What is the inspiration behind Silent Pool Gin?
We took our inspiration from the Silent Pool itself - the spring next to the distillery. The goal was to express the pool in both its depth & purity, so it was important that we created something pure enough to enjoy neat but with rich and complex flavours that constantly evolve on the palette. Obviously it had to work in a G&T as well, so picking up a Gold Award in year 1 for best G&T was a very proud moment for the team.
We achieved our goals in the choice of our botanicals, how we use them and obviously the balance between them. Then in the distillation process itself we use our incredibly versatile still to carefully separate the select flavours. The ‘tea’, our unique floral extraction, represents the Surrey Hills in which the pool is located. Chamomile was actually growing through the floors of the once derelict distillery building, with Rose, Linden, Elderflower & Lavender also growing in abundance in the surrounding areas.
Can you tell us about Silent Pool spring (and the ghostly story about it!)?
The pool is an ancient spring steeped in history. Over 100,000 litres of pure spring water emerge straight from the ground every day having spent the last 2 months filtering through the chalk bed beneath. This is the source of one of our main ingredients, our water. We pump directly from the pool up into the distillery and this is the water we use in production. Being spring fed, the pool is always crystal clear. The colour of the bottle portrays the vibrant blueish-green colour typical of a chalk-fed water source, with the colour lifted directly from an image of the deepest part of the pool.
The pool gets it’s name from an old tale dating back to around the 1200s when a woodcutter’s daughter was bathing in the pool and an evil Knight arrived on his stallion. Wanted he affections, the knight chased her into the depth of the pool. Sadly the maiden drowned and the un-Knightly Knight rode off. The woodcutter came back to find his daughter drowned and a hat on the floor, showing the crest of evil Prince John.
Ever since then the pool had a reputation for its eerie silence, with birds refusing to swim on it and the belief that the pool is haunted by the maiden. Our theory is that it’s just absolutely freezing! If you look closely on our bottle you will be able to find the maiden and the evil knight, as well as the crown dropped in his escape.
What is the are the distillery and distillation process like?
The distillery is nestled away on an old farm, overlooking the pool, surrounded by rolling hills and woodland. In the stillhouse we have our 350 litre Holstein still and production tanks at one end and our 6 person bottling line at the other. It’s a busy room with a great atmosphere, with everyone fighting over whose music should play!
Our botanicals are split into 3 extraction processes prior to distilling in the same batch, each contributing different properties to the final spirit:
1 - Maceration, in which the richer botanicals are steeped in high proof alcohol for 24 hours
2 – Basket Infusion, brighter botanicals go directly into the basket located in the neck of the still for more pronounced aromatics
3 – Tea Infusion, delicate floral botanicals are steeped separately for 24 hours at very high proof before being strained on the distillation day, this process strips the delicate aromatics and prevents the vegetal matter cooking down inside the still
The distillation day typically starts at 7am with the lighting of our wood-fired boiler. After an hour or so we have enough steam to start distilling so all 3 parts are loaded into the 350L pot, before topping up with water and a couple of pots of local honey. We close the hatch and start heating. Unlike traditional pot distilled gins we run ours through our rectifying column, typically used for taking flavour out.
This is a bit counter-intuitive having just added all of our flavours to the pot, but we use it to get the perfect balance of bright aromatics & rich heavy oils, yet hold back some of the slightly vegetal and bitter flavours carried through in a traditional pot distillation. It means we have to up the total amount of botanicals going into the still at the start but allows us to shape the flavours to meet our goal of a perfect sipping gin.
What's a normal day like for you at Silent Pool distillery?
Luckily for us every day is different; as well as our signature Silent Pool Gin, we also have a number of other products in our range so things can change daily. We have a great team, with 5 full time in production sharing the responsibility of the 7-day-week distillation schedule and managing the massive pool of part-time staff that we rely on to run the very manual bottling line (6 people in a line - rinsing, filling, capping, labelling, boxing etc.).
In addition to this we have an office team who keep check on everything from events and press to accounts. The big chief and driving force behind the company, Ian McCulloch, oversees the operation from his office chair, between a steady flow of emails, tea and biscuits......
Everyone gets their heads down when necessary but there’s always time for some joking around.....usually at someone’s expense. We try fire up the BBQ as often as possible, come rain or shine. We’ve found an awesome local butcher who makes Mother’s Ruin sausages, infused with Silent Pool Gin. They go pretty fast.
How would you describe Silent Pool Gin in 3 words?
Classic-Contemporary, Complex, and something else beginning with a C......delicious!
What makes Silent Pool Gin different to other gins?
We’ve gone for a classic flavour profile, with a twist. The backbone being the maceration, is a rich, London Dry style classic giving rich notes of Bosnian Juniper, complex floral notes from our angelica, orris & peppers and a smooth finish of bitter-sweet citrus.
On top of this we have our bright aromatics from our vapour extraction in the basket above, with the fresh lime and orange, and the brighter, fresher notes of Macedonian Juniper. Our unique tea infusion provides a bright Kaffir lime top note and a mid-pallet hit of floral notes. The finished distillate is deep and complex and constantly evolves on the palette, with hints of both classic gins but also something unique.
What's your favourite way to serve Silent Pool Gin?
Personally I love a really dry martini, garnished with one of our Mist Sprays. The mists started when we managed to source a small handful from our supplier of Kaffir leaves from Essex. Hands down the most incredible drinks I’d had in a while but the fruit are really hard to get a hold of. We managed to source them in bulk last year from a fantastic citrus supplier in Portugal, then went on to add Bergamot and Christmas Spirit to the range, with a few more in development at the moment.
If going for a G&T, get a big copa glass (or massive wine glass), loads of ice, lots of gin, and a splash of Fever Tree tonic (I prefer 2:1 T:G). I highly recommend trying without a garnish first, but a twist of orange peel works really well.
What are your favourite gins (other than Silent Pool of course!)?
I'd try another of our lineup, our Navy Strength 57% "Admiral Collingwood", named after a friend and colleague of Nelson who took over at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 after Nelson's death. It makes a great Gimlet using Lemon rather than the standard lime.
I'm partial to collecting a number of wide ranging Gins. From Plymouth to Rock Rose and can honestly say that they all have their places depending on the event and your mood.
What's next for Silent Pool?
A few projects but none that I can’t go into too much depth at the moment. Towards the end of this year we will be releasing a super-premium gin using some very exotic ingredients. We’re also currently in planning stages to make a big push into whiskey and start putting away some decent volumes for the future...both very fun projects!