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Social Botanists

Hi there, Connor here. I’m delighted to share that I’ve been promoted from Social Botanist and Friendly Neighbourhood Forager to the new Gardener in Residence here at Stillgarden. It’s been great to have more time to get involved with the Community Garden, get my hands covered in soil and meet some new social botanists so our delicious botanicals can flourish.

Social Botanists

Our Community Garden in Inchicore, Dublin 8 is filled with different species of cultivated and wild flowers, herbs and trees and is visited by a variety of pollinators and wildlife daily. Since we celebrated National Biodiversity Week last week, I thought I’d share with you what you can expect to see when you visit Stillgarden Distillery

 

The top of the garden by Tyrconnell Road remains a wildflower haven, making sure that there is plenty of choice for our pollinators beyond what we humans like in our drinks. Creeping Buttercup is a pretty flower, but unfortunately has an invasive root system that likes to dominate the more delicate roots of herbs. It is still important for pollination, so up here is where it can plantspread. Our Calendula, otherwise known as marigolds, are in sunny bloom, recognisable as large daisies that look like they’ve been stained orange. They’re surrounded by a delicate bed of Speedwell, which are small blue flowers from the Veronica genus. They make quite the couple.

We also have plenty of wild mustard, flowering brassicas and dandelion. Dandelion is often seen as a weed, but in addition to its roots being great for a yummy, caffeine-free coffee replacement, pollinators love the flowers too! Blowing the seeds away from a dandelion clock grants wishes (allegedly) and those tasty roots also greatly improve soil quality. What a team player!

 

In addition to providing a habitat for botanicals to grow in a former area of wasteland in Goldenbridge Industrial Estate, we also work with Clever Honey Ireland to provide a safe home for bees on the distillery’s rooftop. We have introduced the native black honey bee to the distillery grounds and love having them on site to help naturally pollinate the local area and our garden.

As a few of us were working away in the garden over the weekend, we were visited by a mason bee, a solitary but efficient pollinator. Along with bumblebees, hoverflies, our native black honey bee residents, and of course our social botanists, we have quite the team of pollinators hard at work.  Now’s the perfect time to visit our garden as we begin to plant what has been cultivated at home by our social botanists. Book your Garden Session now if you would like a guided garden tour along with a refreshing Stillgarden libation on our terrace afterward. 

If you have anything you’d like to contribute to our garden, we’d be delighted to have you growing with us (and so will those happy bees)!

Your new Gardener in Residence, 

Connor

 

To learn more or sign up to become a Social Botanists click here. Don’t forget to keep up with the latest happenings in the Community Garden – follow our Social Botanists on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Of all of the botanicals used in Gin distillation few come with the infamy and in fact necessity of Coriander Seed. It has a contentious history from a mention in the Old Testament (great read if you haven’t got around to it) right the way through to being splayed across Billboards over the world as soapy, evil bullshit as a result of a bizarre genetic trait that some of us possess to pick up on aldehydes. Put simply, it is about as confusing a plant as the decision for Kanye West to run for American president.

What is Coriander?

For starters, the name itself is derived from its smell (apparently) rather than its medicinal value or flavour. Coming from the word Koros (insect) or Koriannon (bug) in Greek. At times we struggle to come up with names for products here in the distillery but this is really a stretch. What insect delights the nostrils with that citrus and spice heavy blend that is released when you crush a coriander seed because we want to try it.

Rare it is that you try a gin from anywhere in the world and it does not possess this humble seed, the staple of many of the world’s most famous London Dry styles alongside Juniper, the complexity and depth of its oils and esters are incredibly useful tool for highlighting citrus or rounding out savoury recipes.

To get a wee bit geeky about it the second major component of the seed is a thing called alpha-pinene which we spoke about before being heavily prominent in Juniper; making them excellent bedfellows. The vast majority of the rest of its structure is linalool (sometimes up to 70% it is a floral and spicy terpene alcohol. It is found in over 200 plants such as citrus fruits and lavender. Concentrations of linalool above 20 ppb have been shown to give a fruity hoppy aroma to beer) and also gamma-terpinene (about 10%) which gives that prominent and pleasing lemon-y flavour.

Coriander and Our Gin

Coriander

All of our gin at Stillgarden Distillery possess this plucky little botanical that could in some shape or fashion but none more so than our Distiller’s Edition which champions it alongside Juniper and Citrus peel for that slightly more traditional Gin feel and flavour and don’t worry, it’s not going to be like rinsing your mouth out with soap as often that really only comes from the leaf of the plant.

