Johnny Neill and Din Jusufi on the new spirits being conjured up by Marylebone Gin and 108 Brasserie

Marylebone Gin and 108 Brasserie

Words: Clare Finney

It’s the beauty of the still that strikes you first: the gleam of the copper pot; the tight, serpentine coil of the cold-water pipes; the small, submarine-like window into a world of vapour and botanicals. The word ‘still’ describes quite perfectly the feeling it engenders as you watch and listen to the spirit, as it oscillates between hard liquor and invisible vapour.

There is something particularly remarkable about the location of this particular still, dubbed Isabella by its owner Johnny Neill, founder of Marylebone Gin. Rather than being tucked away on an industrial estate, it is in 108 Brasserie, standing quietly and proudly beside the restaurant’s much-leaned on marble bar, central to both the room itself and to the exciting changes that bar manager Din Jusufi hopes to bring about this year. While Marylebone Gin has proved truly distinctive and incredibly popular, Din, Johnny and the team at 108 can’t help but feel Isabella can do even more.

“This year will be all about gin,” says Din. Now the still is in place in 108, he and Johnny want to produce another limited-edition gin, called Marylebone Irish Lavender Expression. “It will be lower in alcohol and more floral—more rose, lavender and orange blossom, as well as juniper. We want a gin to go with a nice slice of grapefruit, as well as in cocktails.”

The same parents
Right now, they’re still formulating the recipe, “but if you can imagine a blend of Silent Pool, Bloom and Marylebone gins, that’s the kind of flavour we’re aiming for.” Of course, it will resemble Marylebone Gin (after all, it has the same parents) but instead of cutting it with water to a 50 per cent ABV, Din and the team will cut it closer to 40 per cent—“so we’ll end up with 60 litres in total, which is a win!” he grins broadly.

The botanicals—the orange blossom, the rose petals, and others that shall not be named—sit in the neutral grain spirit in a big pot hidden within the cabinet. This mixture is heated until it vaporises, at about 50C. Isabella’s lid and column are made from copper, which reduces sulphide content during distillation so the gin, when it condenses at the end of the process, tastes and smells purer. The still’s ‘thumper’ also increases the proof and purity of the gin, by providing a second distillation. “She looks small, but in eight hours we can produce 50 bottles,” says Din proudly.

The final product is still, quite literally, in the pipeline. But it sounds—and if the beautiful still is anything to go by, looks—promising. Come this time next year, Din even hopes to be serving barrel-aged versions of this gin. “We want to be known as one of the best gin bars in London,” he informs me seriously—and while I’m no expert (at least not in a commercial sense), I can’t help but think setting up your own bespoke distillery and producing your own gin ‘live’, as it were, seems a good way to start.

Marylebone gin