Gin, rum and vodka: Yorkshire’s best distillery experiences

Feb 23, 22
Gin, rum and vodka: Yorkshire’s best distillery experiences

TinyMart is sharing this content, the original was posted by LORNA PARKES Lonely Planet Writer, 6 JUNE 2019 So please click here to go there
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Yorkshire in northern England has become a hotbed for craft distilleries. Most are making gin, but there’s also rum, vodka and soon whisky to slosh around your glass. Natural ingredients thrive here – from sea kelp to wildflower honey, and local lavender to sloe berries – and what's being bottled here is often a lesson of the land. For World Gin Day (8 June), here is our pick of the best places to sample local spirits in Yorkshire.

Two glasses with gin over ice stand on a counter, with ingredients surrounding them
Gin glasses at Rare Bird Distillery © Rare Bird Distillery

Rare Bird Distillery, Malton

It was Italian chef Antonio Carluccio who first called the market town of Malton ‘Yorkshire’s food capital’ but it’s been its small producers like Rare Bird Distillery that have helped ensure the name sticks. This small-batch distillery and gin school is one of the anchors of Talbot Yard, a cluster of historically important stables reimagined as a food court of sorts.

Rare Bird’s entire stock is distilled in Florence, the 300-litre copper still on your right as you enter. To your left you’ll find a couple of comfy sofas to drop into with a G&T; in warmer weather drinkers spill out onto the cobbled courtyard.

The gin is a sophisticated, savoury London Dry with veins of rosemary and hibiscus — try the popular rhubarb and ginger gin for a quintessentially local flavour. Distillery founder Matt Stewart is happy for you to bring chocolates or pork pies from neighbouring retailers to snack on while you drink. 

Hooting Owl Distillery, East Riding

Twelve miles east of York, Barmby Moor is a village that was mentioned in the Domesday Book created in 1086 for William the Conqueror. History pulses through its veins: Queen Victoria is even thought to have once bedded down in the Georgian former inn that now houses the village’s Hooting Owl Distillery. Its signature tipple is London Dry gin, with the biggest batch run just 150 bottles. The distillery produces four different Yorkshire-themed gins, each nosing subtle differences that reflect the regions after which they are named.

The only way to visit is with Brewtown, which this year launched behind-the-scenes gin tours that trot around three craft distilleries near York – the only sticking point is that you need to drum up a group of six to book.

Spirit of Harrogate

It’s no surprise that the most sophisticated gin experience in Yorkshire is in posh Harrogate. On the edge of the Montpellier District, overlooking the vast park that is the Stray, lies a converted terrace house where gin enthusiasts can book onto gin tasting evenings with nibbles. The house spirit is Slingsby gin and vodka, the name of which is a nod to the chap, William Slingsby, who in 1571 discovered the restorative properties of the local spring water that turned Harrogate into a premier spa destination. The gin is made using water fed from the town’s aquifer and local botanicals including Taylors of Harrogate green tea.

During the day, Spirit of Harrogate is a bottle shop stocking seven different Slingsby spirits, including a couple that can only be purchased in this store. Harry Potter-esque potion bottles at the front of the shop dispense experimental gins that Slingsby’s distillers are working on. Ruminate on flavours like marmalade and lemon cream, then leave feedback to help with product development. One such gin that started this way is Slingsby’s popular Yorkshire Rhubarb Gin, sourced from the West Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle.

A dark wood bar with rows and rows of spirit bottles in the background, and three lights hanging low over the bar
Bar area at HSDC © Humber Street Distillery Co

Humber Street Distillery, Hull

The friendliest bunch of gin-swilling hipsters are manning the decks at this distillery-bar in Hull’s regenerated Fruit Market area. They’re knowledgeable, too, and can chew your ear off about any of their 150+ gins while you sip a Hull Dry Martini on a stool in the exposed-brick bar. The choice includes rare international gins, aged gins and local bottles such as York Gin and Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin. Look out for Whitby Gin, which is distilled with sugar kelp foraged from Robin Hood’s Bay and heather from the North York Moors.

Shortly after opening in 2017, the team also started to distil its own gin on-site. Humber Street Distillery’s London Dry is made with pink peppercorns and has a bit of spice, while the berry edition is laced with 33kg of mixed berries per 150L batch. Tour-and-tasting sessions run Sunday to Thursday from 12pm to 7pm.

Harrogate Tipple, Ripley

Everything about Harrogate Tipple’s gin is hyper-local. The distillery occupies old stables on Ripley Castle Estate, four miles north of Harrogate. The distillery owner, Steven Green, works with the castle gardener to grow his botanicals in the estate’s gardens and Victorian hothouse, and uses only 100% Harrogate spring water. He also makes an award-winning rum that goes down like molten gold, using wildflower honey from bee hives in Lady Emma’s private gardens.

You can come for a tour and tastings at this rustic backyard operation, but to experience the full rural idyll join the distillery for its gin-making school, which is launching this summer. You’ll be allowed to forage the castle gardens to gather your own unique blend of botanicals, and then distil your poison on the estate.

A glass full of ice sits on an outside table next to a bottle of Cooper King Dry Gin
A bottle of Cooper King Dry Gin © Cooper King Distillery

Cooper King Distillery, Sutton-on-the-Forest

Founders Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume, a former scientist and architect, struck upon the idea for Yorkshire’s first whisky distillery while touring Tasmania just as whisky production was experiencing a renaissance there in 2014. The know-how they brought back from time spent with Bill Lark – the godfather of Tasmanian whisky – has been channelled into a self-built, sustainable distillery 10 miles north of York, below the Howardian Hills. It runs on 100% green energy, and offers distillery tours at 2pm and 4pm on Saturdays, along with a bar from 10am to 6pm.

Whisky is the ultimate goal here, but it is years in the making (due to be released in 2024) so in the mean time Cooper King is pouring its efforts into gin. Abbie and Chris draw honey from their own bee hives, source local lavender and buy in Maris Otter barley from Yorkshire farms to make this gin, which they describe as a ‘sipping spirit’. The distillery runs a bottle refill scheme and the equivalent of one sq metre of native English woodland is planted for every bottle of gin sold, as part of the 1% for the Planet initiative.  

Where to stay

Most of the region’s craft distilleries are in North Yorkshire, so York makes a good base for exploring. The Grand, next to York station, and Grays Court, an atmospheric medieval mansion near York Minster, are both hotels that offer gin-themed afternoon teas.

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