Barney Wilczak founded Capreolus Distillery in 2014. He is a photographer by trade, finding stories and natural wonder, capturing them with beautiful images. In this career, he has provided non-profit photos to conservationists in over 118 countries.
Now you’re probably thinking, what has Barney’s career as a nature and conservation photographer got to do with his distillery and their spirits? Everything. It’s exactly what makes Capreolus Distillery great.
The desire to capture nature in its purest form is not just evident in Barney’s photography, it is the mantra for Capreolus’ Eau de Vie spirits, and bound with creativity in their Garden Swift (formerly Garden Tiger Gin).
I will get onto the complex and delicious fruity Garden Swift, but I want to start with the pure and aromatic Eau de Vie range. These are hand crafted spirits that follow a long and intricate process to get the best results possible.
Fresh fruit, methodically picked at the height of quality and ripeness. Inspected by hand and fermented slowly, at temperatures cool enough to properly preserve the fruit’s aromas.
Each fruit has a bespoke fermentation process to ensure they deliver the best possible result, before being gradually distilled in a custom copper still.
There are multiple stages to their distillation process, at point in which Barney’s experience as a photographer is less useful, but instead his skill at distillation are apparent.
Capreolus Distillery have a wonderful determination to only use the perfect hearts of the spirit. They will not redistill the imperfect heads and tails for a higher yield, as the quality will not match that originally in the hearts. This means their spirits are always the highest possible standard, but are limited to small production. In fact, some of these batches are so limited, all of the fruit is from a single tree!
The range of Eau de Vie available varies with each year and season, as it is only from the best fruit available. HMJ Apple, Plum and Doyenné du Comice Pear are the usual suspects, but are accompanied by Quince, Elderberry, Blood Orange as well as a selection of Barrel Aged varieties.
Their Garden Swift Gin follows a very similar and methodical process as the Eau de Vie, but distilling neutral British wheat spirit with a closely guarded collection of 34 botanicals. There are a range of spices, berries and herbs that are kept under wraps, as well the stars of the show; fresh Sicilian Blood Oranges and flowers from the native British Tillia cordata, aka small leaved lime.
As their gin is limited to small batches, they ensure attention to detail and no compromise on quality. This is evident in the fact it won The Whisky Exchange Spirit of the Year for 2017.
The flavours in Garden Swift are incredibly complex and have enough depth to be enjoyed neat over ice, but best served with a slice of blood orange and a splash of tonic in their aptly titled GS&T (Garden Swift & Tonic).
Capreolus don’t chill filter their Garden Swift (or their Eau de Vie), as they believe the flavour is more important a transparent appearance. This keeps the cloudy essential oils in the mix, which actually gives the spirits some extra visual depth in the glass. This in turn requires the bottle to be made of UV resistant glass, to protect these essential oils.
This bottle is combined with a family designed label printed on a hand fed letterpress. If you needed a visual example of the amount of care and attention that has gone into the spirits themselves, the packaging should help.
Capreolus have also created an aged version of Garden Swift, using chestnut casks straight from aging Apple Eau de Vie. The residual apple flavours add extra complexity, with sweetness, smoky tannins and rich vanilla from the wood barrels. Perfect neat or as a whisky replacement in cocktails.Currently out of stock on their 2017 edition, due to being an incredibly small batch of only 255 bottles, so hopefully another becomes available from 2018.
In a climate where distilleries are popping up on every corner, Capreolus set themselves apart by being truly creative and remarkably true to nature with their spirits. We think Garden Swift is a must try, and their Eau de Vie are second to none.
The spirits mentioned are available directly from Capreolus Distillery on their website, with Garden Swift Gin and some Eau de Vie also available from Vinotopia Wine in Tetbury.
In fact, the Vinotopia C+10 Club offers the cheapest possible retail price for Capreolus Distillery products, at only cost price plus 10%. Read more about it here.
Disclaimer: All of the brilliant photos in this article are courtesy of Barney Wilczak and Capreolus Distillery, all rights remain with them.