Bet you didn’t know, but there’s a global gin race underway! Officially in the lead with 404 gins, enough to win the Guinness World Record, is the Old Bell Inn, an old coaching inn converted into a modern hotel, brasserie and restaurant.
Nestled in the village of Delph in the civil parish of Saddleworth in Greater Manchester, the Old Bell will make you think twice about countryside establishments. And that’s just what its proprietor, Philip Whiteman, had in mind when he started collecting gins.
Flipping through an in-flight magazine a few years ago, Whiteman stumbled upon an article about a bar that specialized in vodkas and thought to himself, “Well, that’s a different idea!” At the time, he was in search of different ideas and landed quickly on gin, as he picked up a couple of bottles in duty free to take back to the Old Bell.
Whiteman began serving patrons tasters of the gins he had bought to get their feedback. Since they seemed to enjoy the activity so much, he began expanding his gin collection, eventually branching out into tonics. Returning clients soon began asking, “Do you have another gin for us to try?” and the collection kept growing. He and his colleagues soon found that there was a Guinness World Record for the “Most Gins Commercially Available” in play and went for it, winning the title this past August with 404 gins.
Even the restaurant, which was awarded an AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence, caught the gin bug, integrating the spirit into such dishes as its blood-orange cured salmon with Black Death Gin served with capers, raisin dressing and spiced potatoes. The chef began helping the barstaff, making recommendations for garnish and tonics depending on each bottle’s botanicals.
The last Thursday of every month, the Old Bell holds Gin Masterclasses. Distillers and brand managers alike visit the pub to share their stories with the hotel’s patrons who pay a mere £15 for gin tasting, knowledge and a light supper. The classes have become so popular and the hotel so recognized for its gin that distillers have begun contacting Whiteman and Co. to book their chance to be amongst the world’s largest commercial gin collection.
How does the bar possibly source that many gins? Business Development Manager, Natalee Goas, says that many of them come from a local family-run wine and spirit merchant, Hammonds of Knutsford, while others are found through online channels and when the hotel’s employees travel abroad and find new brands. Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. Since receiving the Guinness World Record in August, the Old Bell Inn has already added 26 more gins to its menu for a grand total of 430.
So if you find yourself in Greater Manchester, take some time to visit Delph and the Old Bell Inn. In fact, take some serious time. With 430 gins to taste, you’ll be there for a while.