Posts

Groans and moans have been heard drifting from the Stillgarden community garden this month.

Not from the undead, but from yours truly, as I get the place prepped for winter. We were lucky enough a lot of hedging gifted to us by a member of the Social Botanists group. The hedging, along with the kind offer of some bark chips from a local hall, has the place looking shipshape and weed free. Hooray!

 

 

As it is approaching Samhain, my favourite time of the year. I’ve decorated the garden with all manner of scary editions, hopefully they will keep the crows away from our strawberries. Our Social Gin went on general sale last week, and the staff at the Distillery are extremely proud to have it hit the shelves. Produced in conjunction with our Social Botanist group. Sourcing ingredients directly from the garden, chosen by our Social Botanists, and sampled to create a drink that they, and hopefully you, will enjoy.

Community Sourced Social Gin

When it comes to a scary Garden, it’s a wonder that I even dare venture into it. It’s a potential horror story waiting to happen when the moon is full, what with the amount of lethal poisonous plants, the horrific insects and possible hedge clipper accidents that could befall me. In reality there is very little to be afraid of in our little oasis in Inchicore other than getting a nettle sting.

Here are a few plants that actually are a bit freaky!

‘Bleeding Tooth(Hydnellum peckii)

This beneficial fungus actually “bleeds” bright red juices when it’s young. It grows throughout North America but can be found all over the world.

‘Black Bat Flower’ (Tacca chantrieri)
This nearly pitch-black plant definitely has one of the more chilling appearances. There aren’t many plants that have ears and whiskers, but the bat flower ….does.

‘Doll’s Eyes(Actaea pachypoda)
This eastern North America perennial, also called white baneberry, has berries that look (too much) like “eyes”, or an alien from a 1950s sci-fi movie. Walking through a forest full of these wouldn’t exactly be a welcoming sight on a fall evening.

 Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The Venus Flytrap is probably the best known insect eating plant in the world. In fact, this carnivorous plant’s features are so unique and distinct, they’ve even starred in some horror movies…and it’s my favourite spooky plant!

So until next time, don’t walk through the old graveyard, don’t go into the attic, and most importantly, prune well to reduce competing branches that may reduce yield and block sunlight.

To find out more about who are Social Botanists are or to become a Stillgarden Social Botanist check out the Instagram Page

Keep rockin

Neal

Viki Being a Bosslady

Hi I’m Viki Baird and I am the Bosslady of Stillgarden Distillery. Let me tell you how I got here!

Viki Being a Bosslady

My career has certainly been varied to say the least. Being a Bosslady is not easy. After college I went straight into retail management, this taught me how to motivate the people and to encourage them to their strengths.

After spending eight wonderful years in retail I decided a change was needed. I wanted an adventure so I packed my bags, crossed the pond and landed in Dublin. Why Dublin? Well I had always spent a good bit of time travelling back and forth visiting friends and there was always that charm that drew me in. It always felt like home. 

When I look back I can certainly see I kept my options open  I knew management was for me but I was interested in lots of avenues. I started off in a historical research company, then worked on the newsdesk of The Irish Times, after that I took on the role as General Manager of an energy company. This role certainly lent itself to my more adventurous side as it required lots of international travel, which maybe in hindsight gave me courage to take on more thrilling challenges later on in my life (and maybe a little bit of encouragement from my now husband Pat).  

Soon thereafter I started running a clinic with a large team. Together with my experience in different industries donning multiple roles I knew I was ready. Just as you think you know where your life is going, there is always something around the corner that can just change it, for me that was Pat.

In 2011, I met Pat O’Brien (who is co-founder of Stillgarden Distillery). He was a keen outdoor adventurer. At first, I was completely flabbergasted by larger than life appetite for adventure. Soon I went from high heels to high hills, he pushed me to face my fears. He even managed to get me rock climbing.

For many years we had discussed the idea of doing something completely unique to a distillery space. So after our honeymoon in 2019 we knew that was the right time to take the leap.

With my new found adventurous spirit and Pats determination we started the Stillgarden project in August of last year. However throughout the year we weren’t short of obstacles, even having to learn to adapt through a pandemic. We still managed to launch our first product, the Distillers Edition Gin in April. Then finally opened the doors with much delight in July.

We’re both amazed by what we have achieved to date. We’ve been very fortunate to have built a great team to bring the project to fruition. The future looks bright and we are really looking forward to it. It will be hard work, we know that but we feel we have really created something fun and special linking Science, Community and Nature.

Viki Baird x

Distillers edition dry gin
The Distillers Edition is the very first release from Stillgarden Distillery, and I am quite proud of that. This delightfully dry gin is distinct and unique, full of juniper yet progressive from the traditional.

Distillers edition dry gin

The gin has been in development in some way or another since late 2019. I have made somewhere between 35 and 40 iterations of it, and only a couple of iterations can be done in a day as your taste buds will get stunned fairly quickly from the high ABV. The general direction was to incorporate things we can grow or forage, but I also wanted a big whack of Juniper off it as well. I have rarely been accused of subtlety in my concoctions and this one is no different.

