Every bottle contains the essence of 62 red wood ants found in the forests of Kent
It’s not uncommon or unheard of to come across a bottle of spirits filled with more than just alcohol. Worms, scorpions, and even small rodents are often thrown into the bottle and sold to eager tourists looking for something exotic. But actually distilling the flavour and essence of a creepy crawling and infusing the liquid with it is something rather unusual, and now a UK gin distillery is doing just that.
A joint venture between the Danish Nordic Food Lab, an experimental food science company, and the Cambridge Distillery, the aptly named ‘Anty Gin’ works by using formic acid. This is an inbuilt defence mechanism produced by ants, which reacts in the presence of alcohol to create aromatic esters (chemical compounds producing scents and flavours).
The distillery is harvesting red wood ants, also known as Formica rufa, found in the woodlands of Kent. It more than 62 of the creepy crawlies, collected by a group of professional foragers, to produce enough of the acid for distillation into a 42 percent proof bottle of gin.
The ‘Anty Gin’ also contains wild ingredients, including Bulgarian juniper berries, a forest herb known as wood aven, stinging nettles, alexanders seed (a wild relative of celery), and organically-grown English wheat. The amassed ingredients only amount to one single litre of gin during each distillation process.
As bespoke alcohols go, the ‘Anty Gin’ creators say that the contents of every bottle are all collected by hand, from the ants to the plants. The bottling process is all done manually, with the only nod to machine technology coming from the use of a 1924 typewriter for the labels of the bottles – each one produced once at a time.
The partnership says it will only brew 99 bottles of ‘Anty Gin’ as a first commercial run, and with a retail price of £200 (€280) per bottle, only the most antsy gin collectors will be availing of the concoction.
Sean Moncrieff spoke to William Lowe, a master distiller at the Cambridge Distillery, about the project earlier today. You can listen back to that interview below: