What did you do before creating QVT Distillery?
This is a long story but to condense it, after nearly 20 years in Africa, with the last 10 working in conflict and post-conflict countries, we decided to head back to Europe to explore what the next 20 years could bring in the way of adventure and challenges, and to offer our two girls a more settled educational environment.
What made you decide to set up a distillery?
After leaving Uganda we were living in Geneva and on weekends we were exploring Provence. It was during one of those trips that we noticed that almost all the gin and vodka was imported, and further research showed that there was no new artisanal distillery in the region that we could find! Provence offers the perfect canvas for a distillery. We can source almost all we need and the region has wealth of natural beauty, so we set out to try and make a gin that could hold its own with the Eau de Vie that is historically so popular, and at the same time retain the characteristics of a classic London Dry Gin. Our aim is to bring the wine of the region into our distillation process, in a way joining both disciplines.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
The distillery is remarkably ordinary from the outside as our business plan set out to create the distillery from the inside. Our focus was on buying and installing the best equipment, so our 600 litre copper CARL Alembic is the centre of our distillery. We hope to start tours or visits in 2021.
Can you tell us more about your distillation process?
I would describe our distillation process as measured and un-rushed. From adding the selection of botanicals (all sourced locally, or from France) through to the distillation and blending, the process takes the time it takes, this is not new in our type of distillery, but it is important. For me, the joy comes from watching the distillation process unfold and it takes 6-7 hours at a time (I have been known to watch cricket during the distillation, both calming activities!).
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The whole start-up has been a wonderful challenge, understanding French legal and administrative requirements has been interesting and our philosophy has been to engage specialists to help us through the process. The French customs have also been supportive and offered sound observations on what they would like to see, which helped.
What has been your favourite story from your journey?
Our favourite story comes from a fellow who was helping us with the house. We gave him a sample bottle of gin, he looked very bemused as he though we were making jeans! (Le gin in our bad French sounded like le jean) Lost in translation!
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Juniper, floral, smooth.
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
Long cold drinks in the summer such as a Gin & Tonic, Tom Collins or French 75 with the local crémante is very good, and we use a rosé to make a pink version. In the cooler weather, a martini!
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
We look out for new French regional gins, from small distilleries like ours, we don’t have a favourite, but for a classic, Hendrick's Gin is hard to beat!
What's next for QVT Distillery - any exciting plans?
We are planning a second gin later this year, more to come on that, and I am enjoying playing with the ingredients that go to make Absinthe - the similarities in the processes with gin are interesting. And many of our local clients have asked for a vodka, sorry, but how can we refuse!