Exeter Distillery

Three years on from my first interview with the owner of the UK’s smallest distillery Hamish Lothian is a happy man enjoying life and having fun experimenting with his stills and bringing an array of skillfully crafted spirits to us, he no longer runs the country’s smallest distillery since moving to new larger premises under the railway arches in Exeter’s St Thomas area.

Experience brings confidence and confidence delivers style which is how I would describe his range – stylish! The original recipes have all been refined and have become more polished including his Bad Fagin’s Devon Gin which is very smooth, the spices are warming and the fresh orange on the finish is intense.

After tasting Devon Gin, Hamish brings out a second gin not yet labelled so the cloudiness is clearly visible through the clear glass bottle. Cloudy Gins are not uncommon as the botanicals are full of essential oils (in particular the juniper berries and citrus peels) these oils dissolve during distillation and are held in the ethanol solution, when water is added (during the cutting process) the oils drop out of the solution causing a milky cloud, this is known as louching. Many distillers will try to avoid louching by controlling the botanicals or filtering (which can cause loss of delicate flavours) instead Hamish has embraced the louche effect and named this gin ‘Ghost’ – great! A cloudy spirit called Ghost is pretty inspired. The mere fact the recipe has double the juniper of his Devon Gin obviously contributes to the cloudiness, this recipe also includes liquorice and green anise, he explains that he’s still fine tuning it but I know this is going to be a sure hit.

Next to taste is his four times distilled charcoal filtered wheat Vodka named ‘Militant’. Wow! At 42% the alcohol is ridiculously smooth and one of the best vodka’s I’ve ever tasted. This product is a pure labour of love and made in such tiny quantities it’s unlikely you’ll be able to buy a bottle anywhere.

This is followed by Hamish’s ‘Apple Pie Moonshine’, another intensive process which Hamish admits has taken many months to perfect, the base spirit is grain alcohol which is blended with apple juice concentrate, apple syrup, demerara sugar and cinnamon. The process can’t be rushed therefore production is very time consuming but the result is a real crowd pleaser, one sip and you are hooked.

We finish with Absinthe le Cochon Fee. Based on an 1895 Swiss recipe Hamish searched Europe for the botanicals and religiously followed the recipe resulting in a 72% spirit. This was served in authentic reservoir glasses with a sugar cube suspended on an absinthe spoon while ice cold water dripped over the cube and into the glass to dilute the aniseed spirit by two thirds. The drink is so beautiful I had a second, but a word of warning I did lose most of the following day!

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