Finally, the first interview from my distillery tour is here! It's about time too. Part one is a close-up look at The Hope on Hopkins distillery in Salt River.
Co-owners Lucy and Leigh Beard began their careers in London as lawyers. (And just to clarify – Leigh is in fact a man).
After enough time in the dreary London weather, they decided to take a year off in order to explore the world.
As fate would have it, they ended up in Spain where they drank a Mediterranean gin which inspired them to begin their very own gin adventure.
I was lucky enough to meet with lovely Lucy and look back on her gin journey. Gin-ourney?
In the beginning
It all started as their Spanish holiday drew to an end. Lucy and Leigh decided to return home to Salt River where they set out to open a distillery.
With no previous experience, they reached out to various local distilleries and received the largest amount of help from Jorgensen’s gin. Robert was kind, helpful and willing to part with vital information that helped Hope on Hopkins on their way.
And what a long way they have come.
Hope on Hopkins now has four enormous stills (the fourth being a recent acquisition), all named after their grandmothers; Mildred, Mouma, Maude and the latest – Mad Mary.
These stills are the true hard workers in the distillery as they don’t only distil for their proud owners but also for a number of other gin companies including; Bloedlemon, Musgrave, Southern Cross and Celemengold.
This is no small feat and could only be accomplished by maintaining a strict schedule. Each gin company sends their bottles in to the distillery where the gins are then created; bottles labelled and eventually distributed from the same location which also serves as a tasting room and their personal home space. Talk about multi-functional.
The tasting room overlooks the distillery
What sets Hope on Hopkins apart from many other distilleries is that they create their very own spirits in house. The majority of other distilleries bring in a neutral alcohol spirit which they then distil into gin; but Hope on Hopkins, using local barley for the London dry and the Salt River gin and grape spirit for the Mediterranean gin, do it all themselves.
Lucy is particularly nostalgic and explained that each gin is significant in its own way, having a personal representation from various points in their lives.
A tasting kit at Hope on Hopkins
Hope on Hopkins gin
The Hope on Hopkins London dry gin is inspired by their time in London; symbolic of the typical gin style. It is refreshing and contains lemon verbena and rosemary botanicals. On the palette it is smooth and juniper strong, seeking an ideal garnish of lemon zest and fresh rosemary.
Hope on Hopkins gin
Salt River gin
The Salt River gin marks their move back home to the Cape as well as the area that the distillery is located in. It is made using the one shot, London dry method which combines all the botanicals in one go with no additions afterwards. The taste however is less juniper dominated. This gin contains local fynbos, bucchu which is known for its medicinal uses and kapokbos which is a form of sweet wild rosemary.
It is mindblowing to note that bucchu is such a strong flavour that they use only 35 grams to a 7.5 kilogram juniper berry ratio. It gives you an idea of how dominant the taste is. For this reason, Salt River gin is not served with a bucchu garnish but rather fresh thyme and frozen grapefruit. For any gin connoisseurs who are interested in sipping this spirit undiluted, you will get hints of the almost medicinal taste of bucchu. With the addition of a good tonic, it becomes almost woody and floral with a dry mouth feel.
Salt River Gin
Finally the Mediterranean gin, inspired by their time in Spain, it unlike anything I have ever tasted. The botanicals in this gin are almost savory including; cardamom, bay leaf, manzanilla olive and rosemary. The taste is unique for everyone and I got the cardamom flavour immediately.
This is the most significant gin in their line because it is the one that Lucy wanted to create the second she set her heart on distillation. It is stunning and would work well in a martini. It’s not sweet and if you serve it with an olive, you will experience an even deeper botanical flavour. In the words of the tasting host Dominique, “it is a holiday in a glass.”
It is also Lucy’s personal favourite gin because it is the one she set out to make from the get go and is essentially her baby. She also prefers Fitch and Leedes as her tonic of choice because it is not a dominant flavour which allows the gin to shine through.
I did also taste their small batch pink gin which was more whimsical and sweet. I definitely liked it. I also loved the idea behind it. Lucy had something that she wanted to experiment with so they made small batches because they were unsure if it would sell. It is full of berries and very sweet and light on the palette and does extremely well.
A great success
Hope on Hopkins has been there for four years and I think that it is safe to say that Lucy and Leigh have accomplished what they set out to do. Their symbol of the crossed fingers representative of their hoping like hell this works – did exactly that.
Not only do they have an established selection of gins, but have also added to their repertoire their own small batch vodka as well as an agave spirit called esperanza (which is basically tequila but cannot be called such as it isn’t made in Mexico). Their upbeat attitudes and down to earth personalities combined with a huge passion for gin has made turned this venture into a raging success.
Hope on Hopkins crossed fingers
Hope on Hopkins can be found at a number of bottle stores as well as online.
Check out their website for more details http://hopeonhopkins.co.za/stockists/
And be sure to check out my full video here!