Gin in Snowdonia, Wales
The global thirst for gin shows no sign of waning and distilleries are popping up all the time with increasingly creative botanicals and bottle designs that deserve pride of place on the mantelpiece. Gin has been much loved by the Brits for centuries, reaching its zenith during the ‘Gin Craze’ in the early 18th century, which (quite literally) brought London to its drunken knees.
Times have changed dramatically and gin is no longer a cheap and cheerful staple, but a carefully-crafted, classy spirit. There’s no better example of this volte-face than the recently-launched gin venture at Palé Hall, a lavish Victorian mansion on the fringes of Snowdonia National Park. Settle in for a weekend of fine dining, foraging for ingredients like heather, gorse and juniper on the slopes of Mount Snowdon and a tasting courtesy of the highly innovative Snowdonia Distillery.
Pisco in Ica, Peru
On the fringes of the desert in southern Peru, Ica is both the country’s finest wine producer and arguably the true birthplace of pisco (‘arguably’ because Chile also lays claim to the honour). The origins of this feisty, colourless spirit – essentially an unaged brandy distilled from grape must and juice – hail back to the early days of the Spanish colony in the 16th century, when it was distilled on private haciendas (large estates or plantations) and sold to sailors heading through the nearby port of Pisco. Back then it was cheap firewater guzzled in excess despite producing the hangover from hell.
Nowadays it’s far more sophisticated in its frothy cocktail form: pisco sour (with lime, sugar and egg white). A number of hacienda distilleries open their doors for visitors in the vine-striped Ica region – among them the much-lauded and award-winning Tacama. In Cuzco, the Museo del Pisco extols the virtues of the national drink and its bar has an encyclopedic list of piscos.