Our first core bottle, finally something from Little Brown Dog Spirits that you can pick up and drink when you want, and not limited to the less than frequent occasions when we release a project.
You spoke and we listened so here is LBD GIN.
Our UNLIMITED EDITION if you will….
Yes after years of intense procrastination, deep pondering and obsessive development, here you’ll find our heart and soul in a bottle. Not to make too big a deal about it, but it’s difficult to fully describe the last 7 years distilled, and not come across as another, another f@#king gin.
AAFG seemed like too long a name anyway, and I hope you saw we snuck the AFG code in. Aberdeenshire Foraged Gin, that was the polite name we used to tell Chris’s mum what projectAFG meant…
Consider LBD GIN as all the best bits from projectAFG, projectGPS and projectG2G, cherry picked and distilled together while retaining our absolute commitment to transparency of ingredient origin and production techniques, after all our provenance is more provenancy than yours….
A modern dry Scottish gin. Packed full of juniper, waves of citrus, floral and woodland notes, with a hint of petrichor.
“Like sookin’ sherbet lemons, dipped in beeswax, while sitting in a scots pine forest after the rain”
“Tastes like gin, but more betterer”
We discussed GNS in detail on our projectAFG page but here’s a quick recap of why we use it as the base spirit for LBD GIN.
We need a neutral spirit as the base, that requires column stills, big ones, big expensive ones. We admire greatly those producers who have a grain to glass approach, chapeau folks, chapeau. But that would put our aspirations and desire to make tasty things out of reach so we purchase our base spirit at 96% abv from Haymans/Kimia. It’s extemely low congener, ie doesn’t have a flavour, it’s our blank canvass and we think it’s important not to be shy about what we use and why we use it.
LBD GIN get’s it’s flavour from what we do with the GNS, that’s our creative input and something we are fairly proud of.
We do a 12hour steep with dry ingredients, overnight at a low heat if it’s particularly cold in the still room (it’s Aberdeenshire, who are we kidding) or at room temperature if by some miracle it isn’t absolutely baltic.
We then add our fresh ingredients into the custom copper baskets we made that fit into the still neck. This lets us balance robust and delicate flavours, as well as capture more of the aromatic oils. Our production still for LBD GIN is a direct gas fired 100 litre copper pot still and it’s proper bonnie. Pretty pokey by industry standards but that dumpy wee copper beauty means we can carry more of the heavier aromatic compounds over the lyne arm and into the spirit. It creates a rich, mouth coating, silky gin. You’ll see all these beautiful oils when you chill the gin or add water/tonic as they come out of suspension and cause the gin to go cloudy. That’s a flavour storm right there. It’s called louching but come on, flavour storm is way cooler.
Moving on from projectAFG we felt we had a very strong gin base that didn’t need too much tinkering but there were a couple of things to consider progressing to LBD GIN.
1- we found a world of other tasty things on our doorstep with projectGPS
2 – could we sustainably forage or grow all of the botanicals required
“Forage what we can, grow what we can’t and only buy what we cannot grow or forage sustainably”
“Free ingredients are the best ingredients”
So we had to consider things like, if we scaled up from the 10 litre still to the 100 litre, how much wood sorrel would that equate to? The answer was too much. We love the lemon zing and woody earthyness it brings and didn’t want to exclude it, but had to be sensible about quantities. So we reduced the amount we used and brought in rhubarb, that grows all over the farm. It’s a good match for the wood sorrel as it packs that oxalic acid punch while adding a little jammy sweetness.
The next swap out was the chervil root. We love chervil root but it’s a bism to grow. 2 years for a crop and we used all we had grown for AFG and that year’s Christmas dinner. Not knowing possible future quantities we’d require, we needed a more flexible crop, enter parsnip. Aye parsnip. No we’re not mental. In our trial distillations we actually got a better mouthfeel than we had with the chervil root, it’s still in the carrot family so we get similar herbal, earthy notes and a wee nip of pepper heat as bonus. We grow these on the farm and they’re a lot easier for us to increase or decrease crop than chervil root.