This gin is at 46% ABV, and it needs to be at that to keep the various oils dissolved and the gin clear. The oiliest components of a gin are the Juniper and the citrus, you’ve probably seen a bartender ‘flame’ an orange peel once or twice, which is (mostly) Limonene oil bursting into flames. In this case the essential oil budget is taken up in almost its entirety with Juniper, Lemon and Lime.Rowan Berries

Next up are the berries, in this case the Rosehips and Rowan, which are coincidentally both mildly dangerous to humans in their natural state. Rosehips, to me, taste like a mix between Rose petals and Rhubarb. You can make a jam from them but people rarely do as the seeds have tiny sharp hairs which will irritate the crap out of your throat or any other part of your body. Good thing we’re distilling them and leaving the seeds behind!

Rowan berries’ issue is that they have a very unpleasant acidity to them, but also a fantastic berry aroma. Luckily the undesirable Sorbic Acid in the berries boils at 228 °C, so the distilling process again saves the day!

The heat components of the gin are from Black Pepper and Cubeb peppercorns. The Black Pepper (the Phu Quoc variety), is hot and woody. It is quite similar to what you might have at home but far, far more aromatic. The aroma makes supermarket Black pepper seem like cardboard in comparison. The Cubebs, also a member of the Pepper family, don’t have anywhere near the same level of heat, instead they bring notes of Allspice and a little smokiness to the gin.

Eanna Burke

Eanna and Distillation

Eanna our head distiller is a gin-ious, one of the youngest and most Innovative in all the land. Fervently dedicated to the science of distillation.

Eanna and Distillation
I’m very often asked why I started distilling, and how I learned to do it. This morning, while gin trickles gently behind me, seems a good time to put it in writing.

There isn’t a particularly storied family history in the food and drink world, aside from my mother and grandmother being great cooks and my grandmother often having a batch of blackcurrant wine on the go, though I was too young to try it at the time.

There isn’t a story of how I labored under a tyrannical Master Distiller until an ironic injury left me in charge and gave me a chance to shine.

Not even a story of how I found a beat-up antique still in a barn and spent a year fixing it up to race in the Indy 500 (metaphors getting a bit laboured now).

Dear reader, the story is more of a non-story. I like food and drink of all types and forms (except bananas, f**k those things). I like building things, especially if those things can then make food or drink. As I was finishing up an Engineering degree, food, drink and building things started taking up more and more of my time.

Eanna Foraging

This was the era when the internet became more established as a way of learning in a collaborative way. Forums can tell you how to do anything now. Want to change a timing belt on your obscure 90’s Japanese estate? There’s a person with a soothing voice to talk you through it. Similarly, if you want to learn about distilling, there’s an army of people sharing recipes, tips, and designs, all trying to move the field of small-scale distilling forward. This is how I learned the theory.

I’ll end this post with a word of warning. You can make a simple still with items 95% of people have in their kitchen and frankly, you may already have accidentally made a still based on how you stack things in your cupboard. This is illegal, so I recommend you search how to make a Stock Pot Still, so you don’t inadvertently break the law.

It’s what any responsible citizen should do.

Eanna Burke

Gardening

A social project creating a vibrant community botanical garden right in Dublin city.

Hi all of you lovely people, gardeners and gin lovers alike. Neal here with your bi-weekly update of the community garden. I trust you are all doing well and enjoying this spell of (mostly) dry weather- it’s as if the sun doesn’t know what time of the year it is.

 

Neal in community garden

Mint, chili and spinach has been planted in the garden this week. Spinach won’t be used in the gin making process but to give us all a bit more muscle for the gardening work.

Tuesday saw us hosting a small gathering (under the recommended government guidelines),at our lovely new shiny Distillery. Our social botanists met at staggered times to plant up the fruits of their labours and enjoy a chilled Gin and tonic from our very first batch. The weather was beautiful, a perfect day to christen the garden and chat face to face.

The day was even more special for me as included on the guest list were the amazingly talented Marion and Róisín from Greenedge Dublin. Their knowledge and passion is infectious, and I learned more in our few hours together than you could possibly imagine. You can check out all of their greening projects around Dublin on Instagram @greenedgedublin)

The beds have been plumped up with compost, and the smell of herbs and the sway of the apple trees helped to ensure the backdrop to our meeting was perfect.

Plans are in motion for some new features to the all new super-duper botanical garden, think Mr. Miyagi’s garden in the Karate kid, but with lavender growing instead of bamboo. I fully intend to attempt a crane kick on said bridge, but certainly not after a few gin fizzes.

Speaking of gin, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of the Distillers Edition Gin. The first release that has been produced by Master  Distillers, Eanna Burke. A lovely gesture and it will be enjoyed this weekend, under hopefully glorious skies. Even more great news is that the Distillers Edition Gin is also available for collection or delivery!!!

Distillers edition gin

 

In rock based gardening news, my old mate Brian May of Queen had a horrendous accident when he tore his glutes while tending to his herbaceous borders. This is worthy of Spinal tap, but is in fact true, so please do be aware of ‘over-enthusiastic’ gardening. I have spoken to Brian in the past as he shares my love of foxes. He’s a lovely man indeed, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Until next time,

Stay safe and keep rockin.

Neal