Gin can trace its origins back to the Middle Ages starting life as a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists.

In the mid 1700’s gin became a drink of ill-repute. It was drank by the  poor  and usually made in illegal stills and blamed for misery, rising crime, madness and a high death rate and low birth rate.

Gin joints were the first place where women could drink alongside men and this led to women neglecting their children and turning to prostitution. Hence it gained the name ‘Mothers Ruin’ and William Hogarth illustrated the misery gin brought in his painting Gin Lane.

In the days of the British Empire, gin was added to tonic water that contained anti -malarial quinine. The addition of the gin helped it slide down the throat and the ladies and gentlemen of the British empire looked forward to sipping their gin and tonics every evening.

Over the last 6 years there has been a great gin-aissance. The number of different gins we see in bars, on line and even in the supermarket has increased and so have the weird and wonderful concoctions.

It is true to say that our passion for gin has never been as great – so much so that Leeds now has its own gin school.

The Nelson’s Gin School is held regularly at the Hilton Hotel Leeds. Owner of Nelson’s Distillery and School Neil Harrison said the school offers a unique experience not only for gin enthusiasts but anyone who is looking for an interactive and entertaining activity with friends or even family.

“We are extremely excited about our gin school in Leeds. We wanted to bring our passion for gin to the public and offer an interactive experience to take you right to the heart of creating one of the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage, detailing the art and precision of distilling going behind the scenes of a hugely successful gin operation and allowing course members to create their own blend.

Gin was my first alcoholic drink and I will confess as a girl and it is my favourite tipple – so along with a colleague we decided to enrol for some further education.

We arrived at the Hilton Hotel in Leeds not knowing what to expect only we would be there for a considerable time – 4 hours actually and we would come home having created our own personal gin.

On arrival we met our tutor Gabi who told us about the school and we became very excited knowing we would be creating our very own craft gin.

After a very interesting talk on the history of gin and the myths and facts it was time for us to create our very own blend.

Our first task was to chose up to 7 botanicals We did this by looking at some books and smelling them Luckily Richard and I had the same mindset. We chose Orange Bitter, Orange Bitter, Burdock, Ginger, Cinnamon and Vanilla. Then we had to decide on a pepper. This supports the warmth our choice was Grains of Paradise. Our tutor had already added Angelica Root, Orris Root and Coriander seeds to smooth out the flavour The botanicals we chose meant we were going for a Spicy gin.












Then it was time to carefully weigh out the botanicals very carefully. Gabi decided on the weight of the juniper berries needed. Breaktime now and time to sample three different types of Nelson’s craft gin and learn about the various flavours.

Then it was back to work and we learned more about the actual process before tucking into a lovely lunch which was included in the fees.

Gabi also told us more fascinating facts and then it was time to put the botanicals into the Alembic still where our “brew” would become our own gin.










It really was exciting watching our brew bubble away and Gabi added water. After an hour our brew was nearly ready to be tested. It had to have more water added as it was way above the legal limit for proof but adding more liquid made it come into the legal limit.










It was time to decant our gin into a bottle but before that Gabi asked if we wanted our gin to have a colour – and we did and decided on adding a blue colour.

The bottle was then sealed and a cap put over it. We then had to decide on a name for our brew and had to write the label. Both of us being pantomime devotees  and performers we decided on Dames Ruin!!










Nothing can describe the feeling of pride and attainment that we felt actually creating our own craft gin. And what did it taste like? Well we haven’t opened the bottle yet – waiting until Christmas.  Oh yes we are!

Nelsons Gin Schools are held on Friday from 4pm to 8pm and Saturday 2-6pm.

To book and further information, cost etc visit

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