Male: And what better place to find out but a distillery contracting for several Gin brand names? As he enters the premises, Alex feels somehow glad he came by foot, as the fumes alone would have put his driving license at risk. His appointment is with a general manager, who's offered to give him a basic lesson in Gin production.
Mr McKay: So, this is where we keep our botanicals, and this is the most important ingredient. This is juniper.
Alex: Oh, that's juniper, the famous juniper I've heard a lot about.
Mr McKay: Yeah. The famous juniper berries. Lovely, purple berries.
Alex: That's the base of Gin.
Mr McKay: That's the base. Each Gin has lots of Juniper.
Alex: Can you eat them?
Mr McKay: You can do, but they're a bit bitter.
Male: Naturally, he has to try and it tastes like a cold and flu bath salts.
Alex: Oh, there they are.
Mr McKay: Yes, very bitter.
Alex: Yeah. So, that's just one of the ingredients?
Mr McKay: Do you wanna see the other ones?
Alex: Yeah, definitely.
Male: Of course he does, since Gin contains more ingredients than found in most spice shelves.
Mr McKay: So, after juniper, the most important ingredient is coriander, coriander seeds. Alex: Oh, I love coriander. It's an Indian food, lovely.
Mr McKay: Yeah. What we're trying to do is to build up a flavor profile. So, we want it to be sweet, so we use lemon. Very, very sweet.
Alex: So, actually, the recipe of the Gin depends on the amount of what you use of which ingredients?
Mr McKay: Absolutely, absolutely. There are some ingredients for some recipes that are not here. Some recipes are quite secret and have some quite strange ingredients in them.
Alex: But would you consider this as a base?
Mr McKay: Oh, yes.
Alex: This is Gin neat?
Mr McKay: Yeah. This is an old fashioned, traditional Star recipe.
Male: Now, here's a list of things you'll need for a classic Gin.
Alex: Some of these ingredients are very exotic. And I can imagine that in ancient days...so, Gin must have been very expensive because you had to import coriander or cinnamon. You had to import from India or wherever...
Mr McKay: Oh, you have to remember, though, that the people who started Gin were the Dutch and then followed by the English. And we had vast empires and we owned all the places where these spices came from.
Alex: Ah, so Gin could have only developed in countries like England or the Netherlands because they had all this access...
Mr McKay: Yeah, really. We had access to all the ingredients.
Male: So, we have all the ingredients, but how do we get from here to the bar classic? In this distillery, Gin is produced for five generations. And in the actual factory building, it feels like entering a time-honored cathedral of distinguished alcohol consumption. Famous names with their secret recipes, as well as supermarket brands, they all undergo the same process in one of the seven old distillery facilities. Alex: So, I noticed this one was called Jenny. We've got an Angela. They're all female.
Mr McKay: We have names for all our stills, always lady's names.
Alex: Why always ladies?
Mr McKay: Because they're a bit temperamental, just like ladies. Jenny, for example, is a teenager, so she's really keen and runs all the time. Angela, which is the one we have here, is a bit older. She has temper tantrums when she's operating.
Alex: They've got character.
Mr McKay: Oh, they've all got different characters. They're all completely separate. Alex: And you need to know these characters to work with them?
Mr McKay: Yeah, yeah. Come. So, this is Jenny.
Alex: Hi, Jenny.
Mr McKay: Jenny is our teenager. She's 16 years old and she's the biggest Gin still in Europe. She's our newest arrival. And today, she's making about a quarter of a million bottles of Gin.
Alex: In one day?
Mr McKay: In one day.
Alex: Quarter of a million bottles.
Mr McKay: Yeah.
Alex: So, how is the process working in there?
Mr McKay: Okay. Well, we've taken all the botanicals that we saw earlier and we've put them inside Jenny, which is just basically a big copper kettle. On top of the botanicals, we've put water and neutral alcohol, and then we've left it overnight with a slight warmth on it just for all those flavors to get together, okay? And then, this morning, fire up the boilers and she heats up to over 200 degrees.
Alex: So, she's quite hot now?
Mr McKay: She's very, very, very hot.
Alex: That's a hot girl.
Mr McKay: And she'll be making Gin for about seven or eight hours today, and all the flavors that are coming out of all those botanicals are going up through the swan neck and into the condenser, where it's returned to liquid and out comes Gin.
Alex: So, that down there, is that it? Mr McKay: That is Gin in a very, very concentrated level, and that's 80% alcohol.
Alex: You've got a Gin fountain in the middle of the distillery? Mr McKay: A Gin fountain in the middle of the distillery, yeah.
Alex: That's wonderful.
Mr McKay: Yeah.
Male: Just like in any old vault, there's a factotum. In this case he's called Andy, who, by the way, is completely ignoring Alex.
Mr McKay: Hi, I'm Alex.
Alex: Nice to meet you. Sorry, I don't want to disturb you. What's he doing?
Mr McKay: So, what Andy's doing is, all the oils from the different botanicals are coming off at different times, so the skill of the distillers is to identify the flavors as they're coming out of the still to see how far the distillation is going.
Alex: Because you can't see inside?
Mr McKay: Can't see inside, it's totally sealed.
Alex: So, could I drink this now?
Mr McKay: No.
Mr McKay: No. What you've got there is very, very concentrated Gin. What we'll do is we'll take some concentrate. Now, this is what comes out of the still, all those flavors all packed in together, and we'll put a little bit into the glass.
Alex: I see. This is this?
Mr McKay: Yes. This is 96% alcohol. What we're gonna do is put a larger amount of that...
Alex: That's a whole lot.
Mr McKay: ...and then finally, water.
Alex: Water. And voila, the magic trick is...?
Mr McKay: Well, we'll give it a good mix. That'll clear gradually. And that is Gin, finished Gin.
Mr McKay: Magic.
Alex: You've got the most wonderful job in the world.
Mr McKay: It's Wonderful.
Alex: Very good.
Mr McKay: Good.
Male: Now that he has an idea how it's being made, Alex wants to know more about its origin.