Pie and mash; Strawberries and cream; Chips and gravy. All great pairings. All very British. None, however, quite compare to the legendary combination of a good old-fashioned Gin and Tonic.
260 years after sketching the infamous “Gin Lane”, little could Hogarth have imagined that “Mother’s Ruin” would turn into “Millennial Gain”; from gin spas to Ginvent Calendars, Ginstitutes to gin parties – and now, gin distilled in a garden shed – over the past decade Britain has undergone somewhat of a gin Renaissance.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association calculated that last year just over 1.32bn G&Ts were drunk, the product of the 315 distilleries now up and running in Britain, a number that has doubled over the past 5 years alone. This is not a patch, however, on the 1,500 stills that were pumping out the spirit in early C18th London. With the current demand for craft spirits on an exponential increase, however, it doesn’t seem unfeasible that gin production could reach such levels again.
The concept of Bathtub Gin is well known, but Kensington-based couple Hollie and George of Duck & Crutch have taken this idea one step further: Garden Shed Gin. Hidden within a rather unassuming 6x4ft wooden shed, a Willy Wonka level style of production pervades.
You famously create and distil your gin in a garden shed no bigger than a double bed… do you have any expansion plans, or does the small size add to the character of the gin you produce?
We are rapidly running out of space, so we will have to get out of the shed for the main production pretty soon! Having said that, the shed will remain our experimental HQ; we will set up our 5 litre still (Bunny) and continue to run test batches in there.
And with that limited space, how much gin are you able to produce?
We can currently produce around 2000 bottles a year from our little shed, and that is distilling once a week. . . A lot of distilleries yield that quantity in one distillation.
Duck & Crutch. It’s not the most usual of names for a gin! What was the influence behind this?
We ran our first test distillation on Hollie’s, 27th birthday. . .‘Duck and a Crutch’ is a bingo call for the number 27 – that is where the name came from! Hollie created the entire brand and bottle label single handedly (and a lot of it hand-drawn). The inspiration came from our Kensington surroundings, including the floor tiling and rich colours, plus there are a lot of personal little bits hidden in there.
The bottle is a fascinating and unusual shape. It definitely stands amongst the other more generic gin bottles on the market! How did you decide upon that design?
We wanted a bottle with a long neck to create that great ‘glugging’ sound when poured, and also a bottle with thick glass. We landed on ours, which is actually a decanter designed for dark spirits – it is called ‘the Pirate’ and is an absolute beauty, albeit a nightmare to label.
When we first started speaking you were just off on a flavour-hunting trip to India. What new and exciting botanicals did you discover, and will you now be producing a new gin off the back of your discoveries?
We have brought back bloody loads that we need to have a play around with, all from Kerala. We cannot wait to give them a whirl in Bunny; the botanicals we are really excited about are true cinnamon, allspice berries, green peppercorns and white tea. . . There may be a little something in the pipeline for next year.
Tell me a bit more about your garnish tea bags.
They are teabags filled with a blend of dried botanicals designed to be drunk in a gin and tonic – the blend was selected to complement our Kensington dry gin and includes vanilla-infused orange peel, thyme, juniper and coriander seed. When added to a gin and tonic, the flavours from the dried botanicals will infuse in to the drink for a more intense and complex taste experience. The longer you leave them in, the more flavour you extract.
Any tips for hobby distillers?
Be experimental with your botanicals and distilling methods, but make changes for the right reasons – to make a better liquid. Avoid gimmicks and seek quality!
What’s next for Duck & Crutch?
We have exciting news dropping at the end of November, so keep your eyes peeled for that. In general, we want to expand our core range and continue to produce very high quality products for London!