Can you tell us a bit about the story behind Silent Pool Gin?
Silent Pool Distillers was founded by two Surrey locals, Ian McCulloch and James Shelbourne, in 2014. Ian had previously been the Commercial Director for ITV, and when he left, he decided he wanted a small project to keep him busy. Inspired by traditional distilling culture, he wanted to set up a small local distillery producing handcrafted artisanal gin from the finest ingredients. He was introduced to James, and the pair discussed the idea of setting up a small distillery at their local pub, and it went from there. Things pretty quickly grew from the small project to an international brand!
What are the brand’s core philosophies and the vision behind its products?
In short, quality above everything. We only ever use the best quality ingredients, absolutely nothing artificial. Everything is supplied to us, either fresh or dried, and locally sourced where possible. Whilst all our products taste distinctively different from one another, they’re united by a shared purpose and vision, being that not one ingredient is relied upon for flavour. All our recipes work like a symphony of flavours. Every ingredient in the recipes serves a purpose and compliments the last without overwhelming the palate.
What is the story behind the name?
When Ian and James were looking for a location for the distillery, they were inspired by the traditional distilling culture of using water for the spirit from a natural water source. They found a location next to the legendary Silent Pool in Guildford, England. So, as our home is at the Silent Pool, we felt it represents who we are. But to make sure there’s no confusing the pool and the gin, we go by Silent Pool Gin.
Can you give more details on the different gins and their definitive characteristics and flavour profiles? What were the inspirations behind each?
Our first release, Silent Pool Gin, was inspired by our local area, the Surrey Hills. Of course, it uses classic gin ingredients but with a focus on capturing the essence of the Surrey Hills in a bottle. Many of the botanicals within the gin grow in the local area. Elderflower lines the outside of the Silent Pool, while linden flower and chamomile were growing through the cracks of the site that is now our distillery. Roses also line our local village. Handcrafted with 24 botanicals, it’s a rich and clean juniper driven spirit with floral layers of lavender and chamomile. Fresh notes of citrus and kaffir lime are grounded with the subtle sweetness of local honey.
Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin tells a different story. It started with the idea of a single citrus gin, but this didn’t feel right for us. It was too simplistic. Our distillers looked further into the world of citrus and unearthed two renowned citrus collectors in Portugal who have cultivated a collection of over 350 citrus varieties. The distillers took dozens of citrus away, and after numerous recipes trials, landed on the 4 key rare citruses for the heart of the recipe: Buddha’s Hand, Natsu Dai Dai, Hirado Buntan and Green Seville Orange. The outcome is an expertly balanced gin. Bright and zesty notes of Buddha’s Hand, enticingly rich notes of Natsu Dai Dai, subtly sweetened by Hirado Buntan. All 22 botanicals in the recipe work in harmony with one another; no one botanical overpowers another. Make no mistake, this is not a ‘flavoured’ gin. This is a masterfully blended clear spirit that results in a beautifully aromatic gin with a unique taste.
Tell us more about the location of the distillery and the production process? How does your method of production make your gins superior?
Our distillery is located in the heart of the Surrey Hills, close to Guildford, just 25 miles south of London. It’s tucked away in a wooded area on the banks of the Silent Pool.
Our distillers always seek to get the best out of the botanicals we use, and to achieve this, they created a unique four-stage process of distillation. The botanicals are split into groups depending on their characteristics and treated differently before distillation. A blend of technique and raw creativity defines the unique four-stage process of making the Silent Pool Gin range, and it’s this that sets the flavour and complexity of our gin apart from others.
Maceration: The process starts with maceration, where primary botanicals are steeped in select, high-proof alcohol for 24 hours and then diluted with water from the Silent Pool prior to distilling. Soaking the botanicals in alcohol improves the extraction of oils producing a more rounded flavour.
Gin Tea Infusion: Botanicals with low levels of oils are infused separately to liberate desired flavours, then strained to discard plant matter before being added to the still. Some of these are lime leaves, lavender and chamomile.
Basket Infusion: Delicate botanicals are placed in a basket situated in the neck of the still; they create the forward aromatic top notes of the gin.
Rectification: The spirit vapours pass through four distillation columns which amplify and shape the flavours, allowing us to craft an exquisite, perfectly balanced gin.
You offer the option to create customised gin bottles – how does this work?
It’s really simple, just go online and choose one of the four flavour options: English Garden, Fresh Grapefruit, Original Juniper or Spiced Pepper. Then you can customise the front label with a photo and text of your choice. We then print and label the bottle and send it out to you. People love it for gifts!
Sustainability is important to the company; could you elaborate more on this and share some of your integrated sustainability practices?
Our rural location is a constant reminder of the need to work sustainably and we’ve got numerous initiatives in place. Our 1800L still is powered by an HVO boiler which means it uses hydrogenated vegetable oil (residue food stock) in place of red diesel. This reduces our greenhouse gas emissions by 90% – which is a big win as the distillation process is pretty resource-intensive! We run a closed-loop cooling system, so water used in distillation is then used to heat the distillery buildings. Solar panels on our distillery roof have generated enough energy to power 35,000 homes. Leftover product from distillation is shipped off to an anaerobic digester to create electricity.
These are just a few of the processes we’ve put in place. We’re big believers that making a lot of small changes over the course of time is the way to make a big difference, as it’s not always logistically or financially possible to make changes all at once.
Are there any other aspects that you would say really make your gins stand out?
Our bottles are stunning. Silent Pool Gin’s teal and copper colour combination has won numerous beautiful bottle contests, and we get an amazing amount of gin fans getting creative with them once they’re empty. People have turned them into lamps, soap dispensers, plant pots and even fountains. They stand out on any bar. But the real show-stopping point to the gin is the liquid itself.
Have your products won any awards? If so, which ones and why are these important to you?
We’re lucky enough to have won multiple awards in prestigious spirits competitions and local awards. One we’re particularly proud of is winning a Double Gold at the San Francisco Spirits Awards in 2017 for Silent Pool Gin.
What is your favourite cocktail to make with any of your gins?
We love Silent Pool Gin in a Bee’s Knees. It’s just delicious, fresh and bright with rich flavour, and it really complements the honey used in the gin.
What do you and your team enjoy most about working in the drinks business?
We enjoy the fast-paced nature of it, the ebb and flow of trends of what cocktails are popular and who’s drinking what. The dynamic nature of the industry allows us to get creative and innovate constantly, which keeps our distillers happy.
What interesting trends/themes are going on in the world of gin production and do these at all influence the company
We’re noticing at the moment the gin category is innovating outwards in terms of flavour. There’s a lot of experimenting with different flavour combinations – some sound interesting, some not so much. Of course, we look to the category for inspiration, but it’s not the sole reason we would create a new product. We won’t jump on a trend just for the sake of doing it. If we want to create a new gin, we’ll do it properly, in our style and take our time to produce it to the standards we hold ourselves by.
How do you hope customers will perceive your gin, and what feelings do you hope it fosters?
We’ve built the brand around luxury, from the liquid to the packaging to our marketing. We want people to perceive the gin as just that – a luxurious gin.
In terms of how we want them to feel – it depends on which gin they’re drinking. If they’re drinking Silent Pool Gin, we want them to feel transported to the Surrey Hills and enjoy the complex nuances of the botanicals. If they’re drinking Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin, we want them to be captured by the intricacies of the citrus varieties and the different alluring notes they create.
What’s next – any new products or exciting events on the horizon?
There’s always exciting things going on. The distillery hosts numerous events throughout the year, the biggest being World Gin Day. There are some top-secret projects in the works that will be coming to fruition in 2022, so keep an eye out for them!