SPIR­ITS :

Gin from blended botan­i­cals.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents - BY F R ANCINE MAROUKIAN

GIN DOESN’T AGE in bar­rels like bour­bon or Scotch, pick­ing up golden colour and rich char­ac­ter traits from wood. But just be­cause it’s see-through doesn’t mean it’s not as struc­turally com­plex as any brown spirit. In­stead of de­riv­ing flavour from a lim­ited mix­ture of grains, gin gets its flavour from an ar­ray of botan­i­cals. In Berk­shire Moun­tain Dis­tillers’ new Ethe­real line, there is al­ways the back­bone of ju­niper, plus mul­ti­ple lev­els of cit­rus – le­mon, lime, grape­fruit. But each edi­tion re­lies on di­ver­sity – laven­der, cubeb berries, co­rian­der, pep­per­corn, rose hips and many oth­ers – com­bined in spe­cific pro­por­tions that are closely guarded trade se­crets.

‘We can dis­cover new flavours by vary­ing ra­tios of the botan­i­cals we use – how they re­late to each other and how to com­bine them for balance,’ says Chris Weld, founder of the dis­tillery, which was orig­i­nally an off­shoot project of his farm. ‘It is the per­fect ap­pli­ca­tion of my back­ground in bio­chem­istry and my in­ter­est in agri­cul­ture.’ HOW CHRIS WELD MAKES GIN 1. Ethe­real gin starts with a neu­tral base spirit – a highly con­cen­trated high-proof ethanol. Weld pro­duces his own us­ing re­gional grains: about 70 per cent corn and about 30 per cent wheat grain bill, dis­tilled four times and about the clean­est slate he can get. 2. The botan­i­cals are mac­er­ated (rather than heated, which is called an in­fu­sion) in that neu­tral spirit at room tem­per­a­ture. It takes about 18 hours for the ethanol to soften the botan­i­cals and re­lease their chem­i­cal flavour com­pounds. Some dis­tillers will add the botan­i­cals at in­ter­vals ac­cord­ing to the ex­act ex­trac­tion tim­ing each might re­quire. In­stead, Weld plays with all the pro­pri­etary ra­tios of the botan­i­cals. They go in at the same time. 3. The spirit is re-dis­tilled in stain­less tanks com­ing off at 80 per cent ABV and is then proofed down to 43 per cent with fil­tered wa­ter from the farm. 3. At this point, the spirit trucked to Weld’s new dis­tillery, about eight kilo­me­tres away, be­fore be­ing bot­tled and la­belled.

‘We went through about 50 dif­fer­ent recipes to de­velop Grey­lock, so it only took a few mi­crodis­til­la­tions of Ethe­real to give us a pretty good gestalt of how the botan­i­cals would af­fect the prod­uct. Now we do the recipes by the seat of our pants, in­spired by what we feel like drink­ing.’

‘Our struc­ture is pred­i­cated on tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Berk­shire ter­roir. When I re­built the 1950s barn for the old dis­tillery, I put up three si­los so I could store lo­cal grains.’

‘The cor­ner­stone of spir­its is a won­der­ful wa­ter source. We draw gran­ite spring wa­ter from our prop­erty at the peak of a moun­tain range sur­rounded by state land. Be­lieved by Na­tive Amer­i­cans to have heal­ing pow­ers, our springs were part of a 19th­cen­tury health spa, at­tract­ing Man­hat­tan­ites who trav­elled here to rus­ti­cate and take in the wa­ters as a tonic for city life. We be­came the first com­mer­cial users of the wa­ter since 1901. It’s also what we drink at home. If the spring runs dry, we turn off the wash­ing ma­chine un­til the cis­tern re­fills it­self.’

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