Tomorrow is World Gin Day - and what better way to mark the moment than by devising your own gin.
That is the opportunity offered by an enterprising couple running their own distilling business.
Goosnargh Gin launched its first gin last autumn.
Based at their home near Beacon Fell it was a passion project for Rachel and Richard Trenchard.
And it's a passion they want to share.
Their still collection now includes a range of mini stills and on a select few dates through early summer and autumn they are opening their distillery for a series of ' Foraging and Distilling Days.'
Foraging takes place in the local area guided by expert Ribble Valley based forager Ade Rose of Chatburn who runs North West Bushcraft and has his own Urban Bushcraft podcast . He has also been a guest presenter/lecturer on wild food foraging at the Great Eccleston Outdoors Show.
Before the aspiring gin makers go foraging it's time to talk – discussing not just which plants are suitable for collection but which to avoid because they are poisonous and really would be mother's ruin.
Rachel said: “Throughout the walk he gets people to try things collected to get a feel for the flavour There's lots of tasting going on which is quite nice.”
The days offer the opportunity to distill your own bottle of gin to take away using those foraged botanicals.
Rachel, a former teacher and an education adviser, who co-owns a children's nurseries business, said: “We can only have six in a group as we have six mini stills.That's intentional keeping the group quite small everyone can get fully involved in it. They're 3.5 litre stills and people produce a 500ml bottle to take away.. It's interactive – they get the opportunity to choose their botanicals and by the end of the day they've created a gin. They take real ownership.”
The first event was on May 10 and participants quickly discovered the range of flavours which can be created. Rachel said: “Everybody's gins have been different which has been really lovely and quite fascinating.”
Ingredients foraged included sycamore flowers, whinberry flowers, hawthorn and gorse flowers: “The spring and summer foraging days are more about the new growth and flowers. When we do the autumn ones it will be more the mix of berries. It's a really enjoyable morning.In terms of gin some people like things (with a) citrussy note and use things like sorrel.”
After the foraging it is back for a light lunch and then work begins in the distillery - a converformer store room building adjacent to their home.
Participants learn how the big still works and the vocabulary of gin making - how cuts will be made.
“They're taught how our big still works, the processs of distilling, and the cuts they're going to make to produce their bottle of gin. At the end we have tasting of each other's produce. It's a really nice day, lots of fun.”
Rachel explains that the cuts apply to the head, the hearts and the tails … and it's the heart or mid-part of the still run which is used to produce the final gin.
“All the botanicals are in for the whole of the run, it's to do with the temperatures the still is run at."
Their stills are traditional copper stills, with recipes first devised using one of their smaller stills.
"In this still there's some maceration of botanicals and also vapour infusing of some botanicals in the column of the still.”
After the heart has been collected spring water is added to bring down the alcoholic percentage of the gin.
Then comes the final flourish of ownership of the new creation. Rachel said: “They choose a name for their gin, that's quite fun as well. “
* Future dates for the Foraging and Distilling Days include September 27/28/29 and October 11/12/13. The charge is £95 per person
Goosnargh Gin's own first gin is called Chapter One – Signature Gin and they advise: “All of our gins are chapters. This is in part to allow customers to follow our story as our brand develops, and partly as a nod to Richard's 20 plus years as a journalist/writer."
They say this gin is designed to capture the spirit of the Forest of Bowland's fells and meadow, using 14 organic botanicals, including meadowsweet, yarrow, elderflower and chamomile. These plants can all be found growingwithin the Forest of Bowland.
The second gin Chapter Two- Dark Skies is described as “very delicately spiced, comforting gin", created as a nod to the Forest of Bowland AONB's dark skies status. Its low levels of light pollution makes the area excellent for stargazing. This gin contains a dozen organic botanicals such as cardamom and vanilla.
Later this summer there will be two eagerly awaited new chapters. Chapter Three a floral gin, drawing on botanicals from peonies, roses and hibiscus.
Chapter Four will celebrate a particular delight in Bowland – the wildflower Coronation Meadows at Bell Sykes Farm, Slaidburn. Rachel and Richard have been working with the Forest of Bowland AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) team and Peter Blackwell at Bell Sykes and plan to use a fresh cut of the meadow's “ ecologically diverse and highly renowned meadow” to produce a Hay Time gin.
A donation of the profits from the seasonal release , which it's hoped will be ready for the farm's National Meadow Day open day on July 6, will be donated to support the work of the Bowland AONB educational projects.
Since the launch of Goosnargh Gin the couple have worked hard to get their produce on the shelves of pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and independent farm shops and businesses, “.
They know customers are from a wide range of age groups. Rachel said: “I think that's the beauty of gin really. It appeals to a massive audience – it's captured everybody's interest.”