Mark Hazel – Bardowie Gin – Your local Tonic
For something different, after our AGM, we had an enjoyable talk on the award winning Bardowie Gin. Mark Hazel gave a brief history of how he and his wife Alison got into brewing beer and then how they drifted into distilling gin, initially using contractor distillers to produce the product on their behalf. However, Mark and Allison soon realised that corkage duty outlays to the tax man made it worthwhile setting up a still at home! They discovered in the process that they have the only licensed distillery in East Dunbartonshire! Mark’s talk was nicely rounded off with a brief tasting session, a pleasant way to finish the 21-22 session!
Brewing beer had been a student passion of Mark’s and after concluding 30 years in IT was enough, he decided that setting up a micro brewery offered a new start. It was back in 2014 when Mark established the Jaw micro brewery in Hillington Estate. He was clearly delighted to find success with his brews, winning awards when he entered competitions. However, when Mark and Alison observed that his beer customers were also buying gin, they realised that his brewing skills could easily be expanded to include making gin as well. They worked hard at finding a way of making their product ‘local’ in both beer and gin. This was in recognition that they couldn’t compete with the international brewers and distillers who control 85% of the market. For gin, Mark achieved this by being a keen forager for local botanicals. By rigorous testing with a team of tasters and a bit of trial and error, he found local ingredients with which to establish a unique character. Mark explained that four of his key ingredients are Ground Elder (nutty tasting when young), Bull Rush stems (tasting like leek), Blackcurrants and Bay Leaves both of which are growing in his garden. Interestingly, Ground Elder is a legacy of the Romans who used the leaves for salad. The ultimate element of local uniqueness was to name the gin after its place of origin, Bardowie Gin. Last, but not least, Mark observed that the quality of Loch Katrine water is a key factor in the quality of his gin.
Mark’s talk revealed that the cottage he and his family live in on the shores of Bardowie Loch is a 300 year old miller’s cottage, known as Jaw Cottage. A name derived from an Old Scots word relating to cascading water. Hence the name adopted for their Micro Brewery. Some further research by Mark revealed that distilling wasn’t new at Jaw Cottage. An 1822 Glasgow Herald article revealed that the cottage had been the site of an illegal distillery. Mark believes that the unlicensed still might have come about as a result of the declining value of grain after the end of the Napoleonic War which had raised grain prices. He speculated that making illegal spirit might have arisen to compensate the lower prices of the grain. Mark’s researches also revealed that the last distillery in East Dunbartonshire had closed in 1919. This was probably due to the loss of experienced distillery workers during WW1.
Anyone wishing to taste Mark’s products will find them in the Jaw micro brewery pub, overlooking station car park in Milngavie. More information on Bardowie Gin can be found at https://www.hazellandhazell.com. Thanks are due to Mark for shining a light on some of the mysteries of making gin.