The summer has finally arrived at Hepple and it is time to bring in the Bog Myrtle, otherwise known by its rather lovely old English name of Sweet Gale. It has been an exceptionally wet summer at Hepple and this has delayed the ripening of most plants, however as our Boggy M is a thoroughly northern inhabitant and keeps its feet habitually in water it does not seem to have cared in the slightest; we are bang on our normal harvesting time of late July.
Bog Myrtle grows prolifically at Hepple. It is one of the great barometers of the wild, flourishing where it finds open ground, clean water and low grazing pressure from sheep or deer who love its young shoots for their taste and possibly even for its renown qualities as an aphrodisiac.
We don’t want to suggest any such thing for our gin, that would be quite contrary to what the boys at Trading Standards would expect of us. Let’s just say that we have always found Hepple to be a most invigorating sipping experience.
Apart from these uplifting associations, we pick bog myrtle for its rich bay-like flavours. It has both a citrus and a sweet dimension, so it can link these flavours that are found more prominently in some of our other botanicals.
We use just the tender shoots. After gathering them into baskets we whisk them back to the distillery, where they are immediately distilled through at a low temperature in our glass vacuum still.
If we subjected the bog myrtle to the 80 degree heat of the copper pot still we would get something rather different in taste from the live flavours we find out on the hill. We want to retain that detailed freshness, so speed from harvest to distillation and low temperature in the still are both critical.
Our Boggy M distillate is just one of six separate low temperature distillations that we perform to make Hepple Gin. Earlier this summer we harvested and distilled our blackcurrant leaf and lovage from the Hepple garden. We don’t need huge quantities of either, their flavour being very strong.
The blackcurrant was at its best in early July. We are looking to move that rich tangy taste of the berry into the spirit, perhaps rather surprisingly it is through the cool distillation of the leaf that we can do this.
Brought from the Hepple garden by a rather scary-looking Lucy. It has been a bumper year for our blackcurrant.
Lovage is one of Val’s favourites. It has a taste a little like celery with a dab of liquorice. It combines earthiness and freshness and is a great compliment to some of the sweeter flavours in the gin. It grows prolifically in the garden. We harvest when it is young in June, this basket is from a small plot of lovage we have just outside the distillery. The distillate tastes as green and fresh as the photograph above.