Over the summer a beautiful new bottle caught my attention as a flurry of pictures appeared across social media. Distillers of Surrey was not a distillery which I had heard of before, hardly surprising at a time when gin is at it’s peak and it seems new distilleries are opening by the hour. So when a competition popped up on Instagram to win a bottle I hastily entered and then promptly forgot about, as one does. A couple of weeks later I was tagged in an Instagram story saying that I had won a bottle of Nautical. I actually went back to check that it was legit because I honestly couldn’t ever remember entering. That happened to me once before and I won a free haircut and colour, I still don’t actually ever remember entering that competition at all though! (I have just realised that in my last post I claimed to never winning anything and now realise that I am perhaps luckier than I thought!)
Juniper and I had great fun when my Distillers of Surrey box arrived during the summer holidays. I had a bottle of gin, which might I add is a batch 01 which made me almost squeal with excitement, and she had another box to destroy and leave strewn across the kitchen floor. The gin was gorgeous, not at all what I was expecting for 57% ABV, I posted pictures and videos on social media which much interest from my fellow gin buddies and I was adamant that I would review it. Before I knew it time had run away with me, the summer had been and gone, the new school year had started and I still hadn’t moved forward with my gushings on the deliciousness of Nautical.
I am a firm believer in fate and it most definitely dealt me a hand, when in October, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Simon Sherlock from Distillers of Surrey at Catford Gin Festival. I was taken quite by surprise as he greeted me with “How’s the Nautical going?!” Yes, he actually knew who I was, (both exciting and a little unnerving.) He had remembered me from the competition…perhaps it was the slightly random sea-swept, wind-swept, torrential rain Boomerang video featuring the bottle which stuck in his mind. I actually even had the list of questions typed into my phone which I had intended to email to him and this was the kick I needed, “I’ve got questions for you” I garbled, over thirsty gin fans who were jostling to have a taster at their stand. “Just send them over!” he threw back, so I did and here you are, finally I’ve finished my piece.
Established in 2018, Distillers of Surrey was the brainchild of Simon Sherlock. Simon’s love for gin and other spirits started early in life (not too early mind you) as his father worked in the industry. He joined Silent Pool and was their head distiller for two and a half years from 2015 until Christmas 2017, when he decided to branch out and set up on his own. He settled on the village of Ripley as the location for his small batch distillery, which is a mere stones throw from Pyrford, where Simon was born. Flash forward not too far to June 2018 and the launch of two gins, Solstice and Nautical.
Solstice is inspired by the English summer, is fresh and clean on the nose with a beautiful scent of juniper and elderflower. Enveloped in a pale pink label, the bottle looks as refreshing as it’s contents taste. The label could also be seen as a nod towards the pink grapefruit which is used as a botanical and adds a zesty twist to it’s flavour profile. Solstice was always going to be a winner in my eyes because of the pink grapefruit, after all, it is my kryptonite!
Nautical, in contrast, wear’s it’s bold, blue label proudly, almost boasting it’s 57% Navy Strength ABV. A Navy Strength was always something Simon had in mind due to the location of the distillery. In the time of Henry VIII, Portsmouth grew as a naval port and brought prosperity to the village of Ripley, as trade passed through on it’s way to and from London. Admiral Nelson is even known to have stayed at the Talbot Inn in Ripley and Nautical is a “polite nod” to the naval heritage of the village. Made up of nine botanicals including lime and English angelica seed this has to be one of the smoothest Navy Strength gins that I have tried. As much as I love the Solstice, and it’s light, refreshing taste, the smooth juniper forward flavour of the Nautical really won me over and I must say just tipped it to be my preferred of the two. Interestingly when I asked Simon what his favourite was he said his preference depended on his mood, but his go to was generally also the Nautical.
October 2018 saw the launch of gin number three, the sage green labelled Aromatic. I enjoyed a taster of it while I was at Catford Gin festival and found it to be, in my opinion, a much more savoury gin than the previous two. Upping the number of botanicals again, this time to twelve, Aromatic features olives, rosemary, bay leaves and tea, all of which are sourced from the UK. The tea, in fact, comes from the UK’s first tea plantation in Cornwall.
Distillers of Surrey truly are trying to showcase the best that England has to offer, from botanicals, to boxes, to labels and the attention to detail does not stop at the gin. Their bottles are absolutely stunning, featuring heavy glass stoppers which make the most satisfying un-bottling pop sound. The bottles are wrapped in stunning, embossed labels, with images which depict some of the key botanicals used in all three gins. I had to chuckle when over the weekend my Pops spent a considerable amount of time inspecting and admiring the bottle which I had taken over to his house. He has a slight obsession with packaging and presentation due to a long spanning career in marketing and he’s not an easy one to win over!
So, with three delicious gins already on the market, what does the future hold for Distillers of Surrey? Well, I have it on very good authority that the future is most definitely looking bright. With visions of not only some great spirits, from Vodka to Bourbon, but also of tours and collaborations with the best local artisan companies. So watch this space.
A huge thank you to Simon for taking the time to answer my questions once I finally got around to emailing them, and of course for creating these three spectacular gins. I don’t know about you, but I for one cannot wait to see what comes next from Distillers of Surrey, because I’m sure it will be fantastic and exciting.