Free may be the most powerful word in the English language, but gin comes a close second. At least in my lexicon. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that gin plays a big role in my wellbeing, alongside carrot sticks and cream eggs.

So when I heard there was a gin hotel opening in London – The Distillery – I face-planted off my bar stool and dropped my Hendricks.

Surely, this was proof beyond doubt that there was a God?


Outside the Distillery London

 The Hotel

The Distillery, on Portobello Road, started life as the Ginstitute. Once upon a time it was nothing more than a tiny room above a diminutive Notting Hill drinking den, The Portobello Star. And was run by four impassioned ex-bartenders who pedalled their love of gin and flogged their new London Dry – Portobello Road – named after the road on which it was distilled.

Little did they know that gin would explode from Vodka’s shadow and take on behemoth-like proportions. But explode it has and gin’s resurgence has carried the once tiny Ginstitute to its grand new home: a four-storey gin palace on the site of an old London pub, just a few doors up from the Ginstitute’s original location on Portobello Road.

The Distillery houses two main bars: the Resting Room on the ground floor and GinTonica on the first floor (which is also a bright and light Spanish restaurant); 3 boutique bedrooms at the top of the building; and a gin distillery in the basement. It’s in the basement that you’ll find The Ginstitute – aka: a veritable University of Gin, with its History Room and Blending Room.

Room at The Distillery London

Getting there was a breeze: from Paddington station I took a tube to Ladbroke Grove, then walked the 10 mins to 186 Portobello Road.

Room at The Distillery London

The Ginstitute Experience

For £110 per person you can enjoy the ‘Ginstitute Experience’ in the underbelly of the Distillery. Pricey, maybe – but worth every penny. We checked into our room just after lunch with plenty of time to try the in-room complimentary G&T and negroni cocktail, before making our way downstairs for our gin experience at 7pm.

What followed was 3 – or was it 4 (I’m a little hazy) – hours of complete gin immersion.

The Ginstitute

First, we were whizzed through the history of gin in the cosy, wood-panelled History Room by our laid-back ‘ginstructor’ who really knew his gin timeline; our schooling lubricated with gin cocktails during ‘class’.

Next, came the alchemy lesson: a chance to blend our own gin with a base gin and a suite of botanicals on offer. Yes, we tasted nearly every one of the single-flavour distillates – from pink peppercorn to Yorkshire tea – to find the perfect 6-strong mix we wanted for our bespoke gin.

I plumbed for Lapsang Souchong, white pepper, cassia, and orris root, leaving me with a smoky-spiced gin that hit my sweet spot.

Gin tasting at the Distillery London

Gin tasting at the Distillery London

Once mixed, our individual gins were named – ‘Gincident’ seemed an appropriate title for mine – tried by the rest of the group to giggles of approval, then smartly labelled and bag up with another bottle of Portobello Gin and East Imperial Tonic Water (hello £50’s worth of free booze). This took my gin tally that evening to – well, let’s just say – impressive new heights.


Gin tasting at the Distillery London

Once gin school kicked out we staggered back upstairs with our DIY gins. But before heading to our gin-splashed room we made one more stop: the Resting Room, which was in full gin-swing, for a cheeky nightcap.

Red Snapper, anyone? And the main ingredient? You guessed it.

The cost: £150 for a double room overlooking Portobello Road. The Ginstitute Experience was £110 per person.

To book: Contact The Distillery to check availability.

“I exercise strong self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast” Winston Churchill





Claire Robinson | Head Weekender
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Claire Robinson | Head Weekender

Founder at Weekend Candy
Claire Robinson is an award-winning freelance writer with a lust for weekend travel. Whether it’s in the UK or Europe, you’ll find her checking out the sweetest places to stay and the best things do to on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Over the last year, Claire’s zipped to a host of different spots in the UK and Europe, bringing back colourful, evocative and energetic tales of where to go and what to see for those wishing to do the same. She’s founder of Weekend Candy – The Weekend Inspiration Blog.
Claire Robinson | Head Weekender
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