ginFor the second in an occasional series of meetings with go-ahead drinks producers in Leicestershire, I went to the tiny hamlet of Brentingby just outside Melton Mowbray. In a converted garage by a converted church, guarded by a gaggle of guard-geese, Bruce Midgely has in less than two years built up Brentingby Gin into one of the country’s most dynamic craft gin companies.

Bruce came from his home city of Durban to play rugby for the Leicester Tiger’s Colts. A sporting career didn’t work out, but he did do extremely well in the oil and gas industry. Once the appeal of expat life in Africa, China, Singapore and beyond wore off, he was looking for something he could put his considerable energy into back in the East Midlands.

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Bruce Midgely with Ayanda – his 10 -plate copper still

Gin not only appealed as an emblem of good times, but he knew it was something where he could utilise his engineering skills. And indeed his self-designed, bespoke ten-plate copper still has become the engine of the business, producing exceptionally smooth spirit. When it came to devising a recipe, there’s no substitute for hard work and Bruce educated his palate with some 300 trial runs using a mini-still. Hibiscus, a common coastal plant back home, was always going to be a key element. But it was the involvement of industry legend Tom Nichols that enabled him to refine and perfect the recipe and also opened up doors in the industry when it came to sourcing rare supplies and entering key markets.

Brentingby’s core range then started with a London Dry, juniper-led of course but with both floral and spice notes creeping in. It’s complemented by the Black Edition, which boosts up the pepper and piney charactersitics with the additionof the likes of locally-picked meadowsweet. And then there’s a pink gin, not so sweet as many but featuring subtly-introduced exotic floral notes from hibiscus, rooibos and baobab. All three are exceptionally clear, clean and well-balanced.

20191008_152541Bruce acknowledges he was lucky to launch at a time when there was a slight lull in the relentless launching of new gins. With the kudos of a new Tom Nichols gin, he found doors opened to him and when the five star reviews started roling in from bloggers and key influencers such as Diffords Guide, the stockists were keen to give him a go. So ever since, his van is up and down to London where the gin is in big demand in upscale Mayfair bars and retailers such as Harvey Nicks. It’s recently been introduced as a choice for First Class passengers with British Airways.

Some 6,000 bottles a month now leave the tiny distillery, including regular one-off small batches for the likes of old Tigers chum Matt Hampson and his Foundation’s Get Busy Living centre.

Not only is this a genuinely great product, but it’s good to see Bruce is incorporating sustainability into his production. A windmill produces effectively free energy, all water is recycled and even the unusable heads of each distillation are used as cleaning materials.

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Ready to drink pink gin

This one man band is now expanding with the recruitment of a business manager, and the aims are ambitious. In the short term there are new products such as a bourbon barrel-aged gin – perfect for an Old Fashioned – and possibly a vodka and whisky too. The craft gin world’s first ready-to-drink cans are also now taking off. In the longer-term, there’s a parcel of land opposite the distillery that Bruce hopes can be developed into a gin school and a pub.

That would see an already hectic pace of achievement turn into a major Leicestershire success story.

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I was out last night to say goodbye to one of Leicester’s most consistently interesting chefs. Martin Powdrill is off to Hong Kong to take up an Executive Chef position with the rapidly-expanding Piratas group.

I’ve enjoyed Martin’s food from early days in the team at the Smokehouse through to his own food with Cured at incarnations at Brewdog and The Cookie, then the King Richard III and most recently at 100&Six on Queen’s Road. He’s always shown a flair with flavour and technique and an independent spirit to produce distinctive and original food. In Hong Kong he will be heading up the team at the Pirata Meats restaurant and contributing to development at other of Pirata’s diverse range of venues. Fortunately there will be continuity at 100&Six where sous chef Dawid takes over having developed the next menu with Martin. In future we might see some Polish influences creeping in apparently.

I know this blog has at least one regular reader in Hong Kong (hi Nicola!), and I hope anyone in the region gets down to Pirata Meats in Soho and says hello – I’m sure he’d appreciate a friendly face. So best wishes Martin, hope it’s a great experience for you.

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