Bullards Norwich Dry Gin named best of its kind in the UK at the World Drinks Awards
Archant Norfolk 2017
For a drink with only two ingredients – three if you include a slice of lemon or twist of lime – gin and tonic is much argued over.
But debates have been put to rest over who distills the best London dry gin in the UK, and the accolade has been given to Norwich-based Bullards in the 2017 World Drinks Awards.
Bullards is a name which has been synonymous with Norwich for some 180 years, starting off as a brewery in the 19th century.
And after a 30-year hiatus from 1985, the brand was revived in 2015 by Russell Evans, who had worked for the company in the early 1980s.
As well as bringing life back into beer brewing, the business turned its attention to spirits, and distilled its first Norwich Dry Gin in December 2015.
Now – just over a year on – it’s been named the best of its kind in the country.
“You might think ‘does the world not have enough gin?’
“But we thought ‘we’re going to do it a bit differently’,” said Mr Evans, 54.
And, under the watchful eye of head distiller 23-year-old Peter Smith, the gin was made and bottled at the Ten Bells, in St Benedict’s Street.
Mr Smith, who is one of the youngest distillers in the country, said their secret was found in tonka beans.
“They’re grown in Brazil and they have a great marzipan smell, like a Battenberg,” he said.
The beans, which are commonly used in fudge and have a vanilla-like taste, are what Mr Smith thinks sets Norwich Dry Gin apart.
And the pair were also proud to distil their own gin – in a still brought in all the way from Chicago – which they said was uncommon in the industry.
“We’re the first gin distillery in Norwich in 150 years,” said Mr Evans.
“Lots don’t actually make gin in their own still: we’re proud we make it.
“And just after the first year it’s fantastic that it’s the best London dry gin of 2017.”
It will now be put forward into the next round, where the drink could win international recognition from the World Drinks Award.
And the award is not the first the gin has won, as it was also given a gold medal in the microdistillery category of the 2016 Gin Masters.
Looking forward, Mr Smith said he was keen to experiment with different flavours, with a strawberry infusion currently being tried out.
• Find Norwich Dry Gin at The Ten Bells, Jarrold’s, Harper Wells, and The Green Grocers in Norwich’s Golden Triangle, amongst other places.
• Tastings and distillery tours are also available, call 01603 920292 or visit www.bullardsspirits.co.uk for more information.
Bullard and Sons established the Anchor Brewery in Norwich in 1837. It was founded by Richard Bullard, who was born in the parish of St John Maddermarket, in partnership with manufacturer James Watts – who left the business a decade later.
There were more than 17 breweries in the city at the time, according to White’s Directory of 1854, but Mr Bullard was able to handle the competition and supply beer to pubs across Norwich. He had 10 children including son Harry, who was born at the Anchor Brewery in Coslany Street.
Harry Bullard and two of his brothers took over the running of the brewery when Mr Bullard senior died in 1864, aged 56.
In addition to being a partner in the family business, Harry built a political career and held the office of mayor in 1878 – the year of the great flood.
Water poured through the windows and doors of the Anchor Brewery for hours, inundating the offices, stores and yards, and hundreds of people across the city were left homeless.
Mr Bullard was praised for his calming influence as mayor, helping organise services to smooth the recovery effort.
The brewery expanded over the years in line with demand, occupying seven acres by the turn of the 19th century.
Water for the beer was drawn from a well dug deep into chalk beneath the brewery.
Its product range was extensive – including Light Pale Ale, East India Pale Ale, Imperial Ale and London Stout.
They also produced wine and spirits, and imported drinks.
Eventually Bullards became one of the “big four” Norwich breweries – which have all since closed.
They were Steward and Patteson, Bullards, Morgans and Youngs, Crawshay and Youngs.
During the Second World War the maltings in St Swithin’s Terrace were bombed, but they were patched up and the brewery continued to trade.
By the 1960s, Bullards owned more than 1,000 pubs.
But ultimately the firm struggled to compete with the big national brewers, and the business was sold – with brewing at the Anchor Brewery ceasing in 1966.
Instead, production was relocated to the Watney Mann brewery in King Street.
The landmark Bullards chimney at the Anchor Brewery was demolished in 1982, and the buildings are now flats.
Bullards continued to be brewed until 1985, before Russell Evans – who worked for Bullards after graduating from university in the early 1980s – revived the brand in 2015.
What makes a London Dry Gin?
There are many ways to make gin, but the London dry process is a very particular way, which is highly regarded as the best.
• London Gin is made in a traditional still by re-distilling ethyl alcohol in the presence of all natural flavourings used.
• The ethyl alcohol used to distil London Gin must be of a higher quality than the standard laid down for ethyl alcohol.
• The flavourings used must all be approved natural flavourings and they must impart the flavour during the distillation process.
• The use of artificial flavourings is not permitted.
• The resultant distillate must have a minimum strength of 70pc abv.
• No flavourings can be added after distillation.
• Further ethyl alcohol may be added after distillation provided it is of the same standard.
• A small amount of sweetening may be added after distillation provided the sugars do not exceed 0.5 grams/litre of finished product.
• The only other substance that may be added is water.
• London Gin cannot be coloured.