The Boatyard Distillery is an award-winning “farm-to-bottle” distillery located on the banks of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. We take a look at its original expression, the award-winning Boatyard Double Gin, and find out more about the man behind it.
Irish Whiskey is having a comeback. Once the most popular whiskey purchased, it fell from grace due to what can be mildly put as a series of unfortunate events, resulting in the closing of all but two distilleries by the 1980s. However, as of December 2019, 31 distilleries had been noted as being active, with three more popping up five months on. But this is a gin review; why are we going on about whiskey, you might right ask. Well, whiskey takes time to make, especially in cold, wet Northern Ireland. So whilst It sleeps in barrels, awaiting a day when it can legally be called a whiskey and christen a Glencairn, a number of new distilleries are developing gins instead. One such, is The Boatyard Distillery.
Whilst the future focus may be on creating stunning Irish whiskey, that does not mean that The Boatyard Distillery’s gins are getting any less love, attention and know-how – no sir! If you’re going to do something, do it properly, and that is exactly what founder Joe McGirr is doing.
The Boatyard Distillery
Joe McGirr is no stranger to the drinks industry, working at Glenmorangie and Möet Hennessy for years before his arrival at The London Distillery Company (producers of Dodd’s Gin), where he discovered his affinity for the gin as a category with endless possibilities.
In 2016, he realised his dream of opening a distillery in Fermanagh where he grew up – the first legal one in the area for over 130 years. The location chosen was a disused boatyard – hence the name – surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. Inspired by his family’s rich farming history, Joe set about ensuring that agronomy was at the foundation of the distillery and botanicals used were of the best quality.
Boatyard Double Gin
The Boatyard Double Gin base spirit is produced on-site from organic floor malted wheat and Champagne yeast (this has high ABV fermentation with a little flavour interaction, creating a strong, clean product that bodes well for producing gins and vodkas). The spent grain goes back to the land and the cows as fertiliser and food, whilst the liquid is distilled in Érainn, the distillery’s new, bespoke, alembic copper still that has a small column still attached. Here, the spirit reaches 96% ABV and Joe argues that this produces a “very delicate and balanced flavour profile” for the neutral grain spirit, with a “lovely breadiness” still discernible from the base, in spite of the high rectification.
The spirit then passes from the still through to a juniper filtration system borrowed from Dutch Genever makers. This extra contract makes the spirit’s juniper flavour more pronounced as well giving the product its pleasing moniker of “Double Gin”. Joe states his decision behind this as,
“I’m an evangelist of juniper-forward gins. I wanted to encapsulate a classic-style gin with a backdrop flavour of where the family home is.”
Once filtered, eight organic botanicals are added and left to macerate for 18 hours. These include local sweet gale (bog myrtle), which is harvested from the family, as well as organic Bulgarian juniper (chosen for consistent quality), lemon peel, coriander, grains of paradise, orris, angelica and liquorice.
The botanicals are removed and pure water is added, bringing it down to 46% ABV. The gin is then left to mellow for a minimum of two weeks before being hand bottled and labelled.
Tasting Notes – Boatyard Double Gin
Wafting, piney juniper is ever-present, followed by a light citrus and a mellow, sweet, herbal background. Peppery grain of paradise notes prickle around the nose, working to elevate the citrus and woody notes.
“Bang” goes that lemon peel, slapping the palate awake and readying it for an onslaught of earthy, piney juniper. The citrus continues its work, guiding spice throughout the mouth, aided by the tinglingly of the ABV. Whilst fully flavoured, Boatyard Double Gin remains smooth and mouth-coating.
This makes a stonkingly good G&T, garnished with a wedge of grapefruit. The more boisterous notes quell with tonic, allowing the sweet liquorice and floral notes to sit beside Queen Juniper.