Nestling at the western end of the South Downs Way, surrounded by the rolling Hampshire countryside, clear chalk streams and watercress beds for which the county is known, you will find Winchester Distillery, home of Twisted Nose Watercress Gin.
Launched by Paul Bowler in 2014 from his tiny kitchen in central Winchester, and now based a few miles outside the town in Old Alresford, Winchester Distillery is home to hand-crafted premium spirits using traditional methods and local botanicals sourced from the surrounding landscape, such as watercress, lavender and coriander.
A former software developer, Paul left behind his career and daily commute to London to pursue his love for gin. Back in the 90s, when everyone else was drinking vodka, Budweiser and alcopops, he was captivated by the aroma and taste of gin, thanks to a travelling friend who regularly shared their duty free haul with him.
The journey in creating what is now the distillery’s signature gin, Twisted Nose, was not an easy one. In fact, it wasn’t until batch 84 that Paul was satisfied he had achieved what he had set out to make – an intensely herbaceous yet delicately floral spirit with soft sweet citrus notes and spicy undertones finishing with a peppery spark.
The ten botanicals, including juniper and locally grown watercress, are distilled slowly to maintain the freshness and delicate aromas and the result is an intense, fragrant and refreshing gin. The name ‘Twisted Nose’ comes from the translation of the Latin name for watercress – nasturtium officinale. It is thought that the spicy, peppery leaves were bestowed this moniker after the effect on ones nose after eating them!
Since those early days Paul has gone on to win awards for Twisted Nose Gin and distilling, bottling and packing is now a team effort. Two further ranges of spirits have also been created; Hampshire Gin and Winchester Dry Gin. Under the Hampshire Gin label there is a navy strength Gunpowder Gin as well as limited edition seasonal releases such as Spring Meadow and Summer Garden, made using locally picked cherry blossom and summer fruits.
Plans for the year ahead include new product development, premises expansion and an announcement about the latest exciting project will be made in June (sign up to the distillery’s Kindred Spirits mailing list to be one of the first to hear). There’s certainly no resting on the laurels for Paul and his team.
With late Spring being peak watercress season and the distillery involved in the world famous Watercress Festival held in Alresford this month, it’s the perfect time to stock up on Twisted Nose Gin.
Recommended serves for Twisted Nose Gin are over lots of ice with a good quality tonic and a wedge or twist of pink grapefruit for the perfect gin and tonic, the Hampshire Martini or a Watercress and Basil Gin Smash:
- 50ml Twisted Nose Watercress Gin
- 20ml fresh Lemon Juice (approx. ½ a lemon)
- 10ml Sugar Syrup
- 8-12 Basil Leaves
- Sprig of Watercress
Muddle the watercress and basil in the base of a cocktail shaker and leave for 5-10 minutes. Add the ice, gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup and shake for one minute.
Double-strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with watercress and basil leaf.