Right, we’re how many paragraphs in and haven’t even mentioned juniper yet. Fairly fundamental being gin and all. And yes we’re still not going to use the phrase “juniper forward”, it’s bloody gin, that’s what it’s supposed to taste of.
Right now we’re buying Italian juniper and foraging about 5% from not very far away. Chris will take anything that’s free but not at the expense of the fragile population of juniper near us so we take only a small amount and leave the rest to nature. There’s a fair difference in the foraged local vs Italian juniper. The Scottish cones are much smaller but pack a heavier pinine punch and the blend suits our spirit. Long term is to produce all of our juniper sustainably and early in 2020 we planted juniper over about 5 acres of the farm. It’ll be a few years before it’s ready, we’re looking forward to it but at the same time are happy with what we have to use now.
Birch sap is a key foraged ingredient for us. We tap the birch trees just outside the distillery door each year. There’s about a two week window at the end of March – beginning of April when the sap rises. We collect the sap, filter, bag it and freeze it to keep it fresh. The ice lolly sap goes straight into the still at the steep phase and melts overnight. It adds mineral notes with soft woody tones and caramel flavours later in the run. It also makes an excellent accompaniment to LBD GIN either carbonated in a soda stream and used like tonic or reduced down to syrup and used sparingly with the gin neat or in cocktails.
From projectGPS we gained this library of wild flavours and how they behaved as single botanical distillates. The star of the show for us though were the beech leaves. The first gin Andrew ever made in 2013 was a beech leaf gin so it’s nice to include this in LBD GIN for sentimental reasons as well. We pick the leaves as they emerge in early May and freeze them in vacuum bags to lock in the flavour. They’ve got to be soft and lime green, pick them too late and the tannins are too high. Pick them at the right time though and you get this wonderful citrus pop with something approximating petrichore, that magic aroma you get in the forest after the rain.
The Pretty Pretty Bottle
Back in the day, we hand etched each of the bottles. To continue to attempt this would be laughable, so we didn’t. Big thanks to Image on Glass for making our vases/lamps/water jugs that also double up as gin bottles. And look, we’ve actually used bottles to hold our liquid, how beautifully conformist.
Full Botanical List
What – Where – Form – Process – Flavour
Juniper – 95% Italian purchased – 5% foraged locally from a secret location (not GPS tagged for these beauties, they need to be protected) – Dry/fresh – Steep – Pine/resin
Coriander – Russian – Purchased – Dry – Steep – Spice
Angelica Root -Belgian – Purchased – Dry – Steep – Sweet aniseed
Orris Root – Italian – Purchased – Powdered – Steep – Floral/sherbert
Birch Sap – Foraged – Steep – Woody/mineral/caramel
Parsnip – Grown – Steep – Herbal/earthy/spice
Rhubarb – Foraged/grown – Steep – Sweet/sour
Beech Leaves – Foraged – Basket – Citrus/petrichor
Wood Sorrel – Foraged – Basket – Citrus/woodland
Bee Pollen – French – Purchased for now but locally from mid 2020 – Floral/honey/perfume
Lemon – Purchased – Location seasonally dependent – Fresh zest – Basket – eh lemon, obviously
Grapefruit – Purchased – As above – Fresh Zest and flesh – Basket low citrus/bitter
There are none, we insist you drink this however you see fit, do what you like and let us know how you get on. We’re not going to come up with some random or unimaginative tonic/garnish combination driven by a commercial arrangement. We enjoy ours with a smug sense of cynicism.
Well done, you read all the way to the bottom. You deserve another cute LBD pic to celebrate. If by some masochistic reason you desire any more detail please get in touch and we will relish the geek chat.
UPDATE – Our LBD GIN – Latitude Strength , joined the line up in March 2021. Distilled at 57.2° North, bottled at 57.2%abv. All the good things about LBD GIN turned up to 11.