Imagine it as love at first sight. It was a bright and sunny day in 2016, and Style Matters, a bespoke furniture maker based in Knutsford, was re-launching their showroom. Quinteassential and Forest Gin were invited to attend the event, and to showcase their products to invitees.
I met Karl Bond, founder of Forest Gin, at the event and we hit it off immediately. Northern and proud, both Forest Gin and Quinteassential share the same passion towards ingredients and other similar values. On a whim, I use some Quinteassential’s Imperial Earl Grey and infused the tea in Forest Gin to create my version of a classic G&T. At the risk of patting myself on the back, the only surprise was how good it tasted. Thus the seed of collaboration was sowed on that fateful day.
Bond & his M = Forest Gin
Karl Bond and wife, Lindsay, and daughter Harriet.
From their Peak District Distillery, Karl and his wife, Lindsay, plus their irreplaceable leader in all foraging mission, daughter Harriet, had crafted the world’s only gin that was awarded two separate double gold medals at San Francisco World Spirit Awards. It’s all the more remarkable given prior to Forest Gin, Karl had zero experience in distillery spirits business. Up till 2014, Karl was holding a day job trading IT hardware, but the call of the wild proved too tempting.
Karl and Lindsay were distilling from home as a hobby since 2013 but the results were mostly disappointing. One fine day in 2015, they introduced high quality ingredients to their process, including some foraged from the forest by their daughter. The resulting gin was a hit with family and friends, and they decided to try selling it. A batch that they distilled in January 2015 was taken on by Harvey Nichols and several Michelin-starred restaurants. These first 80 bottles are labeled “Batch number 1,” and Forest Gin was born. They still make it to the same recipe, in exactly the same way now.
Foraged, neither shaken nor stirred
Left: another batch of ingredients being grounded. Right: A late summer forest forage.
From Macclesfield Forest, Karl, Lindsay and Harriet foraged for wild berries, moss, ferns, bark, pine and a sprinkling of wild flowers. These are combined with sourced organic ingredients like coriander seeds, vanilla pods among others and grounded by hand with pestle and mortar before being distilled. The fragrant spirit is then blended with fresh, soft water from a natural spring at their distillery.
Imperial Earl Grey uses oolong as a base instead of the usual black tea with Italian bergamot which imbues it with vanilla notes and a soft citrus aroma. When steeped in Forest Gin, the alcohol draws out the flavour of Imperial Earl Grey beautifully. The result is a deep amber colored gin that is clean tasting with herbaceous and fruity notes that trails a scent of citrusy bergamot. Thus, the essence of Earl Grey Forest Gin.
The path to Earl Grey Forest Gin was not paved with petals however. Karl has gone through hundreds of batches to fine tune the taste. He said, “tasting all of those was a tough job, but someone had to do it!” And here I was thinking and envying the life of Bond. Once he perfected the recipe, the whole process takes about five days when they start on a Monday morning. By Friday, the gin is bottled in bespoke royal blue glaze porcelain produced in Stoke-on-Trent by Wade Ceramics. The bottles are imprinted with a woodcut style illustration by artist Suzy Taylor based in Hertfordshire.
Bernadine Tay, founder of Quinteassential and tea designer, said, “from the careful sourcing of ingredients to the end bottle, this is a showcase of British craftsmanship.”