Our Long, Slow, Process from Grain to Glass
We make our Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS) as the base spirit for our Gins and Vodkas, not many distilleries do this – it’s very time consuming and adds weeks to the process of making Spirits. But the result is a product that we have complete control over and of the highest quality. We believe a big reason all our spirits can be consume straight (if you want) is because of the mouth feel that our Barley based spirits have.
So to start we add 50 kilograms of Gladfield Barley that we crush ourselves to 140 Litres of filtered water that has been heated to 75 Degrees. The malt is stirred through the water and the temperature is monitored to maintain 65 Degrees for an hour. Once we have reached the desired alcohol potential the liquid is drained from the boiler and decanted into two 60 Litre Fermenting Barrels. The liquid is cooled overnight until it reaches a temperature that will allow the yeast to be pitched. Once pitched the Fermenters are babysat for two weeks to maintain the temperature as close as possible to 20 degrees - this means an electric blanket in Winter and fans in Summer.
The spent barley left over from this process is transported to a mate’s small farm and then fed to the livestock – Zero Waste.....
Once the two weeks is up and we have confirmed via a Specific Gravity reading that the low wine is ready to be distilled it's time for the first Pot Strip – we use two 30 litre stills for this (the big boys) and run each still four times for three hours each to process the 120 litres of alcohol from the Fermenters. This process converts the low wine at approx 9% to 53% Alcohol but it is still very rough, which is why we Pot Strip the 53% Alcohol a second time to further refine it and it is now approx. 75% ABV.
This process and ingredients is exactly the same as making the finest single malt whiskeys. But instead of transferring this spirit into barrels and putting our feet up we further refine into Gin and Vodka.
The now 75% Alcohol is further refined through our 6 litre Finishing Column Still (smooth operator) and emerges as a very potent 95.7% to 96% ABV and has a neutral taste and smooth mouthfeel. By the way 96% is about as pure as you can make alcohol and while it takes a lot of time to achieve this, it's worth it. We constantly monitor the alcohol purity and strength throughout this process.
Liquid Infusion Extraction
How we extract the flavour and aroma from our botanicals is one our unique differences - we fill the finishing still with a combination of the column distilled spirit (ie GNS) and Antipodes Water and then use an extraction process that allows the alcohol vapours to rise through a pipe then solidify and seep through the botanicals contained in a cylinder and then return to the still, we repeat this process until all flavour and aroma is extracted - this can be up to 20 cycles and four hours, our old way of doing this process was vapour infusion which is similar but only allowed one extraction. You can imagine the difference - no wait - you can buy it.
If the now Column Stripped Grain Neutral Spirit (GNS) is destined to become Gin then we distill the extracted botanical that resulted from the extraction process in Pot Mode so that maximum taste is consolidated into the newly created Gin.
Once this process is completed the now 85% ABV Gin is cut to 46% ABV using Antipodes Water, we love Antipodes water because the neutral PH and low minerality means the Gin doesn’t pick up any flavours from the water i.e it let's the Gin shine.
If the GNS is destined to become Vodka then it is put through smooth operator a second time in Column Mode for a pure Vodka or through the extraction process and then Pot Mode for a specialty Vodka to create the ultimate smoothness and taste – it’s an eight hour process to convert 3 litres of GNS into pure Vodka as it drips out at two drops per second.
The bottling gets done by hand and we apply the beeswax top to keep it safe till you open it. We are told the bees wax is edible but haven't tried it. Each batch of Vodka or Gin consists of six – nine bottles.
We also hand assemble the boxes with the help of a large rubber mallet in case you notice any black marks on the box. Lucie also paints the Vicar’s Son sign by hand.
So that's all it takes to make an all natural handcrafted artisan gin or vodka.
So why do we think we are the smallest commercial distillery in the world? Well we think a batch size of six to nine bottles would qualify us. Failing that our distillery is in a corner of our garage - about eight square meters!