In the drizzling rain, the spiral of St Bride's church looms in the early morning mist. Rubbish and broken furniture are scattered along a narrow London lane off Fleet Street and a determined traffic warden gives a ticket to a disconcerted German lorry driver. But appearances can be deceptive: this otherwise typical street scene belies the significance of the occasion. On board the truck are two pot stills, destined for the first new gin distillery for 200 years inside the City of London.
C.O.L.D, or City Of London Distillery, is the brainchild of Jamie Baxter, a master distiller who helped establish Chase distillery, and Jonathan Clark, a former pub owner in the area. Together they have almost singlehandedly turned a disused basement space around and all is looking great for its opening on 5th November.
The COLD distillery will act as a normal, completely publically accessible venue, offering spirits and mixers, beers and wine, served from a solid mahogany bar top salvaged from a condemned pub in Lancashire. The difference is clear: behind glass walls the two copper pot stills will produce the spirit made in the bar's range of gin cocktails.
Considering the City of London used to be drenched in gin (in 1730 around 10 million gallons were distilled in its environs each year), this project is bringing a little of that history back to Fleet Street. In fact, it's just around the corner from the site of the Black Swan Distillery which was destroyed in the Gordon Riots of 1780. As the gin poured out, rioters began guzzling it from the gutters, literally soaking themselves and becoming senseless. When the flames started engulfing the building many found themselves alight and ran out into the streets, throwing themselves in what they thought were puddles of water, which turned out to be more gin, and thus ensuring their death.
Whilst nothing that dramatic is expected at this new distillery, some exciting things are taking place during the day as the 'Gin Experience'. Guests will be able to tour the back-end of the distillery and participate in masterclasses before settling down with a decent gin and tonic.
Meanwhile a competition is being run to name the stills, now they have managed to find their way downstairs. Personally we feel they bear some resemblance to the Dr Who's Daleks, Caan and Sec anyone? No, just us then. If you have any suggestions tweet them @COLDistillery