{Gin o’clock} Half Hitch

 

 

We’re at the Lock Tavern in Camden. It’s already dark outside, the music is own, I’m in good company: it’s G&T o’clock. We’re about to visit the Half Hitch distillery a minute from there, it seems the perfect time to try it. There is always excitement before trying a new gin, the juniper always the base line, the many botanicals meaning endless possibilities to be enchanted… I like the surprise – shhh, do not tell me what they are just yet. Let me dream. Let me create my own story first… And oh my – this brings memories of a homemade marshmallow (the old fashioned type you could once find in funfairs in France, sold as long ribbons), not sugary, no, just soft, comforting, melting softly on your tongue. Pancakes with warm spices, eaten by my grandmother’s chimney in winter. My first cup of Earl Grey Tea. It’s a gin to be sipped, remembering happy times you haven’t thought of in years. But which ingredients create this magic? Rather unusual ones: black tea, bergamot, wood, hay and pepper…

Walking to Half Hitch (go down the stairs, walk to the other side of the alley, that’s it, you’re there), Camden looks wonderfully Dickensian. I’m so used to seeing the area crowded with tourists, I never really took in its industrial vibe… And yet, back in 1869, right there between Camden Road and Chalk Farm was the gin district, warehouses where it was produced and bottled. An express train went from there to the docks so that London’s favourite tipple could be shipped worldwide. This all stopped 50 years ago. It seemed only fitting Half Hitch would settle here, in disused Victorian vaults, bringing the spirit (no pun intended) back to life. The name? A reference to the rope knot used to moor up barges along Camden Lock.

The lab is no bigger than a dining room (definitely fits the micro distillery definition!) and yet, in the evening electric light, it feels like a family place. Not as in home sweet home. Talking to Mark Holdsworth (who welcomes us with the most wonderful negroni made with suze), it’s clear Half Hitch is a work of love. The copper still stand on the side, magnificent, such a presence. On the side is a rotovap – the source of many experiments… Add any ingredient to your spirit then watch the flask rotates in the┬ábain-marie. A vacuum will bring the pressure down to about 250 millibars. The mixture will then evaporate at a very low temperature, then condense into a strong gin. At this point it’s 80%ABV so water will be added to take it back down to 40%. It’s quite an art. We tried a few crazy creations – Dill Pickle (oh, to have that with Gravalax salmon!), Monster Munch (you read that right. Not my favourite crisp yet it will make you crave it), Christmas cake (like a warm embrace, lingering beautifully on your tongue)…

The original, of course, is the best. Tradition matters as much as innovation: the copper still gives it a wonderfully smooth finish,┬áthe more gentle distillation improving each aroma… No wonder Half Hitch was behind the #1 door in this year gin advent calendar. It’s difficult not to fall in love with it! I can’t wait to see it thrive and rule in the gin world even more. I’m pretty sure Mark will keep wowing us.

 

Half Hitch distillery, Camden

 

Half Hitch Gin Camden Half Hitch Gin Camden Half Hitch Gin Camden

 

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2 Comments

  1. January 21, 2017 / 13:47

    I’m late to discover gin. My son lives in London and has introduced my to some wonderful ones. It’s now one of my favourite drinks! I’ll have to tell James about this distillery. x

  2. Chocoralie
    February 3, 2017 / 19:51

    @Maria Kelly Do contact them – they had a gin school! Which other gins have you tried?

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