Swiss precision in South London

A new boutique version of the Swiss Centre showcases the best of Switzerland, including a diverse collection of finely crafted spirits from the Studer distillery

Food and Drink 26 May 2022

Studer's collection of fine spirits are available to taste at the Neatly showroom in Crystal Palace

Studer's collection of fine spirits are available to taste at the Neatly showroom in Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace Park is one of London’s hillier green spaces, but it’s not quite the Bernese Oberland. However, the area is the surprising location of Neatly – a showroom dedicated to the best of contemporary Switzerland. As well as displaying pieces by designers Bartholdi + Hörr, Daniel Blattler’s space (116 Anerley Road, SE19 2AN) is a tasting room for Studer spirits and worth a few stops on the train from Victoria or Canada Water). 

A distiller of highly elegant schnapps since 1883, Studer has not exactly restricted itself to the traditional – although it’s worth trying the Williams (a million miles from ski-resort schnapps, its nose is pure fresh pear and it develops really well on the palate to give a long finish). Naturally, its range includes gins, including an Old Tom with strong blackberry overtones, a fresh sloe gin and Swiss Gold Gin, with flakes of the precious metal in a distinctive bottle with a glass Matterhorn carved into it. The outstanding gin though, is the Swiss Highland Dry (£63). It is juniper-led but beautifully balanced: earthy, citrussy and rich, with a wonderful evergreen and pine-resin aspect – it’s like drinking a walk in the Swiss Alps. 

A taste of Studer absinthe
A taste of Studer’s superlative absinthe

There are also some unusual inclusions in the range. As well as a regular aged rum made from imported molasses, there is also one given a Swiss remix – rum distilled from a blend of molasses and homegrown figs (£55) – distilled with figs, not flavoured afterwards. Strangely, it works. As do Studer’s cold brew coffee liqueurs, made in collaboration with Illy, called Brooster (£52). Of the three combinations (rum, Williams schnapps and gin), the gin surprisingly works best – offering a subtle herbal profile like a good espresso. 

The collection’s highlight, however, is arguably the most Swiss of all spirits… an incredibly good absinthe (£79). Though strongly associated with French culture, absinthe was, in fact, developed in Couvet, Switzerland in the late 18th century, where the first absinthe distillery was opened by a Major Dubied. His son-in-law Henri-Louis Pernod opened a second HQ in France. Studer’s take on the spirit is smooth, with peppery highlights over herbal, floral notes. And if that doesn’t make you want to skip like Heidi through the Alpine meadows of Crystal Palace, nothing will.