Weald-based Greensand Ridge Distillery has launched two new spirits crafted in keeping with its environmentally conscious philosophy: an apple brandy and a gin aged in Pedro Ximenez casks. The new products join a London dry gin, a gin-like spirit called Raspberry Ghost, a rye cask-aged gin and a rum in Greensand's offerings.
‘One of the ethics of our distillery is sustainability and part of that is making spirits with surplus produce,’ Greensand founder and distiller Will Edge told Imbibe. His Raspberry Ghost spirit utilises – you guessed it – surplus raspberries, and his rum is made with blackstrap molasses, a by-product of sugar refining, sourced from the UK. His new brandy follows suit, made of apples from the orchards surrounding the distillery in Kent that would otherwise be wasted.
But that’s not the only reason he’s chosen to produce apple brandy. ‘I think there’s an untapped demand for it,’ he explained. ‘People are now aware of craft distilling as a thing, so it’s becoming easier to market other spirits. I’ve always believed there’s a market for apple brandy, but a lot of big brands steer clear of it because it’s labour-intensive.’
Indeed, Edge has dedicated years to creating his brandy. ‘We start taking apples in October, we press the apples for about five weeks, then we ferment those apples for two months, a nice, long, slow fermentation. Then it will take us probably the whole of January to distil it, and then we barrel-age it for two years,’ he said.
Made with dessert-variety apples, Edge’s brandy is lighter on the palate than calvados, with layers of vanilla, caramel and spice contributing to lingering flavours of apple crumble. The flavour varies slightly from year to year, given that each vintage is created from surpluses of different quantities and varieties.
Greensand Ridge’s PX-aged gin, meanwhile, offers intense flavours of raisin, molasses and Christmas spice layered on the foundation of a slightly tweaked London dry gin, which develops bold complexity from the 10 months it spends in the sherry casks.
‘All of the character from the [PX] spirit has infused into the wood,’ said Edge. ‘Gin has a lot of oils, and our is incredibly soft with lots of texture to it, and that means when you have other spicy, warm, sweet aromatics [as in the PX casks] it can trick your brain and you taste it as sweet even though it's not.’
And while Greensand’s gin is not made with fresh surplus produce in the same way as its apple brandy, the distilling process still maintains a focus on sustainability.
‘We use 100% renewable power, we don't use any chemicals, we try to be zero-plastic and zero-waste,’ explained Edge.
‘At the moment in terms of waste, we produce maybe one bin bag every six weeks. In my definition of zero-waste I include energy as well, so we recover all of the heating and reuse it in various ways, whether it's kicking off our rum fermentations or preheating the next distillation or just heating the warehouse.’
What’s next in Edge’s sustainable vision? He’s already got a surplus-fruit plum brandy in the works, but he’s making sure it’s perfectly up to scratch before he releases it. ‘I’ve been maturing the plum brandy in marsala wine casks, and they add great complexity but they don’t have the sweetness, so I’m going to give it another year in a different kind of cask and mellow it further.’
In the meantime, Greensand Ridge’s new apple brandy and PX-aged gin can be purchased on the distillery’s website.