Balham isn’t the first neighbourhood in which one might think to find a distillery. But here it is on a small industrial estate, and looking thoroughly contemporary with white walls and crisp painted logo. The first impression is of, perhaps, a drinks warehouse, but this building houses heritage, history and a distilling revival. This is Hayman’s!
Hayman’s is a family company dating back to 1863 when James Burrough, the great-grandfather of Christopher Hayman, the present owner, purchased a gin-rectifying company in London. Christopher joined James Burrough Limited in 1969 and was responsible for the distillation and production of Beefeater until 1987.
The fifth generation to follow the family
Although James Burrough Limited was sold to Whitbread in that year, the family retained part of the business and Hayman Distillers continues as an independent company. And now another generation has joined: James and Miranda Hayman are the fifth generation to follow the family tradition. This is the longest-serving gin-distilling family in England.
Hayman’s stick to tried and tested processes. They use copper stills, known to produce the finest spirits. The main still is called Marjorie after Christopher’s mother, who was the granddaughter of James Burrough. She was the person who introduced Christopher to the family business and the gin trade.
Distillery tours are available at Hayman’s and ours was led by Distiller Sam Pembridge, who did a grand job of informing and engaging with an enthusiastic audience. This isn’t a tour for those who just want to drink to excess, although guests are welcomed with a reviving G & T on arrival. That cocktail was garnished by the Hayman’s trademark branded lemon peel. No, the peel isn’t a brand – it is actually branded with an iron!
Sam described the distilling process
We were introduced to the botanicals which could be used to flavour gin, with the essential one being the ubiquitous juniper berry, along with liquorice, citrus and spices. Sam described the distilling process, and the group was particularly interested in the aforementioned bright copper stills. And then it was on to the eagerly anticipated tasting.
The group enjoyed a masterclass of gin history, manufacture and flavour. ‘Old Tom’ was the first sample, followed by London Dry Gin and Sloe Gin. All were delicious and individual, but that Old Tom was exceptional, with plenty of character.
This gin is said to have encouraged the cocktail boom of the late 1800s. It’s a historic gin and possibly made more popular by the stories that have been woven around it over the centuries. Was it first distilled by a pensioner called Tom? Was a dead tom-cat discovered at the bottom of a gin barrel?
The name Old Tom Gin more likely came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an “Old Tom”) mounted on the outside wall of some pubs in 18th-century England. Owing to the riotous Gin Craze (illustrated by Hogarth with his ‘Gin Lane’ etching), the government tried to reduce the availability of gin with prohibitive taxes and licensing. This had the usual effect of driving the trade underground. Beneath the cat’s paw was a lead tube and a drawer to put money in. From the tube would come a shot of gin, poured by the bartender inside the pub.
Old Tom Gin was made by a variety of distillers, but it fell out of fashion. Hayman’s distillery has relaunched Old Tom based on an original family recipe from the 1870s …minus the feline ingredient. A botanically full and flavourful gin, with a marked sweetness, this style of Old Tom gin was used in the classic gin cocktails such as the Martinez and the Tom Collins, during the first cocktail rage of the 1880s.
Hayman’s Distillery tour
£20 per person
Book onto the Hayman’s Distillery Tour for a behind-the-scenes look into how they make True English Gin.
Each tour lasts 90 minutes and includes:
A welcome English Gin and Tonic.
A tutored tasting of a range of Hayman’s True English Gins.
A guided tour of the working distillery, and introduction to how they make their range of Gins.
£5 off the first 70cl bottle of Hayman’s Gin that you buy in the distillery shop.
Doors will open 15 minutes before the tour start time.
You must be aged 18 or over to attend distillery tours.
Hayman’s offer bespoke private and corporate tours.
8a Weir Road