Penrhos Gins – made with fruit grown on the farm
Provenance has been a buzz word for a while now, applying both to food and drink. There is something honest and appealing in knowing that the product you’re enjoying has been made with ingredients sourced locally. Penrhos Spirits is one producer that’s applying this principle to its recently launched gins.
The county of Herefordshire is a true haven for agriculture. Apple and pear orchards, hop fields and vineyards provide the basis of many top quality soft and alcoholic drinks. For Penrhos, the essence of the Herefordshire Marches forms the core of their products, as co-founder Richard Williams explains. “We grow our own fruit on the farm and use this in our gin. For example, the blueberries in our London Dry help take away some of the sharpness, rounding off the mouthfeel and adding smoothness. The gins we make reflect our orchards because of the botanicals we use. These include blueberries, cherry blossom, honey from our apiary, rhubarb, apples and elderflower.”
Origins of the distillery
Penrhos’ story began in spring 2017 when Richard and his friend Charlie Turner, both fruit farmers, conceived the idea of creating a distillery. They had already been working together for a few years growing fruit, but were looking to diversify. At first, they considered making juices and pressés, but as they were both interested in gin, they decided to research this spirit and took a course in London. First, they converted an old cow shed into a distillery. Then during summer later that year, they began experimenting on a small 1 litre still.
Using farm-grown fruit
They always wanted to utilise as much of the produce on their farm as possible, a distinguishing story and feature of their gins. So they used cherry blossom from the cherry trees in spring to infuse their spirit, along with other farm botanicals including rose petals and blueberries. “We are fruit farmers and there are not many distillers making fruit-inspired gins with their own fruit“, notes Richard. Initially making a London Dry Gin, they then experimented with a rhubarb gin, blending their London Dry with rhubarb juice, using a variety called Red Raspberry. With pink gins being so on-trend, they have recently added 3000 plants of this variety on to the farm.
Water comes from a bore hole on their 450-acre fruit, arable, grass and poultry farm and the bottle logo shows a chequered landscape with blueberries at the top. Richard describes this as “a nod to the local landscape.” Also, although currently buying in grain spirit, they have plans to eventually make their own.
Launch of the distillery
In autumn 2017, they applied for a grant from Herefordshire Council, which was awarded in April the following year. Once they’d received the necessary licenses and other accreditation, they ordered a still from Ryebeck in May 2018. Since they were new to distilling, they worked on recipes with an independent distiller in autumn 2018 who, as Richard comments, “pointed them in the right direction.” The distillery was then kitted out in September, before full production began and the London Dry and Rhubarb Gins were launched in December.
Contact with Ryebeck
They had already spoken to several equipment suppliers but were immediately impressed with Ryebeck’s attitude and expertise. Richard is in no doubt that his experience with Ryebeck has been very positive. “Tim knows his stuff well“, referring to Managing Director Tim Prime. “He offered us a realistic route to get going that fitted our requirements and recommended a quality 2nd-hand still from Germany. We had already done much of the research regarding the kit we wanted and visited several other distillers. We sent Tim a list of our requirements and together with Bob Wessels, a Dutch colleague of his, they sourced what we needed. Bob then came to us last September to set up and commission the still.”
Ryebeck’s involvement throughout the journey
Richard is keen to point out that Ryebeck’s involvement did not start and finish with installation of the still. “Both Bob and Tim have offered us plenty of good advice going forward and we can always reach them by phone if we need to contact them. We first met Tim towards the end of 2017 when we already had our 1L still, but were looking to upscale commercially. We had a good conversation with him then and throughout our journey. He even visited recently to check on progress. Tim and Bob helped source all the equipment, including our bottling facility, as well as assisting with licence applications.”
The Carl still
They use a 150L Carl still, named Connie after Richard’s grandmother who used to work in the original cow shed that was converted to today’s distillery. “We can output 850 bottles per week if we were to do a batch run five days a week“, explains Richard. “At the moment, we usually distil about once a week, which is 170 bottles.” The advice from Ryebeck has proved invaluable in ensuring the best quality distillate. “Bob told us to run the process slowly, taking eight hours from start to finish per batch, which equates to 15L/hour. This method retains as much of the flavour of the botanicals as possible. With the type of still we have, there is much copper contact, leading to a smoother spirit. We also ensure the temperature is never too hot and the simple tap button screens with digital temperature gauge makes all this easy to achieve.”
Richard and Charlie are now developing an apple and elderflower gin due for release probably in August this year. They have other plans for the future too and are in no doubt that Ryebeck will be their first port of call if they need new equipment. For anyone else thinking of setting up a distillery, Richard sums up why he would recommend Ryebeck. “You need to talk to somebody with expertise who can explain things simply and give advice. Ryebeck definitely provides this, they are easily contactable and have a good website too.”
Author – Robin Goldsmith