At the Capreolus Distillery our distiller, Barney Wilczak, demands the highest standards. Having produced and handled every spirit at the distillery this is understandable. Individual varieties of fruits are only distilled in years where the quality reaches the highest levels. This includes working with the ripening process by day and by hour, only choosing to collect when we are confident that we are reflecting the best each plant or tree has to offer. These are truly rare and beautiful things demanding huge amounts of delicate materials. As an example, the barley used in whisky production produces over 40 times as much finished spirit for every kilogram used when compared to some of our wonderful fruits.
Each ingredient is inspected by hand, gently washed and slowly fermented at cool temperatures to best preserve aroma. Yeasts, either wild or alternatively expressive cultivars, are used for the conversion of sugars to create the small yield of alcohol that helps carry and preserve the fragrance in your glass.
This attention to detail is also reflected in the demands we make in the ingredients for Garden Swift (formerly Garden Tiger) gin, whether cultivated, wild or grown in our own gardens. With solid days of extracting the fresh zest from organic blood oranges, rejecting the cheap but lifeless dried peel used by most, through to the gentle hand sorting of flowers picked from the tall candles of mullein plants.
Once fermented, the fruits are transferred to the distillery. Further processing is sometimes required, for example, plums are sieved by hand from their stones. This leaves just a hint of their almond flavour without covering the delicate spice hidden within the flesh. Respecting the ingredients the fruits are transferred by hand into our custom copper still. Heated by a naked flame it is clothed in a water bath, removing the risk of scorching. The choice of copper rather than cheaper stainless steel serves two roles. A superb conductor of heat, it allows a gradual transition of flavours as they evaporate within the still. Secondly it binds undesirable flavour components to its surface, part of the alchemy and art of distillation.
A first distillation concentrates the essence of our fruit to create the "low wines", a spirit of 25-30% ABV. After several first distillations, the low wines are combined and once again distilled. Here each flavour comes across in strong bands as we reach individual molecules' boiling points. Experience and a sensitive nose are key. The first section, known as the "heads" are highly volatile, undesirable and are rejected. A rapid change to the "hearts", where the true beauty of the spirit lies, our goal in distillation. Finally, heavy and fatty, the "tails" are removed. Unlike other distilleries we do not recycle either heads or tails. This process of extracting as much ethanol as possible for commercial reasons is against our own ideals. Therefore, despite retaining only a fraction of the alcohol we start with, we create the highest possible standards.
Our Garden Swift gin follows a similar process. Hard spices, berries and herbs are soaked in our neutral British wheat spirit for 40 hours. We then suspend fresh blood orange zest and a rich mix of flowers and fragrant leaves above the liquid, their aroma gently extracted by the rising steam. 34 ingredients in all come together in a slow 7 hour, carefully guided, distillation. It creates a sum much greater than its parts.
And to rest. Whether being aged in barrels or remaining as pure clear spirits, a long wait in our warehouse allows the development of the spirit, the creation of new aroma compounds and the development of truly exceptional Eaux de Vie and gin.