Melton Mowbray - more than just pork pies, have you tried the SLOE GIN? – and there’s more too
Running an old and established Family Business as I do, I love it when others have a go and succeed. Sloeberry Spirits has been trading since 2004 and in 2010. Andy Hoyle bought the business after its founder, Rachel Birch, decided to return to her career after having had her children. Andy has been in the food industry most of his working life and had, like Rachel, been making Sloe Gin for years.
Based around Northfield Farm www.northfieldfarm.com on the outskirts of Melton Mowbray, Andy, with his family, and even his friends who help out, harvest the wild fruits from the hedgerows on the farm and surrounding fields. They usually start in late July with blackberries, moving on until late into
November (and sometimes even December) when they try to find the very last of the sloes. Always working ahead of themselves - those who make sloe gin will know it takes over a year to make a really good product and if possible 18 months to 2 years - any surplus fruit is frozen once cleaned and prepared so nothing scrumptious is wasted. As well as locally harvesting country fruit they buy in strawberries and raspberries from Scotland making sure that all is top quality and farmed in an environmentally sympathetic way.
Once harvesting is over the ‘magic’ can begin. Adding the ‘correct’ amount of sugar to a ‘quantity’ of fruit (some things are secret – he he), all is then added to quality ‘branded spirit’ - the idea that any old value spirit will do is a myth says Andy, in a small stainless steel vessel where it is watched & worked until all the sugar has dissolved. This is then left for some months giving fruit and spirit time to infuse imparting both colour and flavour. When Andy is happy with the result so far, he transfers the liquid to demi-john jars and the fruit is removed. Stainless steel and glass jars are used as both are inert so that all flavours & colours are quite natural.
When the time comes to bottle, a number of demi-johns are emptied into a stainless steel tank to blend all the batch together and then using a single-head bottler the liqueur is put into their easily recognisable 50cl bottles. Do note that this is the only mechanical equipment that is used, everything else is done by hand to protect and not bruise the fruit which helps to retain the natural colours and all the rich flavours.
At the moment they are making traditional Sloe Gin – it won a Gold Star at The Great Taste Awards 2013, Vodka & Strawberry, Whiskey & Wild Damson along with Gin & Raspberry that won 2 stars this year. However don’t think all that glorious fruit is wasted, it is sent to a chocolatier who uses it to make chocolate truffles, how good is that? www.bittersweetchocolates.co.uk
Ways to enjoy Sloeberry Spirits
The obvious way is simply, in a small or liqueur glass, sip, savour and enjoy the delightfully rich flavours. You could try over ‘cracked’ [not crushed] ice. Like this the tastes will tantalise and titillate but stay true. Or try over really good vanilla ice-cream – and maybe grate 80% dark chocolate over it – this is simply WICKED. Remember if making cakes and puddings that require fruit liqueurs Sloeberry Liqueurs will give a great flavours.
If you travel to the farm the cost is £16.99. We here at George Hill sell at £17.60 and elsewhere they may cost more. But then if time is short you need not travel out to the farm so look at the website for a stockist near you.
One super thing about Andy Hoyle’s liqueurs are that not only are they locally made from mostly local produce but he has the skill to produce a spirit that is true to its base and also its fruit. WELL DONE ANDY!
“Happy drinking” - Andrew - firstname.lastname@example.org
[Do always remember to drink responsibly]