The first thing that springs to mind when most people think of Cornwall is our stunning coastline. But it would be remiss to overlook our beautiful countryside and farmland. Agriculture is one of the mainstays of the Cornish economy after all, ahead of tourism. And so, it’s little surprise that our food, from both the land and sea, is recognised as some of the finest in the World. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the humble Cornish potato is the hero ingredient in one of the county’s most popular products enjoyed by visitors and locals alike, gin.
In recent years, gin has seen something of a revival. Here in Cornwall, there’s a growing number of independent gin distilleries, with countless distinctive styles and flavour variations available across the Duchy. From east to west, north to south coast, visitors are spoilt for choice of delicious Cornish gins.
There are even a few to choose from in the Isles of Scilly. One thing they all have in common is the mix of juniper berries and a selection of other botanicals.
So, where do potatoes come into the mix?
The Dustow family has been farming a 200-acre plot of land at Lanlivery near Lostwithiel since 1904. The idea to turn our premium quality Cornish potatoes into spirits was hatched in 2010.
We started by turning Colwith Farm potatoes into Aval Dor vodka – Aval Dor is simply Cornish for potato – with our first batch selling out overnight in 2014. A year later Stafford’s Gin – named after our great, great grandfather who bought the farm – was born, using the vodka as its base spirit.
The process begins with harvesting, scrubbing and dicing the potatoes to produce a mash. A special yeast is added to help with the fermentation process and after a few weeks, a potato wine is produced. The potato wine is then put into a tiny copper, pot batch still which works in conjunction with a proprietary rectification column. During this stage, the potato wine is transformed into 96% ABV ethanol. After distillation, ethanol is blended with mineral water lifted from an aquifer deep beneath the farm. At this point, a delightfully clean and pure vodka spirit is produced.
The gin requires a second pass through the pot still to infuse a carefully selected blend of botanicals, foraged from the farm’s hedgerows as well as further afield.
Our ultimate dream was always to open a distillery on the farm and to be able to complete the entire process on one site. In 2017 we secured funding and were able to start the build. And in the summer of 2018, Colwith Farm Distillery opened. As well as being the region’s first and only single estate distillery we’re also the most sustainable, following a 100 per cent natural process and aiming for zero carbon status in the next two years.
We welcome visitors at the distillery and run guided tours and tastings on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We also offer more in-depth experiences including gin masterclasses for the chance to blend your own Cornish gin. The perfect way to bottle and take home a taste of Cornwall.
To check out some of Cornwall’s other drink producers, click here.
Blog supplied by Steve Dustow, owner of Colwith Farm Distillery.