Ollie Sanderson – Batch Spirits
Since their humble beginnings in 2015, the Batch Spirits range now encompasses three brilliant offerings in the core range, as well as the limited nature of their one in one out Innovations releases. We decided to catch up with head distiller, Ollie Sanderson, to see what live at the distillery is like and how they go about creating a new offering every month.
Hi Ollie, looking back how long have you been distilling and what got you in the booze business to start with?
I moved into a new house and discovered a double basement at the same point as my uncle, the company’s director, wanting to make the move from brewing ale to distilling gin. Things just fell into place, I was at a family party and we got chatting. From that point production of Batch Brew moved from Winchester to Burnley, where we’ve been distilling since.
What’s the best part of the job and what’s the worst?
The best part has got to be the recipe development – flavour combinations are fun to experiment with. But the worst part can also be the recipe development, too! As we releasing a new product every month, maintaining the production of our core range and gins for export, it can be pretty challenging to organise.
One of the big differences for you guys has been launching the Innovation series, what was the idea behind Batch Spirits doing its own subscription service and how did it come about?
After completing a mammoth order for Craft Gin Club, we were voted the UK’s Favourite Gin off the back of that. We also had a few white label gins under our belt and saw a gap in the market. Batch Innovations was and still is the UK’s first single distillery subscription.
What’s the process like for you guys in terms of deciding on what idea to do next?
We draw a rough plan up for the following year. What’s written down isn’t gospel but it’s a good guideline. Our creativity has allowed us to experiment with barrel-aged gins, playful overproofs and even balanced the flavours of Absinthe with juniper. We produce ‘proper’ gins but Innovations allows for playful, lively twists, and something different from our core offer.
And then in terms of perfecting and knowing when something is right, how do you call it time on R&D and when do you know when something is ‘good to go’?
Taste test and slight tweaks between runs. The whole team gets involved and has an opportunity to give their feedback. We all have different tastes and styles so it’s good to touch on that before I make the call. Batch Industrial Strength Gin was pretty much achieved without much tweaking at all, but some recipes take six or seven experiments to get it right.
What was the first Gin you made for the Innovations series and was there a reason you went with that to launch the idea?
Buddha’s Hand Gin was the first release. We were experimenting with botanicals for a client in China and loved the combination of botanicals. The results were different to any gin we’d produced but it was still very much a Batch product – bold and big on flavour. Industrial strength Gin was actually the first recipe we developed. Both gins went on to win medals at SFWSC – Buddha’s Hand a Bronze and Industrial Strength a Double Gold and Best Gin.
Not all experiments can be great, and that’s part of the fun and the learning curve. What’s the best idea that you’ve had just didn’t work out (and why)?
Batch Gin Rummy. The finished product is special but not what was intended in the original brief. Supposed to be a rum spiced with gin botanicals, it ended up being a blend of our gins aged in the same casks we aged our rum in. Halloween Potion tasted better at a higher ABV but timing got the better of us!
And then in terms of personal favourite, do you have a highlight from what’s emerged so far?
Several highlights for different reasons. Industrial Strength Gin, an overproof gin that has since made it into our core range. Gin Rummy because of its innovative nature. Jasmine Tea Gin as it was summer in a glass. USA Breakfast Rum as it was fun to produce. Inspired by USA breakfast pancakes, it tastes delicious.
Do you feel that because they are limited editions you can be a little more experimental and how conscious of the gin / not gin line are you when developing new ideas? It’s a tetchy subject at the moment…
Yes to experimental. That’s part of the idea behind Innovations. However, we still stick to the rules of juniper led gin in all of the products we release and we’re not willing to compromise on that. It does mean we can play about with trends however and have a bit of fun in the process.
Some of the releases have gone on and become ‘core range’ now. Is that just based on feedback, or are there other factors at play?
We survey our members so they most definitely have a say in what is brought into the core range. There’s sometimes more tweaking involved but feedback plays a very big role. As you’d imagine, gins are always more popular with our subscribers but we have members who are blown away with the vodkas and rum too!
What’s coming up next?!
Imminently, the release of Garam Masala Gin in March. It’s an exploration of Indian ingredients. A blend of spices including tamarind, fenugreek and bay leaves are combined with traditional botanicals. Subtle heat and sweetness are balanced with gentle warmth and spice, resulting in gin with depth and complexity.
Beyond that – lots of fun, interesting spirits. We laid down a whiskey in 2018 and are looking to introduce some of the Innovations gins into our core range.
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