At the peak of St Michael’s Hill, you’ll discover a great view of Bristol and you’ll also find some of the city’s best independent shops, bars, eateries, and cafes. The pavements are well worn by students and academics toing and froing from the nearby University of Bristol campus and the atmosphere is peaceful but with a light buzz of activity. It’s off the beaten track for tourists, but it’s a favourite haunt for locals.
Nestled right in the centre of this strip is Psychopomp Microdistillery, an independent gin distillery that started life in a Bristol basement in 2007. Its unassuming and traditional facade opens up to reveal a playground of copper stills, rows of jewel-coloured gin infusions, and a wall brimming with Psychopomp gins complete with iconic luggage tag labels.
“We collaborate with local restaurants and suppliers to create unique gins,” explained host Steph as she gestured towards the different spirits, “we’ve partnered with quite a few well-known places such as BOX-E, The Ox, Bravas, Under the Stars, The Strawberry Thief, The Spiny Lobster… there’s so many of them, the list goes on.
“We also make gin with local suppliers- Bee Vomit is a local honey producer and we make a gin with their honey. It’s not about us anymore... it’s about them. What we love about it is that it’s really collaborative and we create something so different every time.”
Gin infused with the spirit of the seasons
Aside from making bespoke gins for Bristol’s favourite restaurants, Psychopomp makes its own limited edition seasonal recipes.
Steph, who has a background in theatre and is Psychopomp’s head of operations, explained: “We’ll only make 750 bottles of a seasonal recipe and when they’re gone they’re gone. It’s our chance to play around a bit, the season is our only brief and we can do all sorts of weird and wonderful things with it- there’s no rules really.”
One of the best bits about Autumn is that the flavour palate gets ramped up a notch or two. Rich, sumptuous, and decadent flavours are the season’s showcase and as we get closer to the woolly months it’s all about big, complex flavours that warm your soul inside and out.
Having used ingredients such as chipotle, beetroot, cocoa, and ants in previous gin recipes, the sky really is the limit in terms of Psychopomp’s taste profile options.
Steph laughed as she explained that ant was a great flavour: “They’re super savoury and have loads of flavour- just eating one is like having a spoonful of Bovril or Marmite. They pack a massive punch.”
What does autumn taste like?
Although there are no ants in this autumn’s offerings, Psychopomp’s Omolu autumn 2021 gin definitely packs a punch. Hearty orange zest mingles with rich cascara and coffee chaff to create a vibrant autumn aroma reminiscent of bright walks on crunching leaves.
“We always think that the seasonal gins are super drinkable right now which is why we do it. We think, ‘what does this autumn taste like?’
“Previously with other autumns we’ve looked at different spices but we didn’t want to go spice again this year. We were inspired to find things that were usually waste products and try and give them a new life and use them again. Coffee grounds were the first thing that came to mind but then we looked a bit further...
“In Omolu we’ve got cascara and coffee chaff. For years cascara was a waste product, but they’ve got more uses for it now. It gives us a rich base that has a fruit hit but isn’t overly sweet. And then the coffee chaff is 100% waste product from our friends Clifton Coffee.
“When the coffee beans are roasted the husk falls off and they end up with piles and piles of it. It actually has lots of flavour- it’s really rich and has a cereal-y note to it. We’ve had that idea mulling over for years and we finally got it as a botanical in this season’s gin.”
How do I best enjoy Omolu?
Psychopomp believes that a good gin should taste its best with a classic tonic, and not need anything else. During the gin lover's masterclass, each gin you try will be paired with a tonic so that you can appreciate the gin’s full flavour.
“We always design our gins so that they are super drinkable in a gin and tonic, in a negroni, and in a dry martini,” said Steph as she took a seat next to the bubbling gin stills, “we think they are the trio of gin drinks. So if your gin doesn’t taste good in all three of those then you’ve made a rubbish gin in our eyes.”
Despite being gin purists, Psychopomp does offer a cocktail recipe with each gin:
“For autumn we’ve gone a little bit boozier and a little bit richer for our cocktail suggestion on the recipe card. Omolu & It is something you can just sip on, it’s nice and warming.
“It’s our take on a classic Gin & It and we use an amazing local vermouth which is from The Aperitivo! Co.- a brilliant company that just launched in the last month or so. They are actually just down the road, you could do it in yards. So it’s a classic cocktail with a really local flavour.”
What’s the best bit of the Psychopomp gin masterclass?
“People love the authenticity of coming into a working space and talking to the people that actually make it. In big distilleries you get tour guides, but here you’ll be talking to one of the six people that come up with the recipes and make all of the spirits coming from Psychopomp.”
According to Steph, the distillery’s original gin is one of the favourites of the gin lover's masterclass- they also love the story behind it:
“Woden is pure Bristol. You don’t get much more Bristol than roguely starting your own distillery in your basement and then seeing if you can make a business out of it.
“It’s so Bristol to just giving it a crack, just getting out there and just doing it- and hopefully that passion of what we’re doing comes across when people meet us.”