Gin may not be the first thing you think of when planning a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. Yet just a few miles from the town, in the peaceful Warwickshire countryside, is a craft distillery producing a range of artisan gins. I went on a Shakespeare Distillery tour to find out more.
Hand Crafted Gins At The Shakespeare Distillery
The Shakespeare Distillery was founded in 2015 with the intention of creating hand-crafted gins. Their original Stratford Dry is said to inspired by “Tudor knot garden botanicals”, with “traditional ingredients used in Shakespeare’s day”. Over the years they have expanded their range to include different flavours such as Mulberry and Elderflower & Quince.
The distillery later opened a Visitor Centre, and introduced tours and masterclasses. The most recent innovation is the creation of their own recipe Jester Rum.
The Shakespeare Distillery Tour
I’ve done distillery tours before, but this one had the feeling of being presented by enthusiasts. We started in the bar, where Harvey gave us an entertaining talk about the history of gin. (I had no idea that there was so much to know – like why was it known as “Dutch courage”, and what is the connection between gin and a Black Cat?)
Then we looked around the distilling and bottling operation. Again, this was very different from mass production facilities: a small scale operation with lots of experimentation and innovation. An added bonus is that they use solar power, making it more eco-friendly.
Sampling The Gin
Of course, for many visitors the highlight of the tour comes at the end. This was when we all assembled in the Gin School, a pleasant room with countryside views, for a tasting. This was where Claire poured us small shots first of the original gin, and then of some of the different flavours (the rhubarb, made with rhubarb from a farm in Herefordshire, was particularly good). There was a choice of gins, and a few rums, ending with a full sized glass of gin and tonic (designated drivers got a miniature bottle to take away instead).
But it was more than just a tasting. As we sampled, Claire talked us through the all-important business of exactly how to drink gin. What mixers to use, and the perils of over-garnishing. And how much ice is enough? I came away realising that gin was a rather more complex subject than I had previously suspected!
Shakespeare Distillery Gin School
While we were tasting the gin I noticed some small copper stills on the table in front of me. These are used by the Shakespeare Distillery Gin School, where visitors can have a go at creating their own gin, following the whole process from distilling to blending and bottling. You can use the botanicals supplied by the Gin School, or bring along your own: either way you will have a unique blend to take home with you.
If that isn’t enough, the distillery also runs gin masterclasses at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Stratford. Or you could try a gin tasting river cruise…
How To Visit The Shakespeare Distillery
- The Shakespeare Distillery is on the Drayton Manor Farm Estate, a few miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon.
- The distillery is open every day except Monday and Tuesday. You can visit the shop at any time during opening hours, but tours need to be pre-booked.
- The Gin School runs on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Again, pre-booking is necessary.
- You can also buy Shakespeare Distillery gins and other products at their shop on the High Street, in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Thanks to the Shakespeare Distillery for providing tickets to their gin distillery tour.