IN the coming weeks Phil’s Old Bell gin emporium is poised to top 1,000 different makes of the en vogue spirit.
His current total stands at 998, a huge development on when he first started his quest to get the historic Delph hostelry a Guinness World Record.
“I was on a plane and remember reading about the Mahon distillery in Minorca,” said Phil, one-time landlord of the Farrars Arms in Grasscroft.
“There was something about the image of a white-washed wall drinking area with people sitting, socialising with their gin that appealed.
“It got me thinking I’d like to bring a similar idea back to Saddleworth.
“That was 2012 and in those days we had a grand total of three different gins,” said Phil.
“So, I started to stock a few more, the locals liked them and I got up to about 20.
“At the time the world record was 114 and I’m thinking ‘could we, shall we?’ and eventually decided ‘yes we will’.
“But we didn’t just want to break the record, we wanted to smash it totally!”
By 2014, the Old Bell received Guinness world record recognition with a grand total of 404.
“I said I would stop at 500 but the collection just kept growing,” admitted Phil.
“Customers going on holiday or business trips would send me pictures asking if I had got a particular make. They just wanted to be involved in creating something a bit different.
“There has been suggestions there are bigger collections elsewhere but Guinness haven’t asked me to take my certificate down. A bit like an athlete – once you break a world record you always have that distinction.”
And Phil keeps the collection growing, including splashing out a four figure sum for the world’s most exclusive gin – the ‘Japanese Angel.’
Distilled at half the pressure found on top of Mount Everest and at a temperature lower than the coldest day at the South Pole, the gin is presented in a hand blown decanter bottle and finished off with silver pieces by jeweller Antoine Sandoz, whose other clients include Chanel, Tom Ford and De Beers.
The flavour has notes of sweet citrus and spice, supported by bitter juniper and a long, complex finish.
But you’ll have to take our word for it as due to its rarity this is one gin Phil doesn’t sell.
Besides, customers have 997 other gins and more than 40 tonics to sample.
A single measure of Anty Gin, containing the essence of approximately 62 wood ants, will set you back £65!
And bring your credit card also for a blast from the past. Booth’s London Dry Gin was once as familiar as Gordon’s but is no longer produced in the UK.
As a result, customers looking for a shot of nostalgia are willing to pay £50 – though you can enjoy a gin at the Old Bell from just £3.
Phil has promised to stop adding to his collection once he reaches 1001.
“But I have said that before,” he smiled. “I reckon there are more than 2,000 different gins out there.
“There is probably another of couple of years to go before gin hits its peak.
“But I don’t think gin will ever disappear. They say rum is going to be the next big thing!”