Gin, English Style

Gin, English Style

London Distillery Company combines the best of then and now with their artfully crafted Dodd’s Gin

story & photos by Lisa Ludwigsen

As the saying goes, “Gin caused the downfall of London.” There’s truth to that. Tales from the 17th century recount the saturation throughout society of the powerful spirit—mothers abandoning their children, men rendered impotent, and riots in the streets as government intervention tried to turn the tide of the dark and ruinous trend. What started out as a medical treatment for indigestion and gout was eventually labelled “Mother’s Ruin.”

We’ve come a long way from the sordid tales of bathtub English gin, as evidenced by the lively tour of the London Distillery Company (LDC) I took with friends on a short visit to London last spring.

Housed in a brick warehouse under a railway arch in London’s trendy Bermondsey district, LDC’s quality standards mirror all the attention to detail toward the final product as the best craft distillers in Mendocino and the Bay Area. All botanicals used are certified organic, as is the base spirit. The honey is locally sourced, and the stunning labels and boxes are printed on carbon neutral paper made by wind power. LDC also reclaims heat energy generated from its stills.

London Distillery Company produces two gins—Dodd’s and Kew Organic Gin. It also makes English rye whiskey in small batches. Among the blend of 42 botanicals incorporated into Kew Gin’s classic English gin are seasonal flora from London’s Kew Gardens. This dry gin is clean and bright, perfect for a gin & tonic, with label designs evoking Kew Gardens, the 300-acre horticultural masterpiece in south London that is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants.

In a nod to the rough and tumble history of gin in England, Dodd’s is named after a London civil engineer, Ralph Dodd, famous for attempting to build the first tunnel under the Thames in 1789. In 1807, Ralph tried to open the London Distillery Company but ran afoul of the laws of the time. In 2013, LDC founder Darren Rook, resurrected Ralph’s dream, finally creating the London Distillery Company and naming the company’s first gin after Dodd, proving once again that entrepreneurial boldness and innovation can have long-lasting effects, even when they aren’t initially successful.

Dodd’s is a very drinkable gin with a well-rounded mouth feel and a big botanical profile—big juniper and bay laurel leaf accented with lime, raspberry leaf, otherworldly angelica, and two types of cardamom. Dodd’s uses a stateof- the-art cold vacuum distillation for some of the more delicate botanicals.

Though this writer prefers gin served as an icy cold dry martini, straight-up with olives, the refreshing cocktail served at the conclusion of the tour was a winner—Dodd’s with Fentimans Bitter Lemonade over ice, sweet, fragrant and a perfect kickstart to a fun London night. Fentimans sodas can be tricky to find in Mendocino County but are carried by Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and a few other local markets. Bitter Lemonade isn’t available in the US, but Fentimans Rose Lemonade would make a very suitable substitute.

Wondering about the differences between vodka and gin? You’re not alone. Simply put, all alcohol starts as a plant—grains or potatoes are most common. They are first fermented then distilled to concentrate the alcohol. This produces vodka. In the case of gin, after the initial distillation, botanicals are added, most predominately juniper and then a variety of other traditional and nontraditional herbs and flowers. Creating spirits is part science, part art, and the elaborate, shiny stills and plant formulas always remind me of the factory in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

The great news is that a trip to London isn’t necessary in order to enjoy high quality artisan spirits. Locally, American Craft Whiskey Distillers in Redwood Valley is the home to Tamar Distillery, which produces whisky, gin and vodka, and Greenway Distillers, which produces absinthe and beautiful rose liquor. Their tasting room, Caddell & Williams, is conveniently located at 108 West Clay Street in Ukiah. Hours are 8am-4pm Monday through Friday, 9am-noon Saturday.

As a final plug, if you’ve never visited London or if it’s been a while, go to London. It’s an accessible, friendly and welcoming city with so much to do and so many fine cocktails to enjoy!

Recipe: The Winter Sunset

Tamar Kaye, of American Craft Whiskey Distillers, suggests this holiday-inspired cocktail to get the party started. It is a version of a drink created by mixologist Hoolis C. Nation.

Build in an ice-filled glass:

  • 1 oz. gin, preferably Russell Henry Ginger Gin
  • 2 tsp. Aperol
  • 2 oz sweet Champagne

Garnish with a few fresh cranberries on a skewer.

Lisa Ludwigsen is marketing manager at Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op. For the last 25 years, she has worked with families, farms, and food through school garden programs, small scale farming and the media.