“Ramsbury is only one of four distilleries in the UK that operates a grain to glass approach with each bottle traceable back to a single field on the estate,” explains Mikul Kalyan, Ramsbury Single Estate Spirits’ Global Brand Ambassador. “The estate also uses closed loop production cycle which uses the land to its fullest potential and with zero wastage. With this combination of farming heritage and innovative thinking, Ramsbury creates a perfect product which delivers an inimitable English taste.”
Spanning 19,000 acres of rolling farmlands and woodlands stretching across North East Wiltshire, West Berkshire and North Hampshire, the working farm is home to a brewery, distillery, smokehouse and a shop selling products such as honey and rapeseed oil made on the farm. The brewery was launched in 2004, followed by the distillery and a smokehouse in 2014, and an oil press in 2015. The estate also owns The Bell, a 300-year-old former coaching inn in the village of Ramsbury in Wiltshire (where the home farms are centred, nestled in the Kennet Valley) which is now utilised as a pub with guest rooms. Striking an impressive balance between rustic country pub charm and modern sophistication, the pub serves well-prepared British food with a flair of modernity but remains unpretentious, championing a wealth of local ingredients from the estate.
A recent dinner featured dishes such as a gloriously insalubrious pork belly croquette, garnished with a spear of crackling, celeriac and caramelised apple puree; cream cheese risotto flecked with tarragon, showcasing heritage beets grown in the farm’s walled garden, studded with smoked almonds for additional depth of texture; perfectly pink duck breast with cherries and baby turnips; and a deftly cooked fillet of sea bream with plump tortellini bulging with crabmeat.
Back on the farm, the estate takes particular pride in its fully sustainable production process. “Today, spirits brands need more than just a good product,” says Mikul Kalyan. “Of course, flavour is key, but traceability, awareness of production and the people involved in the process are becoming just as important to get cut through in this industry.” Each year, Ramsbury selects a single field on the estate to harvest and supply the distillery with enough wheat for a full year’s production, giving the distillery total control over the process and allowing them to tell which field grew the wheat featured in any particular bottle. Barley is also grown onsite and used to brew beer, while the estate also boasts its own chalk-filtered water source.
“At Ramsbury, we’re proud to be one of only a handful of distilleries across the globe to create truly sustainable single estate spirits,” explains Mats Olsson, Golbal Sales Director at Ramsbury. “Our eight strong estate team manage every step of the production process from field to glass, meaning that we achieve the highest quality spirits that not only taste incredible but are helping to build a more sustainable future for the UK drinks industry.”
Before moving on to produce spirits in 2015, the team worked on perfecting the art of brewing beer, with the brewery’s website stating: “If you can make good beer you can make excellent spirits.” This philosophy derives from the fact that the large amount of flavour found in the final spirit is the product of mashing, brewing and fermenting stages of production. At the time of writing, the brewery’s range includes a hazy mango IPA brewed with juicy Alphonso mangoes which complements the American hops used in production. Elsewhere, ‘Hop Thyme’ is an ideal summer beer with its refreshing notes of lemon sherbet; and the core milk stout is exceptionally malty, redolent of Malted Milk biscuits. A good thing, of course.
As for the spirits, Ramsbury Single Estate produces both gin and vodka. Unlike many other brands that scrimp on quality, the team believes a great gin must begin with a great vodka. Whereas many gin brands buy in neutral spirit, Ramsbury blend and bottle their own spirit, with the gin setting itself apart with elevated quality, going through four key stages of production: farming, forestry, brewing and distilling. The distillery website enthuses, “if you ask us how long it takes to make a bottle of Ramsbury Gin we will answer with either one year to grow the wheat, three days to distil, four days of brewing or 30 years to grow our trees. Each one is just as integral to the process as the other.”
On the distillation process Kalyan expresses that “Ramsbury Single Estate spirits are made using the highest quality Horatio wheat – usually used to bake biscuits, cultivated on the rich chalk soils of Ramsbury’s estate, with each bottle traceable back to a single field. Once milled and fermented, the wheat becomes ‘low wine,’ and is diluted and distilled through a 43-plate copper column still, part of a closed loop production cycle that uses the land to its fullest potential and with zero wastage.”
“A biomass boiler powered by the estate’s sustainable woodland heats the still, the spent wheat feeds the estate’s cattle and pigs, and in turn, their manure is returned to the fields. Even Ramsbury’s waste water is funnelled back to the land after being safely purified through a series of wildlife friendly reed filtration beds.”
Master distiller, Dhiraj Pujari, adds: “Ramsbury is quite simply a dream for us distillers. The estate’s rich chalk soil preserves moisture better than any other soil, which offers perfect conditions for growing wheat, the best basis for top quality vodka and gin.”
A product of the Horatio wheat and chalk-filtered water, Ramsbury Single Estate vodka has a distinct English accent. As the spirit’s popularity has begun to rise once again of late, this expression is an accessible model with its unique flavour profile. An elegant, medium-bodied vodka with creamy texture – the spirit has notes of dried fruits, cocoa and sweet caramel with dark chocolate richness and exceptionally smooth on the finish. Enjoyable on its own, the vodka is also a remarkable dry martini base.
The gin, on the other hand, begins with spirit distilled to 96.5 per cent ABV, which is blended with nine botanicals (juniper, fresh quince, cinnamon, liquorice, orris root, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica) and distilled in a 160l gin steel. From the 80 per cent gin concentrate, the liquid is blended with the chalk-filtered water and diluted to 40 per cent before being chill filtered before being hand bottled on site.
Piney juniper dominates on the nose, joined by some aromas of liquorice, coriander, quince, light citrus and grass. Quince continues on the palate of the juniper-forward gin, complete with some prominent floral savours, pronounced sweetness and a refreshing finish. In a market saturated with gins, Ramsbury Gin is a particular British standout with outstanding balance and attention to detail, at the sweeter end of its London Dry style.
Ramsbury Single Estate Vodka and Ramsbury Single Estate Gin are available from retailers including Waitrose Cellar, 31 Dover, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange and Distillers Direct. RSP £38 and £35, 70cl, respectively. Further information on the distillery can be found here.