Chester Zoo has officially launched its very own gin just in time for Christmas.
The pandemic left Britain’s largest wildlife centre on the ropes back in summer – with owners launching a public campaign for support that raised 2.4 million in the space of just over a week.
Despite lower attendances and periods of full closure, Chester Zoo has managed to stay afloat in 2020 – and now they’re hoping to raise more money towards crucial conservation work with their very own spirit bottle.
Infused with hand-picked ingredients from plants that feed the animals at the zoo, ‘Chester Zoo Gin’ boasts a ‘tropical’ taste – with buyers also able to grow wildflowers from the seed paper label.
Tom Culshaw, Senior Food and Beverages Manager at the zoo, said: “The concept for the gin came from walking around the vast and amazing landscape of the zoo, taking in all the different gardens, varieties and species of plants that we have at our fingertips. Working closely with our botany and horticulture departments led to an organic idea of how we could further utilise what we have around us.”
Curator of Botany and Horticulture at the zoo, Phil Esseen, added: “The botanicals used in the Chester Zoo gin are carefully balanced to create a unique flavour and were selected to reflect the zoo’s tropical landscapes, and our work with rare plants. For example, one of the more unusual flavourings in the gin is extracted from banana leaves. These were grown here at the zoo, where we use the hardy Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) to help create a tropical effect in our planting, particularly in our South East Asian islands habitats.
“We also use the leaves to wrap up different foods for feeding to the chimps, as part of their dietary and behavioural enrichment, and grow dandelions, another botanical in the gin, as it is a much loved part of our tortoises’ diet.”
Teaming up with The Secret Garden, a specialist Herb Nursery in Edinburgh and The Old Curiosity distillery, Chester Zoo experts combined their knowledge and passion to create unique flavours.
Tom Culshaw continued: “We took a lot of guidance from The Secret Garden’s team who spent time at the zoo with our plant experts; carefully selecting which botanicals would give us a bespoke product, and what would highlight the work the teams do to feed and enrich the animals.”
Owner and herb specialist, Hamish Martin, advised on what ingredients would bring the gin to life, he said: “Chester Zoo Gin is like no other gin.
“It has been inspired by all of the incredible animals and is made up of 11 botanicals we have specifically picked from the zoo banana leaves, chicory flowers and dandelion, all of which are used to feed the animals – so I suppose you could say the food that feeds the animals will become the spirit to fulfil your taste buds!
“It’s a huge prestige for The Secret Garden and the distillery to be supplying Chester Zoo. We farm completely naturally with no chemicals whatsoever and truly love nature, values I know the zoo shares. We have had such fun creating this gin and it is a joy to be launching it now, and I am sure the visitors and supporters of the zoo will love it too.”
Chester Zoo gin is available in 50cl and 20cl and can be purchased from The Oakfield restaurant at the zoo or via their new online shop.
Learn more here.