A visit to Downton Distillery may be advertised to you as an activity; it isn’t – it is an experience. As soon as you arrive Hugh is busy putting you at your ease, talking about his life and love of nature. He gently explores your background identifying common areas of interest. He is a quiet master at gaining your trust. The tour started outside with a talk about Juniper. Most of us know next to nothing about Juniper, even if you drink gin. Hugh is an aficionado and guides you through a number of different varieties that he is growing on site. He waxes lyrical about his plans to expand his juniper planting and even taking over the next field to grow even more of it.
A short walk from the distillery you discover a well-kept secret, a large vineyard sited on a south facing slope taking full advantage. Hugh has plans for additional concoctions to add to his gin stable, and joining forces with the vineyard is a key part of that plan. Waste products from both businesses go to help the other thrive. It is a beautiful symbiosis.
Back in the distillery proper we now meet Hugh’s distillation collection. He has literally dozens upon dozens of bottles each containing the distilled essence of a single botanical – mushroom, beetroot, celery, walnut etc. Hugh must have wracked his brain to identify every conceivable contender for a gin botanical and then laboriously distilled it. From this he can be begin to build a recipe for a new drink, knowing exactly how it emerges from the distillation.
We were meant to be there 90 minutes, at 150 minutes we had to call a halt – we could easily have gone on for another hour or two, and Hugh looked all set to accommodate that. His boundless enthusiasm made this an enormously fulfilling and entertaining morning.
We booked the short distillery tour…..Hugh was very knowledgeable, hospitable and we had such a great time. Highly recommend.
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