Gin from blended botanicals.
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.’