Well – here we are. 2021. The nightmare that was 2020 finally came to an end, and now we’re already two months in to the new year…
With winter (and another national lockdown) in full swing, it hasn’t been the most pleasant of starts. It’s easy to see this year as just a continuation of the last because let’s face it, it’s been pretty bleak so far. It’s even easier to fall into the trap of reminiscing yourself into a bad mood and getting sentimental about the loss of normality; missing nights out, friends and family, and of course, the pub. But maybe looking back at ‘normal times’ doesn’t need to be so tinged with sadness- maybe it’s just the tonic we need to keep us hopeful, knowing that one day, normal will be normal again, and not just a memory. Who knows what 2021 will bring- hopefully, a return to the ordinary. That’s why this month, we’re taking a peek into life behind the scenes at Burleighs Gin, looking back on a typical day in the distillery and what we miss most about it, in the hope that it won’t be too long until we get to experience ‘typical’ again.
We’ve been operating as a small team for some time now, with just six of us based on Bawdon Lodge Farm. With the majority of the team now working from home, the distillery sits quietly, disturbed only by our head distiller, and Marc from ParcelForce. On a typical day, cold mornings call for quick coffees and a dash over to the distillery to get the boiler on, which powers our 450L Copper Pot Still, Messy Bessy. While the still heats up, our distiller Charlie will carefully measure out a botanical recipe, which changes depending on which expression of gin needs to be made. Whether it’s a batch of our Signature, or a run of Richard III, the botanical recipe (which usually resides in a 10L bucket) becomes the backbone of the spirit, and through the process of distillation, it comes to life.
Messy Bessy will bubble away as Charlie keeps a keen eye on temperatures, timings and tastes; an attention to detail necessary for producing the best gin possible. Eventually, after several hours, we have our first batch! 600 bottles-worth of the good stuff, ready to be transferred into tanks and blended down to strength. The copper glory that is Messy Bessy can rest easy for a while, as we take care of the rest- strong emphasis on take care. We transfer the gin from the still into large tanks all by hand, which can be a risky game if you are particularly clumsy: I put a lot of trust into bucket handles.
The gin doesn’t stay in the tanks for too long; here is where the blending and bottling process begins. We can bottle around 120 bottles in less than an hour, and have them all corked, capped and ready to go. There’s something really exciting in seeing a bucket of botanicals transform into hundreds of bottles of top-quality gin. Perhaps it’s knowing that you played a part in it, maybe it’s just the satisfaction of a job well done, but all the hard work definitely pays off.
Of course, the hard work continues over in the office. Or at least it did, until Working from Home became a thing (hello, makeshift home office). Nowhere near as fun as the Burleighs office. Phonecalls, emails, meetings (in person! in a pub!), making more than one cup of tea at a time, even the family of birds that decided to nest in the roof directly above my desk- all these things we never thought we’d have a reason to miss. So, cheers to the typical- we miss you. We always strive to be extraordinary but sometimes it’s the simplest things that mean the most.
Let’s hope that sooner rather than later, you can all return to your own versions of normal, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about ours.