What did you do before creating your distillery?
Before starting Audemus I worked for several years in a cognac distillery, distilling for Courvoisier & Martell. Before that, working backwards, I busied myself travelling, completing my masters in social psychology and beginning my career in finance. Making spirits / liqueurs was always a hobby and passion, handed down from my mother.
What made you decide to create your distillery?
Being a distiller was a dream of mine since I was a child - the process in transporting taste and flavours from one medium (fruit / herbs / spices etc) to another (alcohol) was mysterious and seemingly infinite. It was something I did with my mum when I was young, and I carried the passion forward - it has stayed with me ever since. (No, I was not a drunkard as a kid!)
What made you choose gin as your flagship product?
What I find beautiful in gin is this very element; that it is infinite. We start with the 2 core ingredients juniper and water (or 3, including water if we're being finicky) - and then we have the freedom to express as much or as little as we like. Everything edible can be an ingredient, and even things which are not edible such as earth or hay could be.
How did you go about creating Pink Pepper Gin?
Pink Pepper is the expression of this freedom and exploration, and richly connected with a period in my life when I was distilling everything I could lay my hands on, day in, day out. Macerating and distilling, testing and blending. I was in start-up mode, having started the distillery in a barn belonging to some friends of mine. The initial goal was to make a honey gin, using local honey as a core botanical (which is still the case) - but it was upon adding a pink pepper distillate that the 'eureka' moment happened.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
We're a vacuum distillery - so we have two 30L glass reactors which are in my living room in the heart of the town of Cognac. A little rotavap in the corner and bottles; lots of bottles. If you read Ian Hart's story, from Sacred Spirits, you'll notice some similarities, this is no coincidence, I was very inspired by his work.
We don't generally do visits to the distillery for the public (not yet, in any case). The tour is very quick to do - it's my living room, but the tasting can be quite ... expansive!
Can you tell us more about the production?
We're at the crossroads of distilling, perfumery and chemistry in making our gin. We macerate and distill all of our botanicals separately, and then blend the resulting distillates together.
Can you take us through the botanicals and flavour profile?
The top notes are juniper, pink pepper and cardamom - these are immediately present to the nose. The core are three secret ingredients which give the gin body and aromatic depth. The base notes are rich and rounded botanicals - distilled honey as well as tonka bean and vanilla macerations. The fact that these last two are not distilled means we include heavier non-volatile molecules such as the tannins which give an entirely different dimension to the gin and give it a layered complexity.
The best way of exploring this is by using two tulip glasses, filling one with Pink Pepper - then emptying into the second. Shake the empty glass out - and put your nose to it - then compare with the full glass. Notice the difference between the two - the full glass will have richly peppery notes and the empty glass, patisserie notes of vanilla & tonka.
What have been the biggest achievements so far?
Bringing smiles to many peoples' faces, connecting with peoples' memory and expressing my own - this is incredibly valuable. I also love that from something so small and personal, four people make a living. It's simple and perhaps obvious, but it is exceptionally meaningful for me.
And what are the biggest challenges?
Keeping up with production and paperwork whilst maintaining some resemblance of balance.
How would you describe your gin in a sentence?
Infinitely complex in its simplicity.
What's your favourite way to drink Pink Pepper Gin?
Neat, out of a little glass thick-bottomed glass
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
St George Terroir Gin is perfection in gin form.
What's next for Audemus Spirits - any exciting plans?
We've just released Pink Pepper Dry gin and a limited release Bergamot Gin Liqueur. We also produce a roasted fig-leaf liqueur called Covert - I would like to continue to explore further with this flavour. There are also numerous things that I'm working on at the same time - they may or may not see the light of day!