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Forest Gin - the spirit made from botanicals sourced from Macclesfield forest

PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 April 2015 | UPDATED: 20:49 06 November 2017

Forest Gin

Forest Gin

Archant

Cheshire is a county that likes a drink and one Macclesfield family hopes their brand of gin will stir our interest, writes Heidi Nagaitis

Macclesfield Forest Macclesfield Forest

Renowned for its pale ales, hoppy brews and being the champagne capital of the UK, Cheshire is a county that knows its tipple.

And now one Cheshire family are looking to add to the county’s spirit store with the launch of their very own home-distilled gin.

Just over a month ago husband and wife team, Karl and Lindsay Bond, along with chief ingredients picker, daughter Harriet, launched Forest Gin at the RedWillow bar in Macclesfield.

‘We began making gin as a bit of a hobby. Lindsay is a coeliac, so we started experimenting with clear spirits in our kitchen at home,’ said Karl. ‘We never intended for our gin to become so popular!’

Lindsay Bond and daughter, Hattie (7), foraging for ingredients in Macclesfield Forest Lindsay Bond and daughter, Hattie (7), foraging for ingredients in Macclesfield Forest

The RedWillow bar was the perfect setting to introduce the public and press to the craft gin, made from botanicals sourced from Macclesfield forest itself.

Right at the heart of the Cheshire Peak District, Macclesfield Forest was once the favoured hunting grounds of the Earls of Chester. Now recognised as a site of Biological Importance, the forest is teeming with wildlife, from herons and red deer, to badgers and weasels. This fantastic natural habitat is also home to some superb botanicals, which give Forest gin a unique flavour and taste.

Karl explained: ‘Most gins on the market have subtle floral notes, however I love the powerful flavours of red wine and whisky and thought why not try to create a stronger gin that you can drink neat?’

Although the recipe is a closely guarded secret, the family include wild bilberries, gorse flowers, raspberries, blackberry leaf and local moss from the forest in their blend of botanicals. This is complemented by the purity and softness of the water used in Forest Gin.

For hundreds of years, Macclesfield’s silk production processes have been hailed as some of the most advanced across the globe, with other nations unable to replicate the softness of the finished fabric. This has been credited to the quality of Macclesfield’s water which, as a key ingredient in Forest Gin, gives a luxuriously smooth taste.

Key speaker at the launch party and noted gin connoisseur, Charlie Hooson-Sykes, discussed the history of gin, its growing popularity and suggested garnishes with guests.

Charlie said: ‘The gin has a number of layers, an earthiness given by the foraged moss, a little fruit from the foraged berries and a number of floral notes at the top. Through experimentation, we’ve discovered rosemary is a great garnish for it, but grapefruit peel also works well, as it tones down the earthy notes and brings the florals forward. It’s a great gin to work with and I’m honoured to be invited to this tasting.

‘I’ve yet to find any history of gin in Macclesfield, bar mention of horse gins,’ said Charlie. ‘Imagine my disappointment to discover they’re a form of mill!’

As the first gin product produced and launched in the area, Macclesfield-born Karl and local girl Lindsay were keen to stick to traditional distilling and preparation methods for their Forest Gin. Daughter Harriet leads scavenger hunts through the Cheshire woodland to find the necessary incredients, while the distilling process uses the family’s own copper condenser to protect the delicate flavours in the mix.

Seven-year-old Harriet said: ‘I really like picking berries for mummy and daddy’s gin. At first I thought they would sell it from a shed at the bottom of the garden, but daddy delivers our gin all around the country.’

‘We’ve had so much interest in our gin,’ added Karl. ‘It’s hard keeping up with the demand.It normally takes three days to produce just 75 bottles of Forest Gin, but its worth the effort.’

Bottling a product made from the essence of Cheshire is a difficult task, but Karl and Lindsay have kept it traditional, opting for printed kiln-fired ceramic bottles which safeguard the gin from direct sunlight and against temperature variations. With a design showcasing Macclesfield forest and a pesky weasel, Forest Gin is already being stocked by the finest Cheshire eateries and watering holes as well as in Harvey Nichols stores across the country.

So, how do the Bonds take their gin?

‘I prefer it neat, with lots of ice,’ said Karl. ‘Thanks to our fantastic ingredients the gin has a beautiful flavour of its own, but it works just as well with mixers – Lindsay is a fan of a dirty martini, with the obligatory olive.’

With a successful product on the market, are the Bonds looking to expand?

‘One day we’d like a permanent distillery in Macclesfield,’ said Karl. ‘But right now we’re happy with our truly family business.’ w

To find out more about Forest Gin, visit Karl, Lindsay and Harriet’s website at www.forestgin.com

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