A tiny grain of thought in the craft still of ambition

Any reasonably conceited TV presenter or Hollywood actor will eventually have a go at making a gin. It’s a bit of a lush’s drink, and easier than whisky (no need to hang around for 10 years) and more interesting than vodka (which has no flavour, and is pointless).

I was conceited enough to try it. But, in my defence, my gin really is mine, not a cynical branding exercise. I came up with the idea of blending the flavour of parsnip (because it reminds me of England and its dampness) with Asian spices (because they add excitement). 

I teamed up with Hugh Anderson of Downton Distillery who soon made it clear how challenging it would be to create a gin, a process in which knowledge of microbiology is combined with pure artistry and even luck. There are so many permutations to the ingredients that can be used in gin, and their proportions, as to be infinite. 

A promising recipe can be corrupted simply by slightly overdoing just one botanical, leading to a gin that is too lemony, for example, or not junipery enough. We experienced many such setbacks on our long and gin-addled journey. Eventually, we arrived at the unequivocally named Asian Parsnip Gin, celebrating both my homeland and the pleasures I’ve enjoyed over many decades of international travel at other people’s expense.

Originally, I’d intended to make enough to sell in my half a pub, the Royal Oak, in Swallowcliffe. But Hugh suggested a run of 1000 litres, which is a round 1420 bottles. That’s a lot for a village pub, so we also put it up for sale on line as a signed and numbered limited edition.

Amazingly, it sold out within a few days, rather than the few years I’d anticipated. None of it made it to the pub. Our experiment, intended as a bit of fun and the subject of a short film, has since turned into a gin-fuelled monster. 

Like most things involving gin, it’s all got a bit out of hand.

James May, 2023