Incredibly, on our doorstep are one or two claims to fame that I had no idea about - the Chase Distillery is Britain’s first and ONLY single estate distillery in the UK and they have the largest rectifying column in Europe and maybe even the world!
I know this because on Friday at 12.00 I was there with husband and friends ready for a couple of hours of education about how the Chase Distillery came about - what its heritage was and what the product tasted like!
Guy Illot, the Brand Manager at Chase was our tour guide and a very good one he is too!
Entertaining as well as educational, he started us off with tots of both the potato based vodka (Chase Original Vodka) and the apple based one (Naked Chase). He then walked 18 of us through the distillery - past stills, copper vats, bottling sections and even where they are experimenting with whisky. Apparently they are turning out 10,000 bottles a week and all those bottles are filled by hand and the cork or glass stopper is put in by hand!
Guy telling us about bottling by hand
We had the opportunity to smell the juniper berries and botanicals that go into the gin, we stuck our fingers into a glass of pure spirit and gave them a lick and we had a sneaky taste off the end of a marmalade vodka pipe! The botanicals they use in their gin include juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, orrice, orange, lemon, hops, elderflower and Bramley apple - no wonder it tasted so amazing.
The pace of the tour was just right and we learnt about the heritage of Chase Vodka and Gin and William Chase’s story
He was given a field as a child by his Dad and chose to grow potatoes in it and he then progressed to creating crisps - Tyrells Crisps - now a worldwide brand. In 2007 he moved to producing vodka from his potatoes and gin from cider apples all grown on his farm at Preston Wynne. The beauty of the Chase products is their provenance is authentic - the water comes from their own bore hole, the potatoes from the fields on the 400 acre farm and the apples from their own orchards.
According to Guy, the 30 or so people in the team are all committed to producing a quality product and throughout the tour Guy explained, without belabouring the point that it is a quality product, with expensive processes and parts and it is easy to see why the Chase Vodka and Williams Gin are a premium prices.
As an example, one fact that sticks in the mind is a very large bottle costs them £60 - that is just the bottle - not the cork, not the stopper, not the labels, just the bottle - mind you it was a very large bottle - I think he said it was a Jeroboam (aka Double Magnum)
The tour took us upstairs to where the family are experimenting with whisky and it was here that we could see the views over the potatoes fields to the orchards and lake beyond.
The processes of making Gin and Vodka
Coming to an end, we headed back downstairs to The Chase Bar for more samples and snippets of information from Guy before cashing in our £10 vouchers for a bottle or two! Between us we bought a bottle or two of the Elegant Gin, the Marmalade Vodka, the Rhubarb Vodka, the Chase Elderflower Vodka Liqueur and a half a dozen cans of Marmalade Mule (a ready to drink cocktail).
The tour took around 2 hours and cost £25, but we did get a £10 voucher as part of it and miniature bottle of Elegant Gin to take home as well as several different samples of gin and vodka to try - to be honest, I can’t quite remember how many samples we did get - I wonder why!!
It was a great start to the weekend, and I would thoroughly recommend it if you are interested in either gin, the distillery business, a local Herefordian family, farming diversification, or just doing something different to entertain visitors!
The tours run on Fridays at noon and at 3.00 - tell Guy I sent you!