What better Christmas present could a man ask for than a combined brewery and distillery tour: a sure sign that one’s wife is entirely familiar with one’s interests? We set off for Ramsbury late morning last Friday, Victoria having nicely rounded off the gift by offering her services as designated driver.
The Ramsbury Estate
The Ramsbury estate covers some 19,000 acres where the counties of Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire meet and is owned by Swede Stefan Persson, billionaire founder of the H&M fashion chain. It includes almost 9,000 acres of the Savernake Estate, sold to Persson in 2013 by the Crown estates.
Now if I had met with the same sort of successes as Mr Persson, I too might well be adding both a brewery and a distillery to my plans for extending my business interests. And I would probably want to do things with an equally exacting eye for detail.
A modern, ecologically-sound business
Housed in beautifully converted farm buildings, both brewery and distillery are the model of modern, ecologically-sound businesses.
For both brewing and distilling the estate grows its own grain. Ramsbury Brewery has its own strain of yeast, which it recovers after the brewing process. Solid residues go to feed the estate’s livestock, meat from which is served up in the (estate-owned) village pub.
Water for the businesses comes from an on-site borehole and, in reed beds, is purified and recycled.
In fact, the only activity that takes place off-site is the malting of the estate’s grain – barley for the brewing process, wheat for distilling – which occurs at a specialist facility in Warminster.
The tour and tasting
Our host for the tour was operations manager Tibor, who mixed a wicked cocktail of humour and information as he led our small group around the brewery and made a fascinating job of explaining all processes involved in the creation of the estate’s range of beers.
None too soon, we had a chance to taste some of the estate’s ales, starting with Hopper: at 3.2% something of a session ale, but a delicious one, with perfectly balanced bitterness from its hopping. Blindside followed: again, a most satisfying mouthful. But the crowning glory of production here is the Ramsbury Gold, their best seller and what a rich and vibrant drink it is. We lingered a while and exchanged rudimentary tasting observations whilst enjoying a top-up.
It is but a short walk to the distillery next door and one can hardly believe that it is a working facility, so immaculate is it.
Ramsbury is one of – if not the – only estates in the country to conduct the entire process of producing spirits, from grain to bottle, on-site. And what spirits they are: rich and flavoursome. If you are a fan of either gin or vodka you’d be hard pushed to find better examples.
Read more or pay a visit!
And if you are ever down Marlborough way, think long and hard about joining a tour. Self-bought presents are always entirely acceptable…