My Process

Making spirits is a lengthy process, and not all of it happens here at the distillery.


In the diagram below, you can see all of the end-to-end steps needed to complete the process.

1

Growing

Maris Otter barley is a classic UK variety highly prized by brewers

2

Malting

Malting softens the barley and makes the starches accessible to the brewer

3

Mashing

Mashing in hot water converts the starches into fermenting sugar

4

Fermenting

Yeast is added, converting the barley sugar into a distillers 'beer'

5

Wash Distilling

A first distillation strips the alcohol from the beer and produces a liquid of about 30% ABV

6

Spirit Distilling

The second distillation further refines the alcohol of absolute purity of 96% ABV

7

Filtering

The spirit is filtered with activated charcoal and  fine filter papers to remove impurities.

8

Gin Rectifying

The spirit is redistilled through a chamber containing botanicals, infusing the flavours into a spirit

9

Resting

The gin is rested for 3-4 weeks to allow full flavour to develop

10

Bottling

Finally, the spirit can be bottled to be sold and enjoyed in fine cocktails

By comparison, most distilleries these days don’t bother with all of these steps.

Most modern gins are made using industrial ethanol, bypassing most of the hard work. Don’t get me wrong, making gin is not easy, even if you buy in the base alcohol. But with so much grain grown locally, why wouldn’t I create my spirits from local ingredients?

1

Growing

Maris Otter barley is a classic UK variety highly prized by brewers

2

Malting

Malting softens the barley and makes the starches accessible to the brewer

3

Mashing

Mashing in hot water converts the starches into fermenting sugar

4

Fermenting

Yeast is added, converting the barley sugar into a distillers 'beer'

5

Wash Distilling

A first distillation strips the alcohol from the beer and produces a liquid of about 30% ABV

6

Spirit Distilling

The second distillation further refines the alcohol of absolute purity of 96% ABV

7

Filtering

The spirit is filtered through activated charcoal and then fine filter papers to remove impurities

1-7

Buy Industrial Ethanol

 

8

Gin Rectifying

The spirit is redistilled through a chamber containing botanicals, infusing the flavours into a spirit

9

Resting

The gin is rested for 3-4 weeks to allow full flavour to develop

10

Bottling

Finally, the spirit can be bottled to be sold and enjoyed in fine cocktails

Making the Barley Wash


My good friends over at Hobson’s Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer take care of the malting and brewing portion of the process. They’ve spent many years building a supply chain of locally grown barley to make their beers. So, I contract with them to brew my base barley wash, which is an un-hopped distiller’s beer of about 7% ABV. They take great care to ferment the beer slowly to prevent any awkward flavours from developing that might concentrate during distillation.

Wash Distillation


That’s when I get my hands on the beer and start distilling. The first distillation is called a stripping run, as it simply strips the alcohol out of the raw beer. It takes me four days at the still to fully strip a batch of distiller’s beer. The resulting liquid is about 30%ABV but isn’t anything you would want to drink yet.

Spirit Distillation


The second distillation uses the more high-tech parts of my still, during which the spirit undergoes roughly thirty distillations in one long, slow process. It takes three agonisingly long days at the still to reach a pure 96% ABV, the maximum possible by distillation. Despite all that work, the spirit is still nowhere near ready for a bottle.

Filtering


I charcoal filter the spirit to remove any trace impurities and then chill filter it through very fine filter pads to clarify the spirit. Some of the spirit at this point is bottled as Barley Vodka, but for Hillside Gin a few more steps are required.   After all of the hard work and nearly four weeks after the folks at Hobsons first mashed the grain, I finally arrive at the starting point for making a gin.

You get an idea why some distillers choose to just buy in their base alcohol, but I absolutely love the process. I feel that the authenticity of seeing my spirit all the way through the process gives me a much greater sense of dedication to the final product.

Gin Rectifying


To make my spirit into gin, I carefully measure out the precise amount of spirit and botanicals. With gin, the measures are very tight and tiny variations will become glaringly obvious defects in the final product. The botanicals are placed in a muslin bag and soaked in the spirit overnight to macerate. The next morning, that bag of soggy berries, blossoms and peels gets suspended inside the column of the still, the boiler is started, and the flavours are vapour infused into the spirit in a process taking most of the day.

Resting


Gin needs time to rest after it’s made. The flavours need time to meld together and solidify into the final taste. Some botanicals take longer than others to mature, and the character of the gin changes quite dramatically during these important weeks of resting. A gin tasted the day it is made will be entirely different after several weeks of resting, so this vital part of the process cannot be rushed.

Bottling


Finally, it’s time to put the spirit into bottles. Bottling is probably the easiest part of the process, and the most satisfying. Seeing rows of newly filled bottles is one of the greatest pleasures when you know how much effort and time went into making the spirit they contain. At this point, it will have been over two months end-to-end in the making, and every bit of effort and every hour of hard work has resulted in an exquisite liquid that I’m proud to call An Honest Shropshire Spirit.

 

Stockists

Kirkwood Barley Vodka and Hillside Gin are available from a range stockists in Shropshire and North Herefordshire and a selection of pubs, bars and restaurants around the area too.

The list of stockists is growing so please check back often

 

 

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