At the beginning of the semester, Owl Eyes was invited by Eden Mill to try out their Blendworks Gin School Experience, located just behind the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel. Walking down North Street, we were intrigued: how involved would we be in the actual process of gin-blending? Would the final product actually be any good? And most importantly, would we even remember any of this after two-and-a-half hours of incessant sipping?
The whole group was warmly welcomed by Andrew, who made us all a preliminary G&T to tide us through the introduction and to get us thinking about the kind of tastes we usually go for. He then proceeded to give us a concise but thorough lesson on the history of gin, complete with visual and tactile aids, which made what would have essentially been a lecture into an interactive experience. Soon enough, we came to tasting the actual gins: first the basic juniper berry, and then the different base gins which would eventually make the foundation of our own drink. The additional flavours were where decisions about amounts and mixtures really came into play, with around 30 to choose from, though of course Andrew was always on hand for a second opinion!
The class itself wasn’t too difficult, but the sheer multitude of technical glassware (all of which we actually ended up using) made a humble arts student such as myself, who hasn’t touched a Bunsen burner in six years, feel like a brainy bio-scientist. In fact, the whole process had an aesthetically pleasing quality to it, given the shabby-chic décor and the ability to personalise our labels and corks. The artisanal undertones associated with the recent resurgence of gin were clearly embedded in the intricacies of the class.
What mustn’t be underestimated at Blendworks is the vast amount of bang you get for your buck – I can personally vouch for the astronomical quantity of juniper juice you will consume during the session, or at least for the fact that you will be stumbling through the door on your way out. Yet this didn’t tarnish what was on the whole a classy afternoon, peppered with small, observant touches to brighten each individual’s experience. For in addition to the ‘gin bins’ you could pour your drink into if you wanted to tone it down a bit, halfway through came a surprise snack platter stocked with cheese, olives and crisps to line our stomachs. Yum.
Overall, we immensely enjoyed our afternoon at Blendworks. Even though the process wasn’t rocket science, there was something really rewarding about making your own gin, bottling it up and signing it – and getting a bit tipsy somewhere along the way. The Blendworks student group deal runs at £360 for up to 12 people (so from £30 per person), is available every day except Saturday, and you can book by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s also a 20% discount in their shop for those who’ve done the session.
We asked Andrew to summarise the experience for us. “Blendworks is at its core a gin blending class but we always aim to be much more than that,” he said. “We want it to be somewhere you can learn more about gin; figure out which flavours (whether that be gins or mixers) work perfectly for you and have a fun, unusually alcoholic afternoon with your friends – after all, gin fun days are meant for sharing!”