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A Week on the Estate: Roaming Reds, Planting Hedges & Distilling Magic

We’ve enjoyed a thoroughly life-affirming week on the estate, with fine weather and tangible growth and development all around us.

 

The Lincoln Red herd is relishing its new-found freedom to roam the woods and pastures of the estate. The vista from the Hall’s library window now features both verdant parkland and russet notes from these handsome heritage cattle as they settle into their long grazing season.

 

Paul Barnes has worked with the Woodland Trust to plant a new 300m section of hedging on the estate. The various species making up the hedge include hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, hazel, common dogwood, dog rose and crab apple. We’ve also planted some hornbeam trees. Within a few years, this hedge will be a boon for the birds and bees frequenting this part of the estate. Paul has pencilled in a further 900m for next year’s planting season.

In the Walled Garden, the shed’s roof has been replaced and looks well set for generations to come. The new gate in the west wall has been installed and will soon be finished off with a final coat of paint and some metalwork. We also found a good use for some fallen timber by replacing an old footbridge that lay across the stream, allowing us to maintain a metal sluice.

 

Preparing our tenants’ cottages for a sustainable and energy-efficient future is well underway. At 2 Brinkhill Bridge Cottages, we’re drilling down to 100m to install pipes for the ground-source heat pumps. At the same time, local builder Dave Ward is re-building an old outhouse to accommodate the heat pumps.

 

This option will allow us to make the best use of the house’s interior space and its external structures. Work inside the cottage is moving along nicely too, with both plumbing and heating pipework being installed alongside new wall insulation. Our goal is to cut the energy consumption of a typical cottage by a massive 88%; from 45,000kW to 5,500kW annually.

Massingberd-Mundy Distillery manager Tristan Jørgensen has a passion for the history and traditions of his craft. This week, he shared his insights into one of the botanicals that gives us fine gin as we know and love it today: Angelica.

 

Unlike other herbs, Angelica has had no other name. Tradition holds that an angel appeared to a monk in a dream and revealed that this humble plant would cure the plague. Divine origins even feature in the plant’s formal name: Angelica archangelica.

 

The herb was once considered so potent that it was nicknamed ‘Root of the Holy Ghost’ and became intertwined with both religion and superstition. It was touted as a defence against both the Black Death and evil spirits, witches and spells.

 

The Danes were among the first to produce an ancient confectionary still known as candied Angelica. By the 17th century, the English were steaming roots to create their own version of this enduring treat, also believed to expel wind and ‘strengthen the stomach’. Candied Angelica makes for a fine garnish and a visual treat in a long G&T.

 

Today, Angelica is regarded as one of the most important botanicals for gin production. The dried root is typically used in preference to the flower. Once distilled, Angelica has an earthy flavour; a little bitter and a little herbal. It is reminiscent of wormwood, itself one of the holy trinity of botanicals, featuring in absinthe. On the nose, Angelica carries a faint, nettle-like aroma. The flavour can be mistaken for juniper, although the two are quite different.

 

After juniper and coriander, Angelica is widely held in the distilling trade to be the third most important botanical in gin. Many view Angelica as a binding agent, holding all the flavours together. While there is little chemical evidence for this, we’re not about to argue with centuries of tradition. Next time you savour the magical aromas of our fine gin, remember: a little dash of old-fashioned witchcraft went into it.

 

* Mural detail from Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (19th century) courtesy of N Lazarov & Wikipedia Creative Commons.