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Gin Tasting at Duke Studios Sheaf Street

2 December 2015
Gin Tasting at Duke Studios Sheaf Street
Drawing a close to the November tasting sessions the Gin evening at Sheaf Street was quite literally a ‘taster’. Co-owner of Duke Studios Sheaf Street, Laura Wellington, revealed their plans to expand on the month of sessions into the new year, further utilising the multi-faceted nature of the space. Duke Studios is increasingly becoming a powerhouse that facilitates both work (houses 51 businesses, hosting various business events formal and not so via their ‘not bored room’, Conservatory, garden and events space) and play; which turns the latter into a performance space, or perhaps a party hall complete with street food vans. The message is loud and clear: Duke Studios are multi-faceted and multi-functioning.

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Another event in the preview week, Reboot Leeds, saw an amalgamation of Leeds’ best DJ nights, and integrated not only these various DJs but also the various spaces in the Victorian Building perfectly. The event we attended on Thursday 26th November invited us to sip gin opulently whilst learning the ways of the spirit. The night was a more intimate affair, hosted in the Sheaf Street Cafeteria, with soft lighting, courtesy of Laura’s own designs, and a group of around 20 attendees. The night was hosted by Leeds favourites Portobello Road and their ginsmiths Foxy and Andy who welcomed us all with the ultimate classic tipple; the gin and tonic, served with a twist of grapefruit rind (and more about that later).

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Portobello Road Gin has gone from strength the strength, and part of the evening’s education consisted of a brief history of the brand’s journey from the moonshine-eque, hand labelled bottles designed bespoke to the small number of bars it was first served in, to the global brand it is fast becoming. Its legacy has its roots in Leeds, where Jake of Jake’s bar first resided, before making the trip down to London where the Ginstitute of Portobello Road (The Still Room of which is proudly, London’s second smallest museum) is now located, hosting tasting events such as this to educate gin lovers about their favourite tipple - and boy did we learn! Amongst the lesser-known facts, we learned of the distillation process and the incredibly Victorian sounding components of the apparatus used; ‘swan’s neck’ anyone? We learnt also of the 9 ingredients involved in the unique blend that makes Portobello distinctive as a London Dry Gin and the way that these flavours can be manipulated and drawn upon by various garnishes and pairings.

For example, the aromatic grapefruit rind - representing the all-important citrus accompaniment - brings about the fresher flavours in the gin without masking the flavour, while a classic Campari, which we were served next, compliments the more bitter fusion of flavours. In addition to these blends, we learnt the importance of tasting the –ahem- naked gin, rather than just ‘drinking’ it. Popular myth leads us to believe that, a la wine tasting (which goes rather over my head) you need to swish and swill the gin around your mouth like some kind of expensive Listerine. It’s a rather more delicate process that is broken down into several parts; the first to aerate the gin, by gently swirling it around the glass; small but important. The second is a gentle sniff of the gin, so as not to anaesthetise the nose (and therefore rendering it completely useless to taste with, for which it is actually 70% responsible). The third step involves a delicate sip that washes over the 5 taste sections of the tongue; sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and umami bringing out the several botanicals in Portobello Road. The last step is a brief intake of breath to again oxygenate the gin and fully realise the flavours. Fancy stuff. I must say, I prefer my gin paired with a good tonic and a squeeze of lime but certainly learnt a lot from the session.

To keep up to date with all the goings on at Sheaf Street, and the eclectic range of events taking place, sign up to their Meganews™ Signup! on the site.

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.