As part of our SFH on Tour series, some of the team headed over to Suffolk Distillery in Stoke-by-Nayland.
The custom-built barn is actually rented off Peake Fruit, who grow some of their products in the fields next to the distillery.
They moved out of a double garage into the newly converted building and it’s a really nice set-up, a visitor area meets guests, with a reception desk, shop and area for making your own gin. Behind the reception area, a door holds the production room, a large room with all the equipment.
We were met by Gary, joint owner of Suffolk Distillery who led the team on a small tour, beginning with the labelling process. Did you know that the indent on the bottles indicates the back of the bottle, this is also hugely important in the labelling process (they use a machine to label their bottles), they used to do it all by hand but this has speeded this up completely.
We then went through the bottle cleaning (also a machine press) this cleans the inside of the bottle completely, I might need one for my washing up! The bottle topping, was also machine processed, rightfully so, imagine pressing bottle tops thousands of times, high risk for injury, which Gary said he had actually had off the back of pressing bottle tops in the past.
The gin-making process was interesting, essentially defined as this:
Gin is made by first preparing a grain, such as wheat malt and combining it with water and yeast to create a well-combined mixture called “gin mash.”
The mixture is then fermented for about one to two weeks until it deconstructs and forms ethanol.
After fermentation, the ethanol is strained and goes through a distillation process, usually in a copper distiller, where it is heated, vaporized, and then recondensed to purify the liquid and concentrate the alcohol.
Distillers can opt to distil the product once or multiple times for a more pure product. Different botanicals can also be incorporated during the process to create unique flavours.
Finally, the gin is diluted with water to reach the desired alcohol percentage, and any other sugars or flavourings are added.
Gin can be distilled using different techniques, but steeping is the most common method, which involves heating the ethanol in a pot still and infusing it with botanicals for one to two days.
They can also distil whisky in the same copper distiller, they have been working on a special whisky, but I can’t say much more than that!
What shocked me was the vast capital investment they had made for all of the equipment, you realise how much they have put into the business and the distillation process.
Fun fact about the logo, you’ll notice it is a crown with a wolf behind it, the logo is based on ‘The Legend of the Wolf of St Edmund’.
St Edmund was an Anglo-Saxon King and ruled East Anglia during 855AD and 869AD. He was killed by Viking Raiders, who shot arrows into him and beheaded him, throwing his head deep into the briars in the forest.
Edmund’s body was found by his followers, they heard a voice shouting “Here,here,here” they followed the sound and found the head guarded by a wolf. The legend continues, when his head was put back with the body it miraculously became reattached, this was thought to be a sign of Sainthood and many miracles were then attributed to Edmund. His shrine in Bury St Edmunds became a place of pilgrimage and this is why the growth of the town begun, including Abbey Gardens!
We finished our tour with a little tasting session, probably my favourite part. They have a range of different gins, including the classic Suffolk Dry Gin, but we also had a little taste of the flavoured gins, such as the Strawberry and Cucumber which is going to be perfect as a refresher in the Summer. They also produce a Rhubarb gin, and currently have a limited edition Mandarin and Cranberry available.
It’s not only gins though, we tried, and this was my favourite, the coconut vodka, which was delicious, add on to the list, the limoncello, spiced rum and salted caramel vodka, *chef’s kiss*. They were all superb and it’s great to be able to celebrate some Suffolk suppliers.
Thank you to Gary for showing us around and providing us with a lot of the story.