Amanda Nicholls discovers a magical place – a place where the time is always gin o’clock, and where long-held booze-based wishes are gladly granted by fun, friendly experts – on St Michael’s Hill…

Until this year, Danny Walker and Liam Hirst had been crafting their own gins and honing their making process from a Montpelier basement. Then, around six months ago, the self-taught distiller duo found themselves a charming premises on St Michael’s Hill, installing Psychopomp, Bristol’s first micro distillery specialising in the Mother’s Ruin in the process – and now, they’re sharing their expert knowledge with local gin aficionados by way of public workshops every weekend.

Having discovered this, and counting ourselves as precisely such folk, we join a couple more of our kind, on our next available Saturday morning, for a welcome G&T garnished with a large wedge of grapefruit and made with Psychopomp’s own rich Woden gin – a classic London dry with juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, cassia bark, fresh grapefruit zest and fennel seed. There’s a wonderfully old-school vibe to the place, with the exterior signage still reading ‘A.Jenkins, groceries, provisions’, and the interior chicly pared back. Various metallic contraptions gleam bright against white tiled walls, while a shelf lined with spice, herb, plant and fruit-infused liquids – everything from hyssop and peppermint to gunpowder tea and burdock root – demands closer inspection.

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One half of Psychopomp’s expert distilling duo, Danny Walker – who’s full of anecdotes and facts during our workshop

After a short tasting session, detecting the different notes in Danny’s equally delicious Pata Negra and Papa Ghede gins – the latter named after a Haitian type of psychopomp spirit, said to guide souls to the afterlife – we’re talked through the basic requirements for making gin. We’ll be adding botanicals to a neutral spirit base, says Danny – who’s full of anecdotes and facts about gin making and its history – and the bottom line is that juniper has got to feature. After measuring some out, along with the requisite coriander, cassia – that’s the sweet bark you’d find around a cinnamon stick – and angelica root – which acts as a binding agent – we pick our individually preferred flavours to add to our own unique blends. With Danny helpfully having removed any flavours likely to clash badly (cocoa can be a little dodgy when paired with the wrong thing, he warns…) we can’t go too far wrong, we reckon, seizing spirits, gung ho, and having a sniff.

PsychopompPortuguese-made copper contraptions catch our eye

Deciding on a light, floral, fruity vibe for The Bristol Magazine’s signature concoction, we pour out rhubarb, rosemary, elderflower, lemon thyme and pink grapefruit zest into our metal still, before heating and distilling the 37.5% ABV mix to separate the water and alcohol – which is sent through a copper tube – and patiently wait for the gin to collect in a little tumbler.

Feeling like crackpot professors among the beautiful Portuguese-made copper pots and flasks, we’re thrilled when the purified liquid, now a solid 80%, begins to trickle out of the metal tube. “It’s almost like being in a hospital waiting room, expecting a child to be born,” we muse, suddenly realising we may be investing slightly too much emotion into our boozy new baby.

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The shelves are lined with intriguing spice, herb, plant and fruit-infused liquids

After binning off the citrusy ‘heads’ that drip out first, we mix the liquid we’ve collected with water that has gone through a reverse osmosis system to get it as close to H2O as possible – the purer you can get the water, the more it’s about the flavour of the gin. Danny hands us a hydrometer to test the ABV once more – it’s now a respectable 44% so we bottle it up and give it its own little heated seal and label while thinking up names for our new, prized creations.

If, like us, it’s a long-held ambition of yours to create your own take on a fashionable, versatile and historic spirit, we highly recommend heading to St Michael’s Hill’s wondrous emporium…

Workshops at Psychopomp cost £100 per person and include tuition, G&Ts and a bottle of your own recipe gin to take home; microdistillery.co.uk