To set you at ease we found one of our Social Botanists Kate who has the aforementioned gene and asked for a quote. Don’t worry she didn’t even sign up to the newsletter so she won’t read this. We’ve even had her drink some of our products that contain Coriander and she didn’t notice but when brought face to face with a salad containing fresh leaves she said “this just tastes like soap.”

So fret not and don’t let a fear of aldehyde-laden gin prevent you from going softly into that good night.

All the best,

Al x

Tasting Notes

Tasting Notes are Bullshit. Your palate knows you better than anyone could. This is a pretty sensationalist title but what difference between that and companies shouting at you that their whiskey is the smoothest, their gin that can inspire moments of tropical havens or their vodka tasting like an iceberg. What good are these errant thoughts of marketing companies designed to play on wishful thinking or ideal living when you are stuck with the palate that you are born with and have trained to like certain things through simple repetition and experience.

The truth is that tasting notes are a necessary evil to give people an idea of what they are getting themselves into but the heavy skew towards disruptive flavour notes and memory based recollection has led ultimately to the alienation of many people who would otherwise investigate the burgeoning category of ‘craft’ spirits or drinks, in general. All of us can recall a time at a bar overhearing some person attempt to melt either a first date or a bartender’s ear about their vast ability to detect minute impressions and notes held so secretly by their New Zealand Savvy B, hated that person and looked down on your flavourless beer and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. I promise. Let’s look a little closer at how your body generally perceives flavours and then tie that back to why tasting notes exist in the first place as a means to guide rather than overcomplicate the whole process of having a drink with friends. Let’s discuss taste first. 

TASTE

What is generally categorized as “taste” is basically a bundle of different sensations: it is not only the qualities of taste perceived by the tongue, but also the smell, texture and temperature of a meal/drink that are important. The “colouring” of a taste happens through the nose. Only after taste is combined with smell is a food’s flavour produced. If the sense of smell is impaired, by a stuffy nose for instance, perception of taste is usually dulled as well. Try eating or drinking something you are extremely familiar with whilst holding your nose and a lot of the enjoyment is going to be diminished.

Like taste, our sense of smell is also closely linked to our emotions. This is because both senses are connected to the involuntary nervous system. That is why a bad taste or odour can bring about vomiting or nausea. And flavours that are appetizing increase the production of saliva and gastric juices, making them truly mouth watering. Mouth watering maybe but not sexy definitely. People who have an aversion to the smell of Parmesan Cheese often can’t explain it but it’s potentially because it shares many of the same properties as vomit/baby sick and the recollection of such traumatic events veers your brain away from wanting more of it. I mean, I get it.

Now that we are on board with the idea of emotion, experience and flavours you have come into contact with in the past adjusting how you perceive liquid in a glass or food on a plate; we can at least understand why brands often lead with these grandiose experiences of sipping cocktails on beaches in the sun or guffawing your way through pints of the black stuff in quiet pubs with your nearest and dearest. It’s a not so subtle attempt to arouse desire in your proverbial loins. Ooooh.

At a base level what is it we taste then:

Based on the information that is transported from the tongue to the brain, there are thought to be at least five basic qualities of taste. The basic tastes are:

Sweet

What we perceive as sweetness is usually caused by sugar and its derivatives such as fructose or lactose. But other types of substances can also activate the sensory cells that respond to sweetness. These include, for example, some protein building blocks like amino acids, and also alcohols in fruit juices or alcoholic drinks. Caraway is an interesting botanical that is found in Stillgarden Social Gin. Once distilled it imparts an inherent sweetness into spirit even though sugar does not make it through the distillation process.

Sour

It is mostly acidic solutions like lemon juice or organic acids that taste sour. This sensation is caused by hydrogen ions split off by an acid dissolved in a watery solution. Fermentation can also often have a souring effect, think Sauerkraut or yogurt (Lactic Acid). As you can see the world of alcohol creation is pretty romantic in its terminology.

Salty

Food containing table salt is mainly what we taste or recognise as salty. The chemical basis of this taste is salt crystal, which consists of sodium and chloride. Mineral salts like the salts of potassium or magnesium can also cause a sensation of saltiness.

Bitter

Bitter taste is brought about by many fundamentally different substances. In total there are about 35 different proteins in the sensory cells that respond to bitter substances. From an evolutionary standpoint, this can be explained by the many different bitter species of plants, some of which were poisonous. Recognizing which ones were indeed poisonous was a matter of survival. The evolution of the food and drink world has taken an odd turn in that people now hunt out this feeling at often obscene levels massively Hoppy IPAs or Insane Hot Sauces with Scoville’s in the millions are prime examples. 

