Raising Spirits

Matthew Neal, founder of the Little Bay Distilling Company, is a keen gin drinker and has been watching the English craft gin scene explode in the UK. Matt founded the distilling company with a desire to create a high-quality, BVI-made product that would serve the Caribbean with an exceptional craft gin. After many months of planning, Neal took the plunge and became a distiller.

Recognizing that a lot of gin is consumed in the BVI but very little is actually distilled locally, the Little Bay Distilling Company saw an opportunity to stand out amongst all the rum of the region. They also saw that nearly all the gin is imported and wanted to provide a product that the people and visitors to the islands would be proud to drink, buy and take home.

BVI-Made

After Hurricane Irma, Neal and his colleague Joshua Davies wanted to spread the word about the strength and resilience of the British Virgin Islands and to create a product that would not only make the people of the BVI proud but also attract tourists.

“We wanted to create a truly authentic BVI product. One which is conceived of, produced (distilled, bottled, corked and labelled) in the BVI with a brand which reflects the sailing heritage of the BVI as well as aspects of nature which are visible in the islands (the hibiscus flower and hummingbird),” said Neal.

The project of designing and manufacturing a BVI-made product is a passion of Neal and Davies. They are among businesses working to show that a new wave of authentic BVI products is emerging.

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The Recipe

Gin isn’t gin if the juniper berry isn’t the predominant flavour. But the beauty of craft gin is that with such a large variety of other botanicals to choose from, a unique craft gin recipe can come to life.

BVI GIN is a traditional London Dry Gin in the sense that juniper is the lead flavour and as a result of the traditional distillation method. Its distinction comes in the addition of citrus flavours from lemon and grapefruit, balanced with floral hibiscus notes. The finish is a light sweetness from cassia bark and liquorice root. These botanicals, combined in the still, produce a smooth, balanced flavour.

The Process

BVI GIN is distilled in a handmade bespoke copper column still at the distillery near Little Bay. After mixing a precise combination of botanicals with a neutral grain alcohol, the mixture steeps in the still for 24 hours. The still is then heated very slowly until the alcohol begins to distil and passes through a condenser into a barrel. After 10 hours, the heat is turned off, a very high strength spirit remains and is left overnight. Over the next two days, the only post-distillation addition is water to bring the gin to drinking strength. The spirit is bottled, labelled and BVI GIN is born.

As BVI GIN continues to grow, they hope to maintain a sustainable BVI-made product that would be an extension of the people and culture of the islands. Distillery tours are on the horizon as well. BVI GIN is distributed by Proudly African and is available for purchase at Relish and That’s The Spirit! on Tortola Pier Park. You can also find BVI GIN at bars and restaurants throughout the British Virgin Islands.

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