How far will the house spirits trend go?

26th August, 2014 by Melita Kiely

From a liquor made from ants to a Jane Austen gin, an increasing number of bars are turning their hand to creating custom-made spirits, but how far will the trend go?

Will Lowe, of the Cambridge Distillery, is one of many distillers producing spirits specifically for bars

Will Lowe, of the Cambridge Distillery, is one of many distillers producing spirits specifically for bars

As bars struggle to stand out in a fiercely competitive field and consumers become evermore discerning about what they drink, owners are looking for alternative ways to capture customer curiosity.

Both the on- and off-trade’s shelves are fit to burst with a myriad of spirit flavours, so it comes as no great surprise then that bars are finding the notion of creating something bespoke an attractive prospect.

For Will Lowe, master distiller of The Cambridge Distillery, this is a trend he has seen evolve since founding The Cambridge Distillery in the UK two years ago. As the “world’s first gin tailor”, Lowe’s services have been sought to create all manners of unusual flavours. None more so perhaps than a gin made using wood ants for The Nordic Food Lab in Denmark. Anty Gin, as it is called, is now served at Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and best in the world, Noma.

Bespoke business

“The challenge was can we make a gin without any citrus at all but get that citrus character from ants instead?” explains Lowe. “And we did.” As master distiller, Lowe’s role involves taking the flavour profiles requested by his clients and guiding them through tastings to determine which botanicals complement each other the best.

In its first year of opening, the distillery made 86 different recipes. By the end of its second that number had grown to 512, and there is currently a three-month waiting list.

“We didn’t know if there would be a demand but clearly there is,” Lowe says.

When questioned about whether or not tailored spirits were an expensive venture, there was no hesitation from Lowe in admitting there is. “We are not the Tesco of gin; we’re not stocking anything high and selling it cheap,” he explains. “We make things the best way. What we are interested in is fine levels of craftsmanship.

“There’s a whole library of 70 distillates. We distil each botanical individually. Each has its own maceration period with different temperature and different pressure. The logistics of it all are very challenging.”

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