Manchester’s only modern gin distillery opens to the public offering an Interactive Gin Experience.
Located in the revived Green Quarter, in a disused railway arch (not an unusual location for creative startups (think Pollen Bakery, Cloudwater Brew Co, and Popup Bikes), Manchester Three Rivers gin distillery has a distinct look and welcoming atmosphere that’s been lovingly hand crafted by founder Dave Rigby.
Last Wednesday, Manchester’s Finest were invited to take part in the Manchester Three Rivers Gin Experience (£95pp) where we got to taste and learn and even create our own full-sized bottles of gin to take home with us.
On arrival, we were greeted with probably one of the best gin and tonics I’ve had, garnished with seasonal ingredients: apricot and rosemary. The first of many gin cocktails of the evening. Unlike most gins, Manchester Three Rivers is easy on the citric (meaning you should steer clear from sticking a lime in it). This is smoother, sweeter and is balanced with black pepper. It’s creamy, too, which is apparently down to the addition of ground almonds which means the overall drinkability and mouthfeel of the gin are more like a fine wine than a spirit.
Rigby mentions that his aim is to create a really good sipping gin – yes, this is a thing, and is part of Rigby’s vision to see people enjoying gin neat, like they would a whiksey, or rum – and I’m sold.
Our gin expert and tour guide, Ryan, is well informed and clearly passionate about gin, and more importantly he has a good sense of humour that spills over and makes this intimate affair of around 10-12 people per experience feel like it’s among friends. After a brief introduction, we settle down (with another G&T) to watch a short film. Rigby used to be a Film Lecturer at the University of Salford, so the film’s a good piece about the rich history of Manchester with great visuals and a lovely Mancunian voiceover.
Afterwards, Ryan talks us through the complex history of gin, keeping our attention with sips of this and smells of that. Then he takes us downstairs to talk us through the distillery process and to see the copper still, ‘Angel’, that is clearly the baby of the family. It stands proud and shiny and is a real sight to behold.
Throughout the night we’re treated to several more gin based drinks: a Negroni, an Aviation, as well as a taste of Geneva (Dutch gin) all, of course, in a bid to heighten our understanding of the history and nature of gin.
Finally, accompanied with a shot of house gin, Ryan explains how to taste gin and how the botanicals work together and should be balanced. By this point, we are deemed expert enough to make our own gin and so we get to it: we create our own recipe and begin weighing out botanicals, which are then added to our alcohol and boiled in a miniature lambic still. It’s like being back in a science lesson (one of the better ones, where you got to do the experiments) and there’s a good amount of discussion and laughter as we get to work.
The process is just long enough to enjoy a couple of cocktails and once our gin is bottled and labelled, it’s finally ready to taste and everyone sticks around to enjoy a final gin and tonic with their own creation (a 700ml bottle of gin to take away).
The Manchester Three Rivers Gin Experience is about more than just gin. It’s a celebration of Manchester’s rich history and creative scene, as well as gin of course, and these are all things, in my opinion and experience, that make for a bloody good night.
Gin Experience tours are priced at £95pp and can be purchased from Manchester Three Rivers’ website: manchesterthreerivers.com