What did you do before creating Seven Hills Distillery?
I was a manager of an AV company before I started my distillery. In truth, I still have this employment relationship, because I have never been able to focus on just one thing in my life.
What made you decide to create your gin and distillery?
In addition to my regular jobs, I was constantly training myself in the production technology and sensory classification of various alcoholic beverages, and when this knowledge turned into a desire to experiment, the time came to try myself in the world of the professional beverage industry. The main inspiration of making gin, vodka and whisky was that these beverages do not have serious traditions in Hungary, so it is was a challenge to see how we caould make truly local products that are internationally recognized and distinguishable.
Can you tell us more about your distillery and still?
Our distillery is a real craft distillery. From outside it looks like an average Zemplén village house, rather than an industrial building. Our still is a 500L packed column still, with direct heating and without any copper surface. Our gin production capacity is 25,000 bottles/year, and we do not want to raise it because that is the maximum that I can make personally. For me, craft means that the Master Distiller has a physical connection to each bottle that comes out of the distillery.
Can you tell us more about your distillation process and botanicals?
In the production of Tokaj Gin we combine three types of distillation technology in one run. First of all we macerate the berries for 24 hours, then we add more mixed botanicals in the next day directly before the distillation in liquid phase. Lastly we have a steam basket as well, in which we place the rest of our botanicals. From a technological point of view, this is how the complex taste of Tokaj Gin is formed.
We use 21 botanicals, including many local plants. For example, linden grapes (which is one of the main parts of Tokaji Aszú wine), linden honey, elderflowers, and forest pine buds which we collect with our own hands in the local forests in the first week of June.
What can visitors experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
During our Distillery Tour visitors will get a short introduction to the cultural history and a local roots of gin, than we show our technology, and lastly they can playfully try to figure out the ingredients by holding and smelling our botanicals directly.
What has been your favourite story from your time as a distiller?
One of my favourite stories is how I completed the Tokaj Gin recipe. The process of developing the recipe took two years and at the end I had the feeling that I was moving away from my goal during this time rather than being able to say that the Tokaj Gin recipe was ready. Then in the summer of 2020 my kids were playing in our garden and pretending to make their own 'gin'. They had a small pink elephant watering can which they filled water and collected botanicals from the garden. They picked a lot of green berries that didn’t have much flavour, but there were also two very characteristic botanicals as well. One was the rose petal and the other was the pine bud. To tell you the truth, at first I got a little angry because that pine had only started growing that year, but after smelling the children’s 'gin', I was shocked how well these two botanical fit together. So these two botanicals were included to the recipe of Tokaj Gin, and from then I could finally say that yes, it is now ready!
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Long, tasty, characteristic.
What's your favourite way to drink Tokaj Gin?
If I am at home, then I drink it neat or with a little ice and Indian Tonic Water, without any garnish. Thanks to our brand ambassador Rico, in our Cocktail Bar in Budapest there are almost 100 types of Tokaj Gin-based cocktails, and from that my current favourite is a Red Snapper.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I have many, many gins on my gin shelf and there is some disagreement between me and my wife! :-) My favourite at the moment is Bareksten Botanical gin.
What's next for you and your Seven Hills Distillery - any exciting plans?
At the end of 2022 we will come out with our first ultra-premium vodka. Furmint Vodka is a grape-based vodka and there will be only 400-600 bottles/year - a real collector’s item because that will be a vintage product. It means that every year we will buy the raw material (Furmint grape) from a different local winery in the Tokaj region, and because the grape is one of the most terroir and weather-sensitive fruits, the product will be different from year to year.
And at the end of 2023 there will be out our first Smoked Single Malt Whisky release, which will be as unique as it can be! :-)
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Review: our tasting notes and review of Tokaj Gin.
Buy: via Master of Malt or direct from Seven Hills Distillery.