Joff Curtoys – Sloe Motion
Quite unusually for a lot of the modern craft distilling scene, to discuss the start of your journey we need need to delve way back, over a decade… When did Sloemotion start and what inspired you to make a Sloe Gin business?
The business began in 2006 in the rural surroundings of North Yorkshire when I was working with a farmer to enhance wildlife habitats his land. One of the practices was to stop regular cutting of the hedges, which resulted in an abundance of sloes all over the farm; we had all grown up drinking home-made Sloe Gin, so an idea began to take shape and Sloemotion was born.
From small beginnings the business has blossomed and continues to flourish today, with multiple awards for both the business and the products. With my background working for the RSPB and passion for wildlife conservation, the ethos of Sloemotion has always been one of respect for the environment and the countryside, hence our “Life on the Hedge” motto.
You mention that small beginnings, fourteen years later how big is the team today and what’s the focus for you in 2020?
We are a team of 21 lovely people; seven in production, a technical manager, seven in sales, a small marketing team and then accounts and management.
One of priorities for 2020 is developing the markets for our much praised Hedgerow Gin; we feel there is a returning interest in traditional dry Gins. We also have a number of new projects and launches in the 2020 plans as well as an exciting new working partnership and collaboration with our neighbours at Castle Howard. More than ever, we’ll be continuing with and developing further our eco-friendly working practices.
That’s great to hear and before we get to the dry gins, what do you feel sets your Sloe Gin apart from others?
Great taste and quality ingredients are what sets us apart from the rest – we always use whole hand-picked fruit steeped in small batches in high quality gin over a period of months; it is essentially a simple process, like people make it at home, with no added extras. We just use larger tanks!
And do you use the Hedgerow gin as the base?
The taste of our Sloe Gin is also supported by using Hedgerow Gin as the base. Following the old adage of “what grows together, goes together” we use six novel hedgerow botanicals (that grow alongside the sloes) in the distillation process for the Hedgerow Gin, alongside the classic London dry gin botanicals. Rosehips, and crab apples added for a mellow, fruity dryness; sloe stones add a vanilla sweetness, elderflower, nettle leaf and wildflower rich meadow hay add a multitude of floral subtleties.
We love our bottle design. Based on a hip-flask shape and perfect to slip in your back pocket!
There are other fruit liqueurs other than Sloe in your range- which has been the most fun to make?
It has to be our Cherry Brandy. As well as making what we believe is the most delicious Cherry Brandy in the world, Ben our Production Supervisor, has started taking the brandy-soaked fruit home, using them to bake us all batches of delicious boozy brownies – perfect with our morning coffees, although we’re only allowed one each!
Of course, this idea is not totally novel as we’ve always used our gin-soaked sloes to make our delicious Sloe Gin Truffles.
Which is the trickiest to produce and get the balance just right?
The Bramble Whisky is one of the hardest, but only because the production team find it quite tricky handling the blackberries – they stain a lot! In reality, the hardest job is getting the sugar levels right with the sloe products; when you’re dealing with a wild fruit there are no varietal controls so seasonally, there can be a lot of differentiation, which is why we taste test every batch before its bottled.
Let’s talk more about your Hedgerow Gin – do you distil this yourselves and if so, could you talk us through your process?
We do distil ourselves here at Green Farm using our iStill. With its low costs, and most importantly its environmental efficiency, the iStill works effortlessly at Green Farm bringing our craft distilling into the 21st century.
It was our sloes that led us back to the hedges to gather the six novel hedgerow botanicals used in the Hedgerow Gin distillation. Through the seasons we forage on Green Farm and the wider area for rosehips, crabapples, nettle leaf and elderflower. The wildflower meadow hay comes from a local nature reserve. The sloe stones which make the sixth botanical, are an excellent by-product from our Sloe Gin making process.
The verdict still seems to be out on the I-still with both a converted faithful and those not convinced about it. How do you find working with it?
iStill have revolutionised the world of distilling, improving performance and accuracy. From an environmental perspective, we felt it was the only responsible choice. Our experienced distiller, Ian Mansell and his team, oversee the distillation process and indeed all the production of our creations at Green Farm.
How would you describe it as a flavour and more generally, what do you feel you have captured in the liquid?
Hedgerow Gin is a classic, dry gin. It has a light fruit aroma with herby and floral tones, an elegant floral and fruity taste with a lasting dry finish. Who knew the hedgerows could taste so good!
We look forward to getting to know it better at Junipalooza!
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