Portobello Road Gin

21 Jan 2015
4 min read
Tucked above Portobello’s busy west-London streets, one of the city’s finest gins is distilled in The Ginstitute and served in one of Sophie Cater’s favourite bars: the Portobello Star. She chatted with Brand Director, Tom Coates…
Portobello Road Gin

How was Portobello Road Gin created?

Hailing from our address, nestled away on the top two floors of a 19th Century public house on London’s world famous Portobello Road we opened a tiny Still Room named The Ginstitute: London’s second-smallest museum and home to our 30l alembic still Copernicus the Second. It is here we planned to demystify distilling and give people the chance to make their own gin.It was here, whilst putting together The Ginstitute that Ged, Jake and Paul decided that if they were going to provide this experience it really wouldn’t be complete without a gin which could call the Ginstitute home.In the nine months of experimentation that followed, the character of the gin was slowly created – a little more of this, a little less of that, this one makes a nice Martini, that one makes a nice Negroni, well, you get the picture. Slowly but surely something we could be proud of emerged. Thus Portobello Road No. 171 Gin was born.

We hear the gin is 42%! That sounds like enough to blow your socks off if it’s not in a cocktail?

Alcohol carries flavour and the most traditional London Dry Gin brands would have also have been strong! We wanted something that not only created this punchy gin flavour but also not too high to alienate drinkers and tasting at various strengths 42% fit.

T here are 9 botanicals in the gin – have these been added one by one, or is this the original recipe?

Traditionally styled London Dry Gin, our base spirit is distilled here in the England from English grown wheat and our nine botanical ingredients come from around the world. These include Juniper and Orris from Tuscany, Spanish lemon peels, bitter orange peels from Haiti or Morocco, Nutmeg from Indonesia and Cassia bark from South East Asia. These botanicals are all steeped for 24 hours in our neutral grain spirit and then distilled.

How’s best to drink it not in a cocktail?

We love a Gin and Tonic and for Portobello Road Gin we suggest using large red wine glasses filled with plenty of good quality ice. A large measure of Portobello Road Gin and then slowly top this up with a good quality(we recommend Fevertree)tonic water so not to disturb the effervescence. Finally take a thin slice of the peel from a Pink Grapefruit and twist this over the glass releasing the oils from the skin. Pop this on top and enjoy!


What sets the Ginstitute apart from other gin distilleries?

The Ginstitute was the first of its kind, launched in November 2011, allowing customers to come down take part in course taking them through the history of London Dry Gin, a tutored botanical tasting session and finally Ginterns can blend a bespoke gin recipe to take away. Those recipes are then kept on file so they you can order as often as you like.

What’s The Gin Instructor, Jake Burger’s distilling background?

Jake began distilling on setting up the Ginstitute in 2011 and quickly became adept. All the botanical distillates used for the ginstitute course are made on site by Jake. However for Portobello Road Gin,Coppernicus the Second being somewhat diminutive in stature and volume, the decision was taken to find somebody with the knowledge, talent, artistry and wherewithal to distill Portobello Road Gin on a larger scale. This was when we were lucky enough to find ninth generation distiller and former chairman of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, Mr Charles Maxwell – a man whose family have been involved in distillation in London for over 300 years and the owner of The Thames Distillery in South West London.

We hear the Ginstitute is based on ‘a Victorian gin palace’. How so?

The Ginstitute took inspiration from the Gin Palaces of old featuring, beautiful etched mirrors, stained glass mirrors and oil burners. We also have quite a collection of gin and cocktail memorabilia on display here.

How do you guide ‘Ginterns’ through making their own gins? And how long is the experience?

For the first hour of your session the Gin Instructor will take youthrough the long and frequently miserable, history of gin. From the drinksorigins as a medicine through the gin craze which grippedBritain for 200 years,onto the Golden Era of gin as a cocktail ingredient and finally how gin hastaken its position in the modern world.

Upstairs, you meet Copernicus The Second, our diminutivecopper pot still. The gin instructor will explain to you the processes involvedin creating gin and give a quick overview of the many rulesand regulationswhich gin producers are obliged to abide. You will be given a detailedexplanation of how to go about choosing the various botanicals which are goingto define the flavour of the ginyou are about to create.

Time to get a little more hands on, as you’re given a tutored tastingand nosing of the botanicals that are available to you. Some will be familiarto you from the worlds of cuisine, perfume andconfectionary, others less so.

Having made your selections your Gin Instructor will assist you inblending your chosen distilled botanicals together to create a completelyunique recipe. A full bottle of this will be assembled whicheach gintern isable to take home with them on the night. This recipe is also recorded on ourdatabase which means that additional bottles can be purchased via the websiteat any point in thefuture.

Once each of the guests present has created and received their gin you willbe invited back downstairs for one last drink, usually a Martini (if you’refeeling up to it). Here you will also receive yourgraduation certificate andof course a bottle of our very own Portobello Road Gin to take home.

Portobello Star

171 Portobello Rd

Notting Hill, London

W11 2DY