Papillon Gin - Meet the Makers
What did you do before launching Dartmoor Distillery and Papillon Gin?
I was a Primary School Teacher and then a Senior Grants Officer at the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Adam still is a Master Thatcher.
What made you decide to create your distillery?
It all started with a bike ride! I decided that for my 40th birthday I wanted to take a year out and cycle through the Americas. During our time away we discussed starting a business together on our return. Adam has been thatching for 30 years and is keen to find an alternative that will take him off the roof in the wind, rain and snow! We wanted a business that could be creative and reflect our travels as well as a sense of our home, Dartmoor. At the end of the trip we flew from Santiago to Inverness where we stopped in with my brother in Aviemore before cycling home to Devon. Whist there we sipped on some local gins which lingered in our minds all the way down through the UK as we pedalled home. We cycled in to Moretonhampstead on the Tuesday and on the Friday I was sat at my desk in Exeter looking out of a window at the brick wall of an office block next door. That’s when the idea of starting a gin distillery began.
What's the inspiration behind your support of butterfly conservation?
Part of my role at the Heritage Fund was assessing and monitoring natural heritage projects. The environment and nature has always been my passion and a large part of my job roles. One of the projects I worked with was a Butterfly Conservation one on Dartmoor that focussed on helping the endangered Fritillary species that live on the moor. I knew that I wanted our business to donate towards a local conservation project and this one caught my interest. Papillon was born! As well as donating to the project, I go out surveying and monitoring for them.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and distillation process?
We have a small distillery in Moretonhampstead, close to our house. We have two copper alembic stills and distill with the one-shot process. We macerate our dried botanicals for 24 hours and then add our fresh botanicals (citrus and floral) just before distillation.
Can you tell us more about the botanicals you use?
Papillon Gin (our London Dry) is distilled with 17 botanicals, which gives it a complex, full flavour. These include our ‘Dartmoor botanicals’ which are fresh gorse flowers from the moor, rowan and hawthorn berries, chamomile, and leaves from Devon violets. Our violets are grown for us by a friend who has a field local to us on Dartmoor. We use fresh lemon and lime peel which gives it a citrus start, cardamom and English coriander for warm spice notes, and gorse, chamomile and violets for a floral finish. We have chosen violets as one of our botanicals because the Pearl Bordered Fritillary feeds on them.
The Admiral (our Navy strength) is distilled with 18 botanicals and has a smooth citrus and juniper flavour. Fresh lemon and lime peel and flesh give it a citrus start, nutmeg and cardamom give subtle spice notes, gorse and chamomile add a floral touch, and the nettles and navelwort provide a clean finish. We have chosen nettles as one of our botanicals because the Red Admiral butterfly feeds on them.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Living within the National Park and finding a suitable premises has been a challenge. Our biggest achievement so far has been winning Champion in the Spirits and Wine category at the Taste of the West Awards, and achieving Gold at the IWSC. I am most proud of the donations we have been able to make to Butterfly Conservation.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Papillon – untraditional, complex, floral
The Admiral – Punchy, citrus, juniper
What’s your favourite way to drink your gins?
With a Mediterranean tonic water, in a sturdy tumbler, sat on a Dartmoor tor at sunset, with Adam and our Head Distiller, Fitz (aka the dog!)
Which gin would you always have on your gin shelf?
Thunderflower Gin. Through trading at the same events, we have become good friends and have collaborated on a few things. Good gin, good people.
What’s next for Papillon Gin - any exciting plans?
We have teamed up with Nick Baker, Dartmoor Naturalist and TV presenter, to create a new gin. When asked to pick a significant Dartmoor species to focus the new gin on, Nick chose the Blue Ground Beetle (Carabus Intricatus). Thought to be extinct, this rare beetle was rediscovered on Dartmoor in 1985. It seems to be confined to a few ancient woodlands where it nestles in the damp moss during the day and comes out at night to prey upon unsuspecting slugs.
Woodland flavours feature in this new gin, named Carabus in honour of this special beetle. Unusually it does not have any citrus but is distilled with rowan and hawthorn berries which give it a pleasant fruity roundness. Other botanicals include nettles, wood sorrel and hazelnuts. We have teamed up with Buglife, the charity that supports invertebrates, and £2 from every bottle of Carabus sold will be donated towards a project helping the Blue Ground Beetle.
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