Last summer I came across the tiny Dyfi Distillery in the village of Corris just south of the Snowdonia National Park. The distillery is unusual in that it is clearly visible to the visitor through a glass wall in their shop. No need for a gin tour, just press your nose up against the glass.
Run by brothers Pete and Danny Cameron, Dyfi produces 3 gins: Original, Pollination and Hibernation. Pollination is distilled with 29 botanicals, 20 of them wild foraged from within the Biosphere, the Snowdonia foothills, the Dyfi forest and nearby estuary marshlands. Hibernation, as the name suggests, is distilled from autumnal botanicals, including lingonberries, bilberries and blackberries then barrel-aged (hibernated – get it?) in a fully-seasoned White Port barrel. Mouth watering yet?
Given the Cameron brothers commitment to wild foraging and meticulous attention to detail, it is no surprise that last year their Pollination gin, using the London Dry method, won “Best UK Gin” (Great British Food Awards) and Hibernation ‘Best Buy’ from the ‘Best New Gins of 2017″ (The Independent).
In an interview with the Cameron brothers of Dyfi Distillery, I asked them 10 questions about their gins.
Q1 – Which one of you is the forager?
Everyone who works at the distillery, who are all family members, are involved in foraging in some way.
Q2 – What impact does having a UNESCO Biosphere to choose your botanicals from have on your gin?
It’s fundamental. Of course, making gin from mainly foraged ingredients is much more labour intensive and complicated, but a sense of place is always worth working for. And here, we have incredible botanical diversity and very low pollution levels, so it’s about as perfect as we could hope for. And as Pete and Mary have lived, foraged, and hill-farmed here for decades, local knowledge helps too.
Having a small visitor facility at the distillery also allows us to fully engage with people coming to the valley, many of whom are interested in the UNESCO project here.
Q3 – How important is it to you not to chill filter your gins?
Its important to us to keep the finished distillate in its most unadulterated form. And we also belong in a craft category, so we also prefer to work artisanally rather than industrially.
Q4 – How long did it take to perfect the Dyfi Original?
Dyfi Original was a bit less than a year in development. Pollination, by contrast, took two.
Q5 – What is the inspiration behind your Hibernation gin?
Barrel-aged gin is a really interesting category, finding the appropriate balance between botanicals and the vessel. But where with Pollination Gin we started with assembling foraged elements and working forwards from there, with Hibernation Gin we started with the barrel and worked backwards to develop a botanical bill to marry with it. Hibernation Gin is the first gin in the world to be aged in a 100 year old White Port barrel. The idea just always made sense, and the Niepoort family in Portugal were incredibly kind to release a little bit of their own heritage for us to work with.
Q6 – Do you see more gins being aged in barrels like Hibernation?
I think we’ll see more barrel-aged gins come to market, but as a little category on its own, it will probably be increasingly diverse. So probably nothing else quite like Hibernation Gin, but plenty of new and interesting ideas.
Q7 – Favourite gin – other than your own?
Any gin that has a genuine sense of where it comes from is always fascinating to taste.
Q8 – Favourite cocktail using Dyfi gin?
Pollination Martini or Hibernation Negroni.
Q9 – Any plans to expand on your two 100 litre stills?
We’re very fortunate to have demand far exceeding what we can produce at the moment, but our production is limited by our preparation process and size of our premises, as well as by our stills. So we’d like to make a little more, but our first priority is sustainability of quality, our locality and family.
Q10 – What next in the Dyfi category?
We don’t believe in bringing something to market for its own sake, and product development is for us a pretty slow and meticulous process. But we have a few ideas bubbling away.
Why not buy the lovely Dyfi gin direct from their website