Get spirited away on a gin-making adventure in North Yorkshire

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Lorna Parkes

Guest
The village of Ripley, with its castle and walled gardens, proves the perfect setting for learning to make personalised gin

‘It’s about to happen, I promise!” says Rob Crossley, the “Professor”, as he uses asbestos fingers to gingerly tip-tap his way along a copper pipe to where the magic is to begin. When the heat spreads all the way down to the spindly tip, he knows the temperature will be right for the drip to start.

This hand-hammered copper pot, with its bulging belly warmed by a small electric hob, looks a lot like something from a Harry Potter potion-making class. Which is fitting, because I’m inside the walls of a castle – it’s just that I’m making gin rather than polyjuice. Having been a member of the gin fanclub way longer than it’s been fashionable, it feels overdue that I’m learning to make my own (along with 11 other eager students).

After the relaxation of licensing laws that spawned a boom in craft distilleries, gin schools have popped up across the UK in the past five years. This one, run by Harrogate Tipple, is in a particularly impressive location, though. A long, vaulted window to my right neatly frames a square, crenulated turret of Ripley Castle’s east wing, with a circular gravel drive in the foreground and fields in the distance. And to get to the charcoal-walled gin-making room, I entered through a fake wall in the gin shop, the door handle disguised as an unassuming porcelain bottle on a bookshelf.

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