Savoury

The “umami” taste, which is somewhat similar to the taste of a meat broth, is usually caused by glutamic acid or aspartic acid. These two amino acids are part of many different proteins found in food, and also in some plants. Ripe tomatoes, meat and cheese all contain a lot of glutamic acid. Asparagus, for example, contains aspartic acid. Chinese cuisine uses glutamate, the glutamic acid salt, as flavour enhancers. This is done to make the savoury taste of foods more intense. This is basically the reason that once you pop you can’t stop with Pringles: MSG. If you like truffle cheese chips try throwing some MSG on top of them and prepare yourself for an uninterrupted trip to flavour town.

 

Tasting Notes

 

God love you if you have read this far and I suppose you’re going to want a summation of what it all means to you. The premise of all of this is that the weight people put in tasting notes being what they SHOULD find is a beyond broken ideal, sure you might find orange peel or juniper in that gin but the first rains of spring are going to be really hard to decipher if you’ve grown up in Dubai. In essence, it’s fine to explore food/drinks and not be in line with the perception of so called experts’ tasting notes as long as the product resonates with you. Knowing a little more about how all these factors influence your ability to dissect flavour might help you have a little more faith in yourself when you like a Gin for reasons your friends can’t understand — it’s because none of us experience life the same way.

 

All the best,

 

Al

 

Interesting stuff:

Taste benefited early humans by indicating which foods were safe for consumption. Sweetness signalled foods with calories for energy, while sourness could indicate the presence of vitamin C; bitter foods were potentially poisonous, whereas salty foods contain important minerals and other nutrients.

We can thank Demeter, the goddess of fruitfulness and fertility, for this time of year. Spring, a time where green shoots pop up from the ground and lambs gamble through lush glades. I do not condone gambling, even when its amongst the bovine community; but regardless, it can perhaps be seen as a time to be reborn. An opportunity to raise our heads t’ward the sun and bask in its warm glow.

I have been shifting topsoil up in Stillgarden’s Community Garden like it’s going out of fashion. Kindly sourced by Pat, the soil now covers the slope that leads to the lazy Camac river at the foot of the garden, an area longing to be cleaned up and brought into use. Members of my family helped prepare wild seed bombs with air dry clay, and they have been liberally spread along the area to aid the bees that will soon be busy again as they buzz back and forth to our hives.

Social Botanist Project

Our Social Botanist Project is in full swing, and the first of the hydroponic kits have arrived and been planted. Soon the area will be awash with colour and all the plants will ready to be harvested and find their way into our wonderful beverages. This will coincide with a socially distanced tipple at Stillgarden Distillery for all those plucky planters that have helped in the process. I cannot wait!

 

The wonderful folk up at the BERA Hall donated 10 bags of mulch toward the garden last week, and we made it a family day out! The family that spreads mulch together stays together, I really do spoil them in fairness! I came across some dead tree branches and painted them with white paint in an attempt to be a bit arty. I like them, and a fantastic member of the community has decorated them with Easter eggs, a lovely gesture indeed!

 

 

Anyway, as the great Black Sabbath song goes..

“My life was empty, forever on a down
Until you took me, showed me around
My life is free now, my life is clear
I love you sweet leaf, though you can’t hear
Oh, yeah baby!”

Until next time….keep rockin

Neal

Boss Lady

Happy International Women’s Day to all of the women warriors out there! Whether it be a friend, a sister, a mother, a colleague or a mentor, show them how much you value their support and admire their hustle. Today, we’re highlighting five strong and talented Boss Ladies who inspire us. Get to know the lovely ladies we work with daily.

Federica Meli – Bucket of Cheese

Boss LadiesBucket of Cheese was founded by Federica Meli in 2020. A wonderful product of lockdown that we are so lucky to have in our Dublin 8 neighbourhood. Originally from Italy, Federica has been living in Ireland for the past 20 years. She describes food like a religion and in Federica’s eyes food is love and it brings people together. We can agree that there’s nothing better than a table full of food surrounded with family and friends! After working in hospitality for 20 years, with lots of grit and passion, she decided to start her own business and Bucket of Cheese was born. 

 

Federica supplies cheese, cured meats, tiramisu and all the goodness that goes with it for any occasion. She makes fresh hummus and chutney using the delicious ingredients growing in her garden while also supporting local farmers and businesses. She’s even mastered a tiramisu, Stillgarden style with the help of our Spent-spresso Martini! The charcuterie board boxes are a real crowd pleaser at our Distilling Academy Sessions and are now available online for a lovely at home treat. ​We are always in awe of Federica’s spirit of adventure when it comes to her food and her commitment to sustainable practices and our community is inspiring. Bucket of Cheese will bring a little taste of Italy straight to your door. Try all of Federica’s locally sourced, artisan products, and homemade recipes here. There’s something for everyone!

