loyal customers.
|Experience||Price (Per Person)|
|Distillery Tour – A tour of the distillery as well as a guided tasting session of three signature spirits. Plus, a complimentary G&T.||£17.50 – Adults
£10.00 - Children
|Gin Cocktail Masterclass – Learn how to craft three classic gin-based cocktails. Also includes a complimentary G&T on arrival.||£35.00|
|River Avon Tasting Cruises – This one you won’t get at another distillery! Take a 60-minute cruise along the River Avon, taking in Stratford’s best sights. All while enjoying a guided tasting session and a free G&T in a souvenir glass to keep.||£22.50|
|Gin School - Distil your own bottles (1 x 50cl & 1 x 20cl) of gin made with botanicals selected entirely by you with the help of Shakespeare’s master distillers. Plus, three free drinks, a distillery tour and guided tasting session of their core range.||£99.00 For One
£125.00 For Two to Share a Still
For more information on the experiences and Shakespeare Distillery’s full range of products, check out their website.
The Gin School Experience
Time to make some gin!
We’re going to run you through our experience at Shakespeare Distillery’s gin school from the minute you arrive, to walking out of the door with your own signature gin in hand!
First of all, get signed in and take a seat in the bar area for a quick introduction to the distillery & their history, accompanied by their signature Stratford Dry Gin & Tonic. Their ‘Perfect Serve’ (how they recommend their gin is served), calls for a wedge of lemon and a sprig of Rosemary.
You won’t want to rush this so make sure you get to the distillery with some time to spare, don’t do what we did and arrive 10 minutes late!
Next up is a tour of the distillery, including a run through of their distilling equipment & process and bottling facility. All the distillery’s operations, including distillation, bottling, labelling, sealing and distribution take place on site with no outsourcing of any processes. All done by hand and in small batches with love, care and attention.
Now, head through past the distillery shop and into the ‘classroom’, because it’s time to make some gin! Grab a seat at your own personal 2.5 litre still and get to work.
The first job is choosing your botanicals (ingredients), which may seem like a pretty daunting task, but trust us it’s so much easier than you might think. At your workstation you will have a sheet of paper with different botanical groupings depending on the type of gin you want to create. The distillers are all really knowledgeable and if you talk through the idea for your perfect gin with them, they’ll be able to tell you which botanicals to put into your gin, and how much.
We’re both fans of spicy (not as in a vindaloo…) style gins, and Nat has a deep-rooted love for pink grapefruit. So, we decided to “attempt” to create a spiced, citrusy gin. Which is apparently not as easy as it sounds!
Once you’ve chosen your recipe, grab your set of scales and start weighing out your ingredients. The distillers will bring over your botanicals and help you measure out the correct amount of each to put into your still.
Now that your recipe and botanicals are ready, it’s time to distil some gin! Pour your botanicals into the still, which will already have the correct amount of the base spirit inside, and one of the team will put the still together for you. Now you just turn it on, sip your Tom Collins and wait for the magic to start.
It’s important to keep the still at the right temperature. The distillation needs to happen at a certain pace, you don’t want the spirit inside the still to evaporate too quickly, otherwise the botanicals won’t have time to release all of their delicious flavour.
When the still is up to temperature, the liquid inside will start to evaporate, travel up the still and condense in the pipework that runs down to your collection beakers.
When the distilled gin first starts to drip out of the still, don’t rush in to catch the first few drops to try. The first part of the distilled spirit to come out of the still is the Head, and you definitely don’t want to be drinking it as its essentially poison!
Hold fire until you’ve collected just enough (the distillers will help you), take the Head away and start collecting your very own gin.
This process does take a little while, so by now the guys will have come around with another drink for you, so just sit back and enjoy!
While your delicious new gin keeps slowly dripping from the still, the distillers will take you through a tasting of three of Shakespeare’s different spirits. First allowing you to try it neat, followed by a recommended tonic.
These are only small tasters but it’s great to see the whole range that the distillery produces. First up is the Rhubarb Gin, ever a classic, this one goes just as great with ginger ale as it does with a good tonic! Next is the Elderflower & Quince gin, which is subtly fruity, followed by the Mulberry Gin, which is deep and rich.
By now your little batch of gin will be well on its way and almost ready. Luckily you have time to squeeze in one more drink if you fancy it! Which after the three or four you will have already had we doubt you’ll turn down. The guys will come around with a menu of gins, cocktails and cakes (yes, there’s a café on site too!) They'll simply take your order at your still, so take your pick and enjoy. Just remember though this one is at your own cost.
Once you hit 400ml, it’s time to collect your gin! Turn off the still and hand over your creation to the distillers to measure the ABV, ours came out at a whopping 75.91%! This is way too high for bottling so the distillers will dilute your gin with neutral spring water down to bottling strength, which will also give you 700ml, or enough to fill a standard sized bottle. In the end, our gin still came in at a very healthy 46.02%!
Now that your gin is ready for bottling, it’s time for a taste test! Let’s see if opening that dream distillery of yours is going to be a reality shall we… Our spiced pink grapefruit gin didn’t quite go to plan. It was still nicely spiced just as we hoped, we may have added more cinnamon than we thought, which in the end gave a very festive, Christmassy flavour that we absolutely love!
Last, but certainly not least, it’s time to bottle your gin and seal it ready to break out for that special occasion. First though, you need to name your gin! Earlier on in the process while your gin is still distilling, one of the guys will come around and ask for the name of your gin.
This may come easier to some than others and it took us a little while to come up with a name we liked. In the end (not knowing we had accidentally made a Christmas gin) we decided on the name Lekker Gin. We had travelled to South Africa in November 2019 and learned that Lekker is an Afrikaans word which means superb or fantastic. Plus a lot of grapefruit is grown there so naturally we thought it would be a great fit for our grapefruit gin…. oops.
The distillers will come around with 50cl and 20cl bottles for you to tip your gin into and they will also show you how to properly seal your bottle. Lastly, stick your labels onto the bottles and your gin is ready to go! You might notice from the photos that our label is a little less than straight. Moral of the story, never let Nat label anything after 4 gins…
Congratulations! You have officially graduated from gin school! The distillery shop will be open for you to grab a bottle of any of Shakespeare Distillery’s spirits, or other great merchandise before heading back into town to enjoy the rest of your evening.
Your gin will need to mature in the bottle for around two weeks to achieve maximum flavour, so try to hold fire on opening the bottle too soon!
We loved the gin school! Shakespeare Distillery do an amazing job of filling the experience with the tour and tastings in addition to the gin school, which alongside the free drinks makes this one really great value. You really do feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the experience and sipping on a gin of your own creation is a real treat!
If you’re looking to treat the gin lover in your life to an experience they will absolutely love, or if you just want a great addition to a day out in one of England’s most famous historic towns, look no further!
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