When life gives you juniper berries…

To many, it’s just another type of alcohol. But if you dig deeper into gin, you’ll find that its dark and storied history makes it one of the more fascinating spirits.

The Canadian Gin Guild is offering an experience that does just that and takes things a step further by teaching participants about the botanicals that go into making gin and helping them create their very own bottle of the spirit.

This unique event is hosted at Jones Distilling in the historic Mountain View School building, which sat vacant for years before being renovated to house the distillery. It’s clear that the aim was to preserve many of the original elements and the spirit of the old school. A water fountain remains in the hallway; a pencil sharpener is kept in the distillery to sharpen pencils used in the gin course.

Walking into the distillery, you can see the influence of the history of gin as well. Images from 1751 by English artist William Hogarth of London’s Gin Street and Beer Lane on the walls hint at the journey through gin’s history that the course will take you on.

In the history component of the course, you’ll learn about the dark days of gin when it led to social deprivation in London and how the taste for gin prevailed, leading to innovations in distilling and the “ginaissance” we’re experiencing today.

The course also includes a hands-on learning component with the different kinds of botanicals that go into the making of gin, and a rare opportunity to come up with an original gin creation.

The making of gin begins with a base alcohol. At Jones Distilling, that base alcohol is made with a pale malt grain grown in B.C. The alcohol is re-distilled with international botanicals, which must include juniper berries (technically not berries, but rather cones with a berry-like appearance) to be considered gin. Beyond that one stipulation, the options are virtually endless for botanicals in gin.

Each botanical contributes something unique. Licorice root adds dryness, orris root is found in most perfumes and allows aromas to shine and stand out, and Angelica root is a distiller’s “salt and pepper” and amplifies flavour.

After learning how the different botanicals combine to create individual flavour profiles, attendees work with head distiller Megan Moore to come up with combinations to suit their individual palates and get to walk away with a custom bottle of gin of their own making.

Megan Moore is regularly switching up the selection of more than forty international botanicals lining the windowsills at Jones Distilling, always eager to see what combinations guests will come up with. She says she often encounters flavour combinations she hasn’t considered through this collaborative process.

“This is a very personalized experience for people,” Moore says. “You can’t walk into a liquor store and just ask them to make you up a bottle of gin customized to your taste. The people who come in are looking for a fun afternoon, but also something special that they can take away and share with friends and family.”

In addition to the Create Your Own Gin event, the Canadian Gin Guild offers tours and tastings at the distillery and a Botanical Basics option that focuses primarily on gin botanicals. They’re also partnering with other local businesses to include their events in exclusive Revelstoke experiences.

Create Your Own Gin is now running Friday and Saturdays at 4 p.m. Bookings are made in advance at the Canadian Gin Guild website.

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