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New Forest Spirits in Ringwood launches gin discovery tours

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G&T lovers can now discover the botanical secrets behind the creation of handcrafted small batch gin with the launch of distillery tours by a Ringwood producer who is passionate about his brand.

Inspired by a trip to the famous Oban Distillery in Scotland, Mark and Kay Williams set up New Forest Spirits in 2018.

With a masters in chemistry and 30 years spent working in the food-and-drink industry, Mark paired his scientific knowledge with his skill for balancing flavours to produce what he claims is the “perfect product”.

Mark and Kay Williams set up New Forest Spirits in 2018
Mark and Kay Williams set up New Forest Spirits in 2018

Visitors to the distillery at Forest Corner Farm in Hangersley will be guided through the production process, which uses a blend of fine-grain spirit, New Forest Spring Water and specially selected botanicals to create this beautifully smooth, classic style of gin.

Portuguese alembic copper pot stills are used for the distillation process, and although Mark is unable to fire up the apparatus for health and safety reasons, they are a majestic sight to behold.

“The tour will start with a gin and tonic, or a takeaway for the designated driver, and after a walk through of the art of handcraft distilling there will be a tasting session,” said Mark.

Wyrd’s offering includes a classic dry gin – which he describes as having “notes of fragrant juniper blended with refreshing citrus, warming earthy hints and a peppery spice finish” – a damson gin, and a range of barrel-aged gins, cask aged in moscatel, sherry or bourbon barrels for up to 18 months.

The core flavours come from juniper berries and coriander seed, with earthy notes supplied by angelica and liquorice roots. The refreshing citrus flavours are provided by sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit peels, and cardamom, cassia and cubeb berries lend the spicy finish.

Mark has scooped several awards for his gins, including bronze and silver in the World Gin Awards, a bronze medal in the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and two-Star accolade in the Great Taste Awards.

“What attracted me in setting up my own distillery was the blend of science and art,” said Mark, whose early career was spent analysing flavours for Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association. “I wanted to be part of something more creative and intimate, and it gives me great pleasure to work within a local business community where everybody helps each other out.

“We are very keen to partner with other businesses to look at how we can start incorporating more local produce like fruits. We already use blackberries, damsons, crab apples and medlars, and have even experimented with local honey.”

Mark spent over a year trialling and testing his gin before he was finally happy with it. “This job requires an excellent nose and finely tuned taste buds to ensure the end product is smooth, well-balanced and, above all, delicious,” he said.

Mark distilling (47380404)
Mark distilling (47380404)

Jo Rich, who handles the marketing side of the operation, said distilling is very much a labour of love for Mark.

“Having seen huge distilleries where the spirits are monitored by machines, what Mark does is very much a craft,” she said.

“Every bottle has Mark’s signature on – this is the very definition of start-to-finish handcrafted.”

Mark’s gins are stocked in most of the area’s independent wine and spirits retailers, including Solent Cellar in Lymington, Page’s of Lyndhurst and New Forest Wines in Ringwood.

New Forest Hotels also uses Wyrd, and it has been sold at various shows and events in the area including the New Forest Show and Dogstival.

“We have found the last year very difficult because we haven’t been able to promote ourselves at the area’s various events,” explained Mark. “But we launched a hand sanitiser, and sales of that have seen us through – now we’re hoping for a good year ahead!”

Mark, who won a scholarship from The Worshipful Company of Distillers, plans to expand his range and is even considering partnering with local winemakers.

The 90-minute gin discovery tours will be launched on 10th June and will run on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Tickets are priced £15, and also include a branded gin glass.

For information or to book a ticket, go to wyrdspirits.com

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