Christmas. There I said it. The time of year when I stress over what to buy the friends and family members who seem to have it all. The market is getting better at accommodating these people, or I am getting a bit better at researching what is out there beyond the shops, who knows. My favourite for this year is the Manchester Gin Experience. 3 hours with the lovely lot at Three Rivers Gin, drinking their fine spirit and making your own. Yes, your own botanicals, all made with your fair hands. I gave it a try, well it’s gin so they didn’t have to ask me twice.
The experience starts with a gin and tonic in hand, explaining the history of gin including Manchester’s part in that history and the industrial revolution. I have always been a proud Manc but I was grinning from ear to ear listening to this fair city’s history being talked about in such a way. Therein, starts the history of Three Rivers, named for the three rivers (Medlock, Irwell and Irk) that once pumped life into the city and made it possible for industries to develop. Once the presentation has finished, you are guided downstairs at the Green Quarter site, to meet Angel.
Angel is the beautiful copper still who makes all the Three Rivers Gin you will see today. All the gin is made by hand and in small batches to ensure the flavour is constant and perfect every time. Whilst learning what Angel does to make the gin, you can enjoy an Aviation cocktail as well as a neat serve of Three Rivers Gin, so you can taste the magic that is happening here at the city centre distillery. Master distiller Dave Rigby has spent a lot of time creating his product and ensuring it was exactly what he wanted it to be – a gin that is good in a G&T, as well as a classic martini. For that reason, it is smooth with a light sweetness, followed by a kick of pepper at the end. A beautifully rounded gin that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about, as well as drinking.
You are free to ask any questions about Three Rivers, or the gin in general, before being led to a nearby building to make your own.
I have made my own gin before, but this feels more sophisticated in set up, and there is much more choice when it comes to botanicals. The idea is simple, you are allocated your own mini still and the vital botanicals needed for your gin to be ‘gin’. After that, you can let your creative juices flow as the chaps of Three Rivers keep you watered with G&Ts as well as helping where needed with the process. The technology allows you to search the botanicals available in categories and add them to your recipe. This is then saved so, should you wish to buy more of your gin, the team can make it and bottle it up for you at any time.
I was pretty prepared for making my gin as I was determined to make something perfect for my palate, and then I looked at the ‘experimental list’ and it went a bit to the wayside. I have a serious addiction to diet coke, I really need to kick it, but then I saw cola nut on the list so had to use it. I also added oats, as this is used in Three Rivers to create the smoothness. Luckily the tablet gives you pointers of how much to add as well as what will compliment each other, so I went for nutty with almond, hazelnut and citrus from lemon peel.
You add the botanicals to the still with the alcohol and turn it on to cook. Once it reaches the right temperature, your gin will start to be decanted into the glass cup and you are told when to turn it off for the optimum flavours to have been distilled. You then add it to your bottle, top it up with water and add your own label. The Three Rivers chaps will come round and check the ABV percentage so you can add it to your label too. The last time I made gin it ended up being an eye watering 53%. My new creation is a little less boozy.
You are then encouraged to carry your new bottle back to the original building, with great care, before being handed a champagne cocktail to end the night in style.
At £95, it’s not the cheapest, but for the the unique opportunity to make your own gin that you get to take home, as well as the drinks provided throughout the event, it is actually quite reasonable and something you would struggle to do elsewhere. For the gin lover in your life, you’ll struggle to find a better Christmas gift and, the fact you can re-order your gin creation whenever you like, means it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Spoil them, it’s not number one on Trip Advisor’s ‘thing to do in Manchester’ for nothing.
I was invited to try the Manchester Gin Experience as a guest and was not asked to pay.