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Is "small-batch" and "craft" gin the same thing?

Published:  17 May, 2016

Since the gin renaissance took off with a vengeance in 2010, the terms "craft" and "small-batch" have, in many cases, become one and the same.

Since the gin renaissance took off with a vengeance in 2010, the terms "craft" and "small-batch" have, in many cases, become one and the same.

With the number of UK gin brands more than doubling in the last six years from 31 to 73, "craft" and "small-batch" have become part of the vocabulary when talking about the quintessentially British spirit.

But what do they really mean to the people making it?

For new single estate gin brand Spitfire Heritage Gin, they certainly define themselves as small-batch and would also put themselves under the umbrella of craft.

But while some might define craft as the story linking the finished product to the distillery and the distillers, for Spitfire, it is linked to the quality of the liquid and the actual processes that are involved.

Ian Hewitt, one of three partners who founded the Cambridgeshire business, explained: "With small-batch distillations there are no nasties - because boiling point for the liquor is reached sooner. And that means you get a 100% clean finish. Gin is made from vodka. As a single estate distiller we grow our own crops and distil them into vodka, then turn our own vodka into an utterly sublime gin."

However, while small-batch might mean quality and therefore in some cases, "craft", Hewitt says that small-batch doesn't always necessarily mean better quality.

"A lot of small-batch producers buy in their vodka from larger suppliers who distil on an industrial scale," he said.

"You can't make perfect vodka on an industrial scale, and, without perfect vodka, your gin is just not tickety-boo in our book."

Spitfire GinSpitfire Gin

Why is small-batch so important?

"The first fraction of product off the still is called the heads; the last is called the tails," he added.

"The flavour of the vodka from the heads and tails is, quite frankly, dreadful. The bit in the middle is the heart of the spirit. It's the best bit. The aim is to isolate the heart with no contamination either side from heads or tails. The larger the still, the larger the percentage of heads and tails you have to deal with. Distilling in small batches allows us to completely remove the heads and tails; leaving only the creamy delicious heart."

Denise France, a partner in the business, echoed Hewitt's comments.

She said that the process is key to the way they approach, produce and market their product.

She said: "We would see craft gin and small-batch gin as one and the same. Our small batch gin can be described as a craft gin, but we use the term small-batch as it is defined by the process - a process that makes it a world-class product with a taste to match.

"We make the vodka, we make the gin. Everything we use in the production of this gin is grown on one estate."

Wine Rack is currently stocking Spirtfire Heritage Gin nationwide and UK and international supplier Hammonds of Knutsford have placed an order.

The gin is distilled by John Walters, voted distiller of the best gin in the world 2015.