Madame Jennifer Distillery is a small urban distillery located in Poets' Corner, Hove. Nick Mosley talks to distilling partners Inger Smith and Ian Curtis about their journey of the past five years.
There’s no short of small batch distillers operating across Sussex. In the past decade, those with a passion for great gin, in particular, have turned hobbies into commercial businesses with Ian and Inger of Madame Jennifer firmly establishing themselves as leaders of the pack.
The perfectly formed distillery is tucked away behind a row of Victorian terraced houses in Poet’s Corner, in a premises that formerly housed a coffin maker but is now a thriving community of exciting artistic and independent businesses.
“We were inspired by a book on craft distilling and a 2016 trip to the oldest distillery in Amsterdam”, said Inger. ‘We wondered if it was possible to create a small distillery of our own”.
Coming from professional backgrounds in the sciences, Ian and Inger began their distilling dream back in 2018.
"When we first started developing gin recipes we realised pretty quickly that we had quite different ideas of what makes a perfect gin”, said Ian. “So we ended up with two gins; 'The Chemist' and 'The Biologist' named after us”.
Having established their two core gins, the duo haven’t rested on their laurels. Today they’ve a range of eight spirits, each having been perfected through experimentation and skill to create unrivalled drinks.
Ian is particularly proud of the Amaro liqueur that derives from the Italian tradition of bitter herbal aperitif drinks that are becoming increasingly popular with discerning UK drinkers who enjoy the likes of Americano and Negroni cocktails. Madame Jennifer’s Amaro is considerably lower in sugar than other commercial brands on the market, whilst maintaining all the classic flavour profile.
Another recent addition is their Bubble-Plate Vodka made with 100% English wheat spirit. During distillation, the spirit evaporates and passes through each of the six copper bubble-plates in turn. Every time the gas passes through a bubble-plate, it condenses back to a liquid and drips back down the still column. Only the cleanest of spirits make it to the top of the sixth bubble-plate, resulting in an exceptionally smooth vodka.
Their amazingly lemony Limoncello is made from hand-peeled organic lemons ensuring that only the zest and none of the bitter pith enters the liqueur. Much like their Amaro, the hand-crafting process means that the drink can be perfectly balanced so less sugar needs to be added.
Madame Jennifer’s spirits can be found at an ever-increasing number of off-licences and hospitality businesses across the county.
“The range is becoming widely available in the area”, said Inger. “Recently we’ve been stocked at One Garden Brighton and are also being served at The Grand hotel’s bar”.
There are plenty of opportunities to meet Ian and Inger and enjoy their range of drinks at events including the Gin and Fizz Festival in Lewes on 11 June, Sussex Gin Fest at Borde Hill Garden on 9 July and Bar at the Bandstand – part of the Newhaven Festival on 31 July. T
Consumers can also get an in-depth understanding of the distilling process and Madame Jennifer’s unique techniques at their ‘G&T in the Distillery’ tours hosted every Friday and Saturday. Ever keen to collaborate with like-minded local producers, they’re partnering with Sussex-based vermouth producer Gnina Balchin of In The Loop Drinks for joint masterclasses on 16 June and 17 July.
Find out more and buy online via their website at www.mjdistillery.com.