This was my third visit to Manchester Three Rivers Gin School, but with a bit of a difference. This time around, I go to see their new expanded space in the adjoining arch. This means that the Gin School can now host 30 people – over double the capacity.
I was curious to see how this impacted on the experience. Would it feel too big, clumsy? Would anything be lost from the experience being that bit larger?
There was only one way to find out.
The arrival was just the same. Even the weather managed to be suitably Mancunian as it was grey with a bit of a downpour going on. Greeted with a G&T and the familiar distinctive distillery smell – sweetness, a little booze, and juniper. Shrugging off coats, and ditching umbrellas, we soon settled in to begin.
And again, everything is familiar. The video (which everyone loves and I can’t help the little heart twinge of pride when links to the day job appear on the screen), then downstairs for cocktail two (thank you so much for keeping the Aviation) and a little process chat. And the best bit for a gin geek like me, a little still ogling.
Ah Angel. She’s so shiny.
Then comes the change. Grabbing bags and coats, we headed next door. Time for a little experimentation of our own.
The space holds two banks of mini stills, one mirroring the other, and two walls of botanicals, so there are plenty to go around, plus a bar in one corner (and facilities in another – don’t worry, there’s no running back and forth for comfort breaks). There are other little tweaks too. Rather than a list of options, there’s now a veritable database of ingredients, making listing botanicals and amounts much easier.
This time for me, I was going spicy, with Christmas cake flavours – ginger, nutmeg, and citrus – the aim was to create something for drinking with ginger ale, as opposed to tonic.
As ever, whilst it’s a little bit of guesswork and a little bit of what you fancy, there are recommendations throughout the list of botanicals, so there’s much less chance of you getting it dreadfully wrong and creating something that you don’t like. I mean no guarantees, but that’s where the challenge comes in.
When everyone was suitably happy with their botanicals, it was time to add everything to the still, connect it up, and switch on the hot plate.
And have another G&T.
Discuss with the others in the group what flavours they’d gone with in theirs. Exclaim when the gin starts coming off the still, and how slow/fast yours is in comparison to others. Watch the liquid levels rise slowly.
Maybe have another G&T.
When you reach the magic 400ml, turn off. For it’s time to let it down with water to the ‘perfect’ ABV for you – and obviously if you’re me, stick the label on very wonkily, with dreadfully scribbly handwriting (that’s not the booze btw, my handwriting really is that bad).
Once we were all tested, labelled, and happy, we headed back to the first arch, for a final drink, gin purchases, and reluctant goodbyes.
The verdict on the bigger space? It could be clunky, it could be awkward, it could be overbusy and crowded, but they’ve worked hard to make it work well. Instead of overcrowded, the atmosphere is just more collaborative. Whilst the smaller space is more intimate, the bigger space not only means more gin being produced, but a bouncier, environment, and even the walk between sites doesn’t spoil it – in fact there are those who welcome the opportunity to step outside for a break in between.
I just might leave my gym bag at home next time.
I mean there will be a next time guys, right?