The Hayman family is, impressively, the longest serving gin-distilling family in England. And yet, despite that – and much to my embarrassment – I knew little about them before they relocated to London in 2018. Worse still, and despite them being incredibly generous to me, I have never written a full article about them. Now, as Christopher Hayman celebrates an incredible 50 years in the gin industry, it seems like the perfect time to rectify that and sing their much-deserved praises.
The family story dates back over five generations to 1820 when the original company of Hayman Distillers was founded. In 1863 the company was acquired by James Burrough; the great grandfather of Christopher Hayman and owner of the Burrough Distillery made famous for its flagship Beefeater Gin (another favourite of mine that deserves more praise than it receives!).
Now the story gets even more complicated! In 1987 the majority of the family sold up to Whitbread but, the following year, Christopher bought James Burrough’s Fine Alcohols Division from Whitbread to maintain his family connection. Having first created gins for other markets, it was in 2004, and with his children James and Miranda on board, that the first Hayman’s product, 1820 Gin Liqueur, was launched. With their gin initially made at Thames Distillers, Hayman’s celebrated their 150th anniversary by moving production in-house by installing a still at their Essex headquarters. However, it was in 2018 that Hayman’s really hit the headlines with they moved to a brand new distillery in Balham, returning them to within four miles of their original London site and also allowing them to triple capacity.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit their south London home a number of times now – from the important industry Call Time on Fake Gin debate to an awe-inspiring pop-up opera performance – and it never fails to impress me. The large semi-industrial space is dominated by their three beautiful copper stills Marjorie, Karin and Miranda; appropriately named after Christopher Hayman’s mother, wife and daughter. It is also home to a stunning bar, to be found at the top of a flight of stairs emblazoned with Noel Coward’s famous martini quote – “A perfect martini should be made by fitting a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy” – and from which one can survey everything below. With the distillery open to the public for tours, cocktail masterclasses and even ‘Ginema’ screenings I cannot recommend a visit more highly.
Alongside the new distillery, Hayman’s also unveiled a stunning new look for their bottles, created by packaging designers Stranger and Stranger. But, of course, it’s the contents that really counts and, crikey, that’s cracking! There really are few brands I can think of with the range, consistency and high standards of Hayman’s. They somehow manage to look back to the tradition of gin, keep true to their ethos of True English Gin but also look forward and tackle new trends such as pink drinks and low-ABV drinking without ever compromising their integrity.
Fascinatingly, every gin in their range (and, yes, I have tried them all!) is distilled to a family recipe dating back over 150 years and uses the same 10 botanical line-up, with variation from gin to gin to highlight different flavours. Hayman’s also create their gins using the same traditional two-day process as they would have in 1863, steeping the botanicals in English wheat spirit for a full day before distillation. I genuinely love the whole range so below you’ll find a little guide to the ones I’m lucky enough to have in my collection. But don’t forget to try the Royal Dock and Gently Rested too – they are equally amazing!
London Dry Gin
Created to a 150-year-old family recipe, Hayman’s London Dry features their classic line-up of ten botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, cassia bark, orris root, liquorice and nutmeg. With a traditional nose, sweet, oily citrus dominates the palate up front before opening out to reveal dry juniper followed by subtle spices on the finish. Smooth and rounded, a drop of water reveals the exceptional softness, balance and complexity that Hayman’s can be so trusted to deliver. If you’re looking for a traditional, classic London Dry you won’t find many better or more reliable than this.
Serve with tonic water and a twist of lemon peel.
70cl 41.2% ABV £26
Old Tom Gin
Released in 2007, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin played a huge part in resurrecting what was a forgotten style of gin which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Made to a traditional recipe found in the family archives, Hayman’s Old Tom is described as bold and rounded with the subtle sweetness that is so indicative of the style. Citrus provides the backbone to this gin which offers a spiced sweetness up front opening into drier spiced juniper mid-palate before returning to a sweeter finish. With a slightly thicker, more viscous mouthfeel that coats the tongue in a pleasing fashion, this is still a truly traditional gin, albeit one with just a touch less emphasis on juniper for those who prefer their gins a little less dry.
Serve with soda water and a fresh orange garnish or try it in a classic cocktail such as a Martinez.
70cl 41.4% ABV £27
The first in Hayman’s Bartender’s Release series, Hopped Gin was co-created by Jordan Sweeney of The Wigmore Tavern at the Langham Hotel in London, and sees fresh grapefruit and classic English Fuggle Hops added to Hayman’s signature ten botanicals. Neat Hopped Gin has an unconventional nose and a dry – almost astringent – palate, dominated by green herbal flavours followed by a peppery finish. A drop of water, however, releases the bright grapefruit notes on both the nose and palate and reveals a complex but intriguing gin.
Serve in a G&T with a wedge of pink grapefruit.
70cl 41.2% ABV £39
Gin Liqueurs are ten a penny these days and largely pretty disappointing. Haymans’ Gin Liqueur though is, of course, something else altogether! First released in 2004, and relaunched earlier this year, it is believed to be the world’s first gin liqueur. Described as a juniper-forward gin with the sweetness of a liqueur, it is bold and delicious and comes in at a full-strength 40% ABV! Even if sweeter gins aren’t really your thing don’t discount this; it works wonders in a host of cocktails reducing the need for much, if any, sugar syrup.
Serve in a G&T, over the rocks or in a Southside Fizz.
60ml Hayman’s Gin Liqueur
30ml lime juice
5ml sugar syrup (or to taste)
Muddle mint leaves in a shaker. Add gin, lime juice and sugar syrup. Shake with ice. Strain into a glass, top with soda and garnish with mint.
70cl 40% ABV £39
Small Gin debuted at Imbibe Live this year to great acclaim and no wonder, this is a real game-changer. Low- and no-alcohol drinks are becoming big business but it’s a tricky category for gin-makers to enter as the spirit has to be a minimum of 37.5% ABV by law. Hayman’s have ingeniously tackled this, not by reducing the ABV, but by increasing the flavour. So much so that only a 5ml thimbleful of 43% Small Gin packs as much flavour as a full-strength gin and tonic but contains only 0.2 units of alcohol per serve. It’s super clever stuff and damn tasty too. And just look at that dinky little thimble and beautiful gift box!
Serve in a low ABV G&T with a lemon or lime garnish (use 100ml low calorie tonic for a 30 calorie serve).
20cl 43% ABV £26
Spiced Sloe Gin
Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin is a limited-edition release created by combining their True English Sloe Gin with warming spices including cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and star anise. With rich, red fruit, notes of marzipan and festive spices, this is undoubtedly the perfect winter warmer!
Enjoy neat, serve with Mediterranean tonic or try this spin on the classic Blackthorn.
True English Blackthorn
45ml Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin
30ml Hayman’s London Dry Gin
20ml Antica Formula Vermouth
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake all the ingredients together with ice and fine strain into a chilled martini glass.
70cl 26.4% ABV £29.99 (available exclusively from Ocado)
If all this has whet your appetite, why not pop along to Hayman’s Distillery Open Day on Saturday 30th November or book a ticket to Forest Hill Gin Club’s gin tasting with Christopher Hayman at Subplot 57 on Thursday 5th December. Or just buy yourself a bottle for Christmas; you won’t regret it!
With thanks to James and Miranda Hayman for their constant support, generosity and encouragement.