Old Bakery Gin
In 2013, Ian Puddick bought a row of rundown properties in Palmers Green, north London. Being a prolific businessman – Ian owns and continues to run a specialist leak detection company – he required more space to expand his enterprise. Little did he know at the time that this purchase would lead to another exciting venture.
The buildings included an old bakery, a stable block, (for the bakery’s horse and cart) and a grain store. Since being sensitively restored, they have now been granted protection as listed “Heritage Buildings of Historic Interest.”
The bakery was once the heart and soul of the small cobbled mews, providing bread for the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the brick chimney, (which was once over 200 feet) was unsafe when Ian purchased the buildings and had to be removed. It was the removal of the chimney which inadvertently created Old Bakery Gin.
After the chimney had been removed, it was brought to Ian’s attention that it wasn’t part of property – it was registered to a nearby domestic house. Extensive legal research ensued to clarify the reasoning behind this land registry issue. Whilst delving in to the buildings’ history, they discovered that the bakery used to make illicit gin.
Ian seized the opportunity and began his journey of bringing distillation back to the bakery. Legally this time.
Ian continues to use the old bakery and stable block for his leak detection company, but has developed the grain store into the Old Bakery distillery. It is likely that this is the building where they originally produced the gin due to the bakery itself being far too hot.
As part of his quest to reinvent the distillery, Ian tracked down the relatives of the previous owners and incredulously managed to obtain the original gin recipe. This was in fact a list of botanicals rather than exact quantities and instruction, but it gave a path to follow.
Ian has tried to remain as close to this idea as possible with one exception: the original recipe called for stinging nettles as a botanical, but this was abandoned in the modern version after multiple attempts failed to produce a pleasant flavour.
Only four botanicals are used in Old Bakery gin. One of which must be juniper. The other three remain a mystery. Ian wishes to adhere to the sense of illicit gin by keeping these botanicals secret. I understand the link and can see why this works from a marketing sense, but personally I don’t think it’s a good idea to build any factors which may annoy the consumer into your branding. When someone tells me part of the process or the botanicals are a secret, I’m inclined to believe they’re hiding something for other reasons…
With the licence granted in December 2016, Ian has quickly built his brand via social media and has already garnered quite a following. This is aided by Ian’s infectious and charismatic approach and use of videos.
The four botanicals, (all of which are dried) are macerated in 96.8% neutral grain spirit for 12-16 hours prior to distillation. The distillery houses four 50 litre stills which were hand-made in New Zealand. These are all run at the same time to maximise production. Each still produces 30 bottles per run.
The gin comes off the still around 90% before being brought down to bottling strength. Ian has played around with different strengths for the end spirit with his first batches being 37.5% and then 40%. The gin is now consistently being bottled at 41.2%.
The bottle’s distinctive bright yellow label is a direct link to the bakery. On the side wall of the mews, the bakery had a bright sign indicating its wares. Ian has replicated the sign and tailored it to the distillery. He has also restored the original sign to its former glory.
When I visited, Ian very kindly let me label and wax my own bottle which was fun! It also shows how time-consuming these processes can be, (and how easy it is to get an air bubble in the label).
The label is hand-written with each vintage, batch and bottle number alongside the distiller’s signature and the alcoholic percentage. It’s quite handy that the ABV is written on by hand as the first few batches have experimented with different strengths. Ian played with 37.5% and 40% batches before settling on the current expression at 41.2%.
A nice touch is that the back of the label is printed with a photograph of the stills so you can see them reflected through the bottle. The label also features a charming photograph of Ian’s Dad, taken on the day Ian was born. Ian admits that he simply loves the photo and wished to have it on the bottle which is fair enough, but I would like to see the limited label space used for something a bit more relevant.
Aromas: Quite restrained. Hints of coriander and floral notes trying to come through.
Palate: Smooth gentle juniper with a touch of stalky citrus. Delicate floral tones and a lick of black pepper on the finish.
With Tonic: Bright gently perfumed juniper and citrus. I prefer this gin with tonic. Hints of bramble fruits and raspberries. A short, but pleasant finish.
Garnish: Ian recommends juniper berries and raspberries.
I really enjoyed visiting the Old Bakery and learning more about its history. Ian is generating a lot of interest with his social media campaign and I look forward to seeing how this brand progresses and develops.