Helena Vukovic – The Flourless Baker 

Flourless BakerHailing from the beautiful country of Croatia, Helena first moved to Ireland 5 years ago. Helena was never a big baker but being Coeliac, she always found it challenging to find nice treats that she could have. Now, she brings tasty and flavoursome gluten free desserts to Dublin and beyond!  

During lockdown Helena took it upon herself to start experimenting with some Gluten Free dessert recipes so she could finally indulge her sweet tooth “almost” guilt free. This sparked an inner natural talent and from there Helena continued baking and developing recipes so she could share.  From this The Flourless Baker was born. Helena continues to amaze us with her creativity and drive. All of her Gluten Free goodies are handmade in D8 and we just can’t get enough, especially of the Stillgarden O’MARO Fudge

Helena now has a permanent stall in the Herbert Park Market every Sunday from 11am to 4pm where you can also get your hands on all of her delicious flourless treats when it reopens. We are also selling a 4 pack of sweet treats from the Flourless Baker to add onto our gift boxes options this March. If you are looking for a variety of Gluten Free treats that are also Vegan friendly, we can assure you The Flourless Baker will not disappoint. You can find delicious recipes here. 

Claire Buckley – Buck & Hound

Buck & Hound

Claire Buckley is the Boss Lady behind The Creative and Earnest Agency, Buck & Hound. Buck & Hound is a creative and hard-working PR, social, design and events consultancy based in Dublin. Claire is dedicated and enthusiastic in all she does and believes without passion, nothing truly ground-breaking can be accomplished.

“Being a woman in charge or ‘Boss Lady’, whatever your industry, comes with a certain level of responsibility. You have the unique privilege of defining a working culture by leading from within and by example. I have always been a firm advocate of the Kindness Economy,” says Claire. 

So how did Claire get here? After freelancing part time and working from her home office, her client base quickly grew. Claire expanded her team, from what had started out as just herself and her trusty pooch, Stella by her side. Buck & Hound was born in 2016 as a result, with one goal in mind: To create a nurturing and exciting environment that produces work for incredible clients that share her values. Claire and her dynamic team are such a joy to work with. Their commitment and expertise is unrivalled which makes for the perfect partnership. 

Emma Devlin – Rascals Brewing

Rascals BreweryRascals Brewing Company was founded in 2014 by Boss Lady Emma Devlin and her husband Cathal O’Donoghue. They were living and working in New Zealand when they developed a passion for the booming Kiwi craft beer industry. Their entrepreneurial spirit led them back to Dublin where they decided to open a craft brewery of their own. Emma worked in environmental science before she made the move to join Cathal in running the Rascals Brewing Company and we’re sure glad she did! 

They have since opened their headquarters in Inchicore, now our next-door neighbours and home to their pizza restaurant, on site off licence, taproom and brewery. If you’re looking to broaden your tastes, we recommend you try Rascals’ twist on traditional beer styles. You’ll be surprised what amazing options you’ll find in their off licence from Chardonnay Saisons to Milkshake Stouts. Next time you’re visiting be sure to check out our neighbours and enjoy Rascals pizza and beer you won’t find anywhere else but Inchicore. View their full range here.

Viki Baird – Stillgarden Distillery  

Stillgarden Boss LadiesViki Baird is Stillgarden’s one and only Boss Lady, known for her hustle, vitality and dynamic character. We even named a gin in her honour! Boss Lady gin is just as spirited and peachy as she is, created to celebrate all of the strong, victorious women out there like her. Viki motivates her team daily and without her courage and bravery she would not be where she is today. 

After years of experience in different industries in multiple roles, Viki knew she was ready to do something completely unique. With her new found adventurous spirit, thanks to her husband Pat, and strong determination the duo started the Stillgarden project in August of 2019 and haven’t looked back since. Viki feels fortunate to have built a great team to bring the project to fruition and looks forward to building on their success in the bright future ahead. Try our socially sourced spirits made by and for curious individuals at Dublin’s Independent Experimental Distillery we know and love as Stillgarden Distillery.

Join us in celebrating women everywhere today, and every day this International Women’s Day. To help support women everywhere even further, €2 from every Boss Lady bottle and €3 from every Boss Lady Gift Box sold will be donated to Women’s Aid. Shop Boss Lady gin here.

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
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 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

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