Dyfi Distillery are bringing gin back.
Dyfi Distillery is a long way from Gin Alley. Whilst the artist William Hogarth attributed a variety of social ills to the drinking of gin (including infanticide, starvation and madness) it is fair to say that the spirit long referred to as “Mother’s Ruin” has elevated itself far from its dubious background. Indeed, a fair few distilleries have started to crop up across the UK, no doubt buoyed by the growing trend for locally sourced products and hot on the heels of the craft beer brigade. It is arguable, however, that none of these have the same ingredients for success that the Cameron brothers at Dyfi Distillery (based in Corris, near Machynlleth) have foraged for themselves.
Pete Cameron has a 35 year career in Biology and Botany and farms, forages and keeps bees in the Dyfi Valley area of Mid Wales; his brother Danny is a highly experienced wine and spirits professional, and a regular judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
It is in this ecologically rich area that the boys forage their ingredients and undertake the distilling process. Indeed, the Dyfi Valley is a recognised World Biosphere Reserve: an internationally recognised protected area demonstrating the harmonious balance between humans and nature. This biosphere covers a variety of habitats: coastal dunes, estuary areas and the bog marshes of Cors Fochno, to name but a few. Through sipping their flavoursome brand, the Cameron brothers hope to create “a sensory journey” around this remarkably diverse area of Wales.
We visited the distillery on a rather overcast day this year, navigating our way through scattered groups of visitors (nearby is King Arthur’s Labyrinth, an underground storytelling adventure which guides the visitor through Welsh history) and into the distillery. It is quite obvious that the distillery is a place for making and doing, and we are hit with scents as we walk through the doors. All around us are bottles and glasses bearing the Distillery mark. The creative process is explained on their website:
We distil in very small batches, using two small 100-litre stills…our preference lay with a specialist still maker in Colorado. We further customized the stills after shipping, so we could challenge one or two conventions, whilst respecting the best of tradition. The result is what we call Precision-Distilling. We have developed and adapted techniques which allow for maximum control over maceration temperatures, variable copper contact for distillation and much more besides.
What is interesting about Dyfi Distillery is that the creative process is governed by what they can forage in the local area. If they can’t find the ingredients, then they can’t distill their gin. Whilst this may prove problematic as the success of their enterprise continues (and with interest from a variety of high-end grocers and department stores, success is almost certainly assured) it is admirable that they have committed to a policy of sustainability. To this end, with the knowledge that juniper is extremely rare across the UK (but integral to the gin-making process), the brothers have also embarked upon a juniper regeneration programme, sourcing locally to ensure that new planting would be successfully integrated into the local habitat, and reducing the risk of cross-contamination by planting downstream.
The duty of care that the brothers feel towards their local environment is evident with their Pollination Gin: created in very small batches using pure grain spirit and local spring water, against a palette of local wildflowers, leaves, fruits and conifer tips. Every single bottle is hand-signed and numbered, so that the unique flavour is matched by the knowledge that you are enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime drink. No other batch will taste the way that yours tasted. Such exclusivity is rare in our homogenised society. And, for the first time this winter, the brothers will be introducing their Hibernation gin, with the first batch to be distilled later this year, incorporating wild crab apples and lingonberries.
Pete offered us a sample of the Dyfi Original gin during our visit, and it really was extraordinary: crisp on the tongue, and so flavoursome that we drank ours without a mixer of any sort. It would be easy to polish off a whole bottle on a summer’s evening with friends. Described as their interpretation of the classic gin style, “with juniper- and bog myrtle-forward character”, it is bottled at 45%. Pete recommended that it be drunk chilled, and neat, or as a 1:3 gin and tonic. It can be garnished with a sprig or two of fresh dill (though we felt it needed no such enhancement).
Dyfi Distillery gin can be bought at the cellar door from their distillery in Corris, and it really is spectacular. If you’re in the area do drop in, and pass our best wishes to Pete and Danny. For some reason, we can’t remember if we said goodbye when we left…
Dyfi Distillery is open between March 25th to October 31st 2016, from 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
The Dyfi Distillery,
Te: 01654 761551