I haven’t been around much. Some might say at all. SCA stuff was a bit hard to keep up with with other stuff going on life and mundane work wise. I’ve found myself going “I should look into that” and “I should try that!” again, so maybe that’s a sign that things are coming back around? I shall see how it goes. I have some old projects to write up and a catalonian menu to describe but that will hopefuly come later. This evening I’ve decided to squee about some mild adventures in alchemy, because it seems like as good a place for it as any.
Because Gytha is awesome beyond all varieties of awesome we got to go to a gin school, the Listoke Gin school in Drogheda. It was amazing. I am aware that gin is not right up there as the first medieval drink you think of, but I claim the existence of Genever allows all the gin research I desire 🙂 Genever is Dutch for “juniper.” The drink is a clear, botanically flavoured, malted grain-based spirit from Holland or Belgium, but not gin. It was first made with malt wine and seems to have solid historical ground in the 1500s. It seems to be a sort of “some aspects of whiskey, some aspects gin” mix, and I’d actually quite like to experiment some day but in the mean time lets just ignore that actual gin is not quite period.
The school had to move from its original location is Listoke House to a unit in an industrial/retail park, but once you’re inside the building (after you stop exclaiming about the lovely smell of the gin) they have this excellent room within a room sort of setup for the classes. I’m afraid I didn’t get a decent photo to illustrate the lovely job they did on the classroom but there’s one on their website at https://listokedistillery.ie/gin-school/ The workbench settings all have their own copper alembic for each student to work with.
Having checked that none of us were driving we were handed a glass of gin and informed of their “no empty glass” policy! The gin itself, Listoke 1777 is delicious, I loved it even without the good stuff that followed. We looked at the actual production area and the modern stills, had a talk about the Listoke business and the ladies looking after us were funny, informative and enthusiastic, which is everything I love in an instructor.
Back in the classroom the centre of the room was dominated by a large workbench with jars of ingredients for us to choose from. I very quickly found cubebs and grains of paradise, so those ended up being top of my mental list to seek out later. There was more gin, there was tasting the three main types of gin flavour neat – floral, citrus and spice so that we could get the idea of what we might like and then Sadhbh ran us through the 4 core ingredients and our optional extras with some pointers about what kinds of things worked in what ways. Gin is not gin if it doesn’t have juniper berries, so we needed 15-30 gms of those, half of whatever quantity of those we picked of coriander seeds, a spoon of angelica and the tip of a spoon of orris root. After that we needed at least 8 other ingredients chosen by whim, smell, voodoo or whatever we so chose, with the advice to go for 2 citrus, 2 floral and 2 spice and then choose the other 2 as we wished. Honestly, assembling ingredients into my bucket was some of the best enjoyment I’ve had making anything. There was a happy buzz of people discussing options and choices, and while the gin accompaniment probably helped I suspect people were just enthusiastic anyway.
Ingredients chosen we brought them back to our stations where they were added to the alembic which contained neutral grain spirit and set to distill. There was more gin for those that liked to partake.
The gin comes out at about 70% so needs to be diluted down. The stream of gin at 70% is potent stuff, scent and alcohol wise. The school provided us with soakage, cheeses, meats, bread, hummus, crisps and so on while we waited for the gin to pour in, it was delicious (and much needed, by me anyway!). We each went home with a full bottle of our own special recipe gin
Honestly, I can’t recommend it highly enough, if you like gin at all try it out!