Our craft gin distillery prioritises quality gin at every step in the gin making process. At Wessex Distillery, we don’t cut corners, and that’s why we have award-winning gin. To find out more about our methods and ingredients see below!
How we create quality craft gin
A craft gin distillery can create gin in a multitude of ways, but we stick to the tried and tested classics when it comes to making the best English gin.
Firstly, a still must be completely clean. For quality gin, this cleaning process needs to be before and after every ‘run’ for the best gin results, as left over sediment can burn and ruin your product.
Agricultural products such as wheat, barley, or corn is typically used to create a gin base. Similar to beer, the product creates a mash which is fermented and distilled into a ‘neutral spirit’, similar to vodka as it’s made from high concentrated ethanol. The ethanol is purified by repeat distillation to reach a minimum of 96% alcohol, and removes undesirable contents which could potentially cause blindness.
Once the alcohol base is created, it’s time to re-distill the ‘neutral spirit’ with the botanicals to create gin. Botanicals refer to the natural ingredients the gin absorbs while passing through the stills' column. The botanical’s essential oils and flavour is extracted in this process, to give each batch from our craft gin distillery it’s flavour. The predominant botanical used is often juniper berries, although we also use coriander, orris root, angelica, citrus, lemon, pink grapefruit, and chervil. The quality of these ingredients, and the exact proportions of the flavours is what makes each craft gin distillery so special. In fact, even the shape of your still can affect the flavour of your gin.
While there are a few methods to re-distill the alcohol, most commonly the ingredients are steeped and boiled. Once the botanicals are steeped in the neutral spirit, the mixture macerates in our copper pot still. The use of pure copper in this process creates a smoother, softer distillate, and removes any unwanted, nasty smelling sulphur compounds.
At Wessex Distillery, we have the ability to add more refined notes to some of our gins. With the use of a vacuum still that allows us to boil the gin at 40 °C, instead of the normal 78 °C. This pulls a more natural, richer and cleaner flavour from the botanical and that gets added back into our gin.
The purpose of distillation is to separate the different alcohol chemicals as they have different evaporation temperature points. Because of this, different stages of your ‘run’ will need to be separated, and this is referred to as ‘making the cut’. While some craft gin distilleries will determine these points by volume or a small hydrometer, it’s also considered an art form, and can make or break your batch of gin. These are the stages of your gin run:
- Heads- the first cut is volatile acetone, which can give you an awful hangover and is isolated and thrown out.
- Hearts- this is the sweet spot of your run. Every craft gin distillery must learn the skill of understanding exactly when the acetone is gone and the ethanol remains. We typically collect 100-150 litres from each run.
- Tails- the last cut contains protein and carbohydrates that tend to smell and taste burnt. While it’s typical to maximise each batch, Wessex Distillery tends to cut this early as our priority is to ensure the quality of each batch of gin we produce.
Distilled gins can also be referred to as ‘one-shot’, which is a traditional craft gin distillery method. This means clean, distilled water is added right before our gin is bottled, to dilute the strength of the alcohol to the standard ABV. This method produces gin with the best texture and purity. As gin doesn’t need to be aged, once it is bottled it's ready for consumption.
If you’d like to try out gin making at a craft gin distillery, why not book a gin making experience with us! You can create your own recipe using our copper still, then personalise your bottle and take it home. Just contact us to book!