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By Dave Withers, Master DistillerISSUE #028 DAWN OF A NEW DAY | Education

The Reimagination of a Modern Classic

It was a warm summer morning in January when the distilling team was labouring through the fourth month of commissioning our new gin still. The team had been working through a host of novel problems but had a dogged determination to see the job done and done right. Before starting the process many of the team wondered why engineers use the term “commissioning.” Why couldn’t we just turn on the still and get it running? Turns out that when you are trying to operate a custom-designed and bespoke gin system it is not that straightforward.

I had personally seen every pipe in the gin area blocked with juniper berries. In multiple spots. Multiple times. On one occasion I even managed to get juniper berries and water blown into my face leaving me drenched but smelling appropriately fresh. Every one of us had our war stories. Every one of us knew that what we were trying to do had not been accomplished in a gin distillery anywhere else in the world.

But this morning was different. There were no bolts sucked into pumps or valve malfunctions. This was the morning in which all the late nights, early mornings and robust conversations with specialist engineers were going to bear fruit.

The still had been charged and turned on half an hour previously and the distillate was getting close to running off. This was our first run of cold distilled juniper and the vapour had just started turning back into liquid in the condenser. A moment later, the distillate started to run off and I pulled a sample. I had an involuntary reaction. I was smiling. This spirit was absolutely exquisite with a nuanced complexity and boldness that was unlike any juniper distillate I had seen before in my dozen years in the industry. We had made it, and the spirit was unique, bold and precise. Now the work of creating the next iteration of Signature Dry Gin could begin.

We had always known that the botanical distillates made on our bespoke still was going to be different. But ‘different’ is such a, well, inadequate word. We were aiming for ‘better’ and what we got was indeed better. Our new equipment and design had been painstakingly honed over three years with international perfumery consultants, mechanical and chemical engineers, all bringing their insights to bolster the skills, vision and know-how of our distilling team.

With the spirit being distilled at last, I was faced with a curious kind of decision. A decision that I had been faced with three years previously when planning the new distillery, and a decision that I had made countless times in the intervening period. Were we going to try to replicate the old Signature Dry Gin or aim for an evolution of this modern classic? With our new spirit being the best it had ever been and better than any I had encountered from another producer, the direction was clear. The decision was simple. We would use these bold new distillates, the culmination of six years of experience and novel equipment, to reimagine what Signature Dry Gin could be.

When aiming to start reformulating our Signature Dry Gin we looked at what the key features of the gin were. What did this gin stand for? What was it about this gin that imbibers loved? It was these elements that we hoped to give a greater voice. Ultimately we wanted to give the current drinkers of Signature Dry Gin more of what they enjoy. But we also wanted to give gin lovers that did not rate Signature Dry Gin a slightly different experience and a great reason to return to this product and give it another go. Our mission was clear. It was to give more to the consumer. More complexity, more character and more boldness of flavour.

We went hunting for the flavours and aromas that were core to Signature Dry gin. The elements that made it tick. We found the aromatic cornerstones to be lime and citrus lift with a solid juniper backbone, pepper and a herbal melody. To evolve the old recipe and preserve these core flavour camps we dug into where these flavours came from. The pine and lime aromas were delivered by juniper. The array of herbs and black pepper came from our hand foraged Dorrigo pepperleaf, and the citrus from our native citrus elements. These flavour elements would be accentuated as we dialled up the intensity. The old gin was complex and layered, a feature that would remain a key component. We needed to walk a fine line between richness and nuance. To take this forward we needed to refine the number of botanicals used. We needed to make sure that every botanical used had the space to be expressive.

When considering which botanicals to include in the revamped Signature Dry Gin I asked a fundamental question of each and every botanical (perhaps inspired by binging too much Marie Kondo). The question was “do you bring Archie Rose drinkers joy?” If the answer to that question was anything other than a resounding “yes” then the botanical distillate needed to prove itself in the blend. Of the fourteen botanicals in the original Signature Dry Gin formulation, only five made it through this process.

By reducing the number of ingredients, we found that we could focus on the individuality, complexity and expressiveness of each botanical. Due to our new novel distillation system, each of these distillates came with an abundance of nuance on their own. However, we were left with a couple of missing elements in our flavour profile that we felt could only be delivered with some soulful and bold botanicals. Drawing on the wealth of ingredients we had distilled previously we found that waxflower and sunrise lime offer so much that we just simply had to include them in Signature Dry Gin 2.0.

The evolution of Signature Dry Gin celebrates Archie Rose’s love of continual improvement. We believe that the very best spirits are not static. They are not staid or formulaic. They enrich the drinker’s experience with consistent quality and a familiar newness every time they are drunk. It is the distiller’s duty to craft a spirit that is dependable but multifaceted enough that it can be returned to pour after pour. When creating the new Signature Dry Gin we took this duty seriously. Every bottle of Archie Rose Gin you buy should be the best one made yet.

Bringing in all these elements together, the distillation process, fewer botanicals used with greater boldness, and new native botanicals, we managed to create a reimagined modern classic gin. One that we feel offers something special and unique to the world of gin.

If you are a fan of our Signature Dry gin then you are going to love this new version. And if Signature Dry gin has not been your favourite in the past then I encourage you to give it another go. You’re likely to be blown away.