What is a Small Batch Distillery? The Cornish Distillery With a Big Heart

When we started our small batch distillery in 2018 we were really curious to see if we could make great spirits that we wanted to drink: that were uniquely delicious in both quality and taste, and that looked iconic in our bespoke bottles, but were also widely affordable. From our little orchard distillery down on the Helford Passage in Cornwall we swiftly won numerous international and national awards in our determination to create a superior standard of spirit. The way we do that is by ensuring every step of making our craft spirits is done by hand, in small batches.

What is a small batch distillery?

Customers interested in the process of creating craft spirits often ask us what does small batch distilling actually mean? It means that anyone claiming to make small batch gin should be producing that batch in just one distillation run, and the quantity must be less than 1000 litres.

How much does your chemistry backgrounds help your distilling work?

Hugely. My wife and I co-founded Rosemullion Distillery and as we are both industrial chemists by trade our chemistry backgrounds allow us to fully understand the distillation process, and to use the knowledge to control the flavour and the finish of the final product.
A large part of our careers – in particular Liz’s – is about getting products to that 100% high spec level which sets it apart from its competitors. Getting a product such as spirits to a high-end resolution can take dogged determination, a head for stats, an enjoyment of the process of experimentation and the ability to implement the results of those experiments accurately. Really it’s about loving the end result so much you’re prepared to go through all the hurdles to get there.

What difference does using Cornish rainwater make?

We capture Cornish rainwater for creating our base spirits because we love the idea of using local rainwater and appreciate its very delicate residual saltiness. We filter it, treat it to protect it and make our ‘fermentation solutions.’ Then we:

  • add molasses , sugar or ground up barley for the whisky depending on the product
  • ferment the product in that water for about 10 days
  • distil it and clean the product up
  • and then start adding the botanicals and re-distil – e.g seaweed – which gives the spirits their flavours (the subject of our next blog).

What are small batch stills and where do they come from?

Stills look like large onion-shaped pots. We’ve chosen Portuguese copper stills for our small batch distillation which are also known as ‘pot stills’.  The still makers are chasing the same level of tradition and authenticity in creating their particular product that we are in ours – hand-making with experience and skill versus industrial giants using new and impersonal technology. Any craftsman will tell you that making big batches of a product can overtake the essence of what they are trying to create in the first place.

Why are copper stills used?

Copper affects the taste of the distillate imparting a sensibility to a product that becomes part of the distillery’s signature flavours. It has antiseptic qualities as well, so it can keep the still reasonably free of alien bodies. If you go to  some high end restaurants there’s often a copper-surfaced bar-stand for exactly that reason.

What are the benefits of small batch gin?

In the same way that homemade chocolate brownies taste better than mass factory produced brownies, distilling spirits in small batches is a form of quality control. The smaller amount of spirits being produced enables the distiller to take more care and attention.   Of course it relies on the producer’s diligence – together with the quality of the products they use (from base spirits through to the botanicals) – to really make something uniquely special.

What is a craft spirit?

‘Small batch’ and ‘craft’ gin are pretty much the same thing.

Why has there been a huge rum and gin revival in the past 15 years in the UK?

If you’ve ever wondered why artisan gin and rum production has become so popular in the last decade or so it is because – thanks to one man’s vision and lobbying of parliament – the Gin Act of 1751 (which outlawed small hand-run distilleries to erase bootlegging in the UK) was changed in 2009 to allow people to distil in small batches.  Prior to that you were only allowed to distil in industrial sized amounts. But thanks to Sam Galsworthy (the man who lobbied parliament to get them to repeal the 1751 act) the slate was wiped clean in order to allow small distillers across the UK to begin their own small batch distilling.  Galsworthy’s vision and successful lobbying meant that he was the first to set up a small-batch distillation  company – Sipsmith.
Thanks to Sam Galsworthy’s determination the terms ‘Small Batch’, ‘artisanal’ and ‘Craft distilling’ became part of the everyday vernacular and made the UK a much more interesting place to drink and produce in.   
In next month’s blog we’ll be answering questions about our use of botanicals so if you have any questions please do send them in.

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