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Drink Finder Ginversation with Pocketful of Stones Distillery

Drink Finder Meets the Maker, Pocketful of Stones

Tell us about yourself. How did you find yourself here today distilling gin?

Ok, it is a bit of a long story. But here we go, I was a publican in London and I got too grumpy with drunken customers and too fat to keep up with the youngsters behind the bar! So I needed to find another working avenue, along with also wanting to get down to the coast and the sea. So I chose Cornwall to setup.
Head Distiller Shaun Bebington

What is the story behind the brand name?

Let's do the story behind the name Caspyn, its more fun than Pocketful of Stones. So Caspyn; when I first moved down to Cornwall I was living up between Mousehole and Newlyn and there is a stone circle there that I thought was called Caspyn. Because there was a sign there outside that said Caspyn... but just before we went to print and finalise the label, the designers were like ‘Are you 100% sure?’. Now being a bit of a hippy, I thought I would go sit with the stones for a bit and make sure that everything was cool. Got there, climbed out the car, the sign was there that I thought said Caspyn. Went over and read it. The first thing I noticed is that there was no ‘y’ in the name… Second thing I noticed was that it was not the name of the stone circle. It was in fact an acronym for The Cornish Ancient Stone Preservation Network. So yeah, kinda messed that up on all fronts but it has stuck and is a funny story to tell.
Pocketful of Stones Whisky

What was your original view for the distillery and how has that changed?

It was whisky that I really wanted to make, as you can see over the back there is a bunch of barrels sitting with whisky in them. A couple of Cider Brandies as well. We are on the right track, its been a bit of a slow approach compared to how I envisaged. But we are having lots of fun with gin at the moment, we have just released two new expressions, a Marmalade Old Tom and the Dandelion & Burdock, they have been fun to develop and I am really pleased with them. The greatest thing about gin is the development of the recipes, just messing around, tasting every morning, that sort of thing - you know it's good fun.

What challenges did you face in the early days of the business, when you first entered this industry?

Hahah… loads! Production challenges, as you can see over there we kind of made our own cooling system to chill filter the gins. It was a choice whether to chill filter or not, that is one of the things that comes to mind with this question. And we have chosen to chill filter but we had no pumps so we didn’t have anything for this. Basically what we did was take a 500 litre tank, stuck it up on the table and bucket fed the gin into the tank and modified a pipe with a filter that we got from the pet store and took it through a cooler box to create a chill filter in the early days. It was a lot of trial and error and figuring stuff out for ourselves.
Pocketful of Stones Distillery

What makes this distillery stand out from the ever-growing crowd of gin producers?

We have nothing to hide, everything we do is with the utmost integrity and transparency, as you can see everything is here on site and on show. We distil our own stuff, we develop our own recipes, we do not use out of country services, we bottle here, that’s our label machine, that’s our bottle filler. They might be small, but it is all done by hand and gives our customers a true hand-crafted product.

Can you tell us more about your ethos and philosophy with production, are there any changes instore for the future?

Yeah for sure! We have always got it in the back of our mind to go more eco, who doesn’t? In that desire there are different challenges ahead. Take for example the safety seal on the top of the bottle, it’s currently plastic, but we have been working with innovators for the last year to change that and bring something different to the industry. So far, they have come up with some cracking ideas. Also with tasting shot glasses that we use at events, they are plastic and they only have a drop in to sample, then they are thrown away. What a waste! We really want to find an alternative to this and again we have a really cool idea to change the way we give tasters to customers at events. The only problem with the current idea so far is that it will be neat gin, we cannot carbonate or add tonic to the solution that they currently have. It is an evolving idea, hopefully we’ll have something soon to reduce this plastic waste. But yeah, everything we do currently we are trying to find a greener solution for the future.

How did you come across your flagship recipe?

It was trial and error. It must have taken about 6 to 8 months. We started doing it in London, we kind of had an idea where we wanted to go with it. But we had no idea how to get there. We ran into issues, for example when we first started to bring the spirit down it went cloudy, we didn’t know how to fix it and nobody wanted to help us. Pretty much trial and error to get the product looking visually good. Tasting amazing was only kind of finalised when I got down to Cornwall. There were only a few flavour profiles that we were distilling, it was right at the end of the process that we kind of had the recipe polished, when we came across Lemon Verbena that grows over here at St Michaels Mount. Now it is a primary botanical that you can taste coming through.
Pocketful of Stones Distillery Copper Stills

What is your favourite product you have made to date?

My personal favourite is going to be whisky but that is still developing. Last year we made Skreach Cider Brandy and for me that is our best product to date.

Some think the gin ‘bubble’ may burst soon, can you see this happening?

Yeah definitely. It is a bit of a nervous time at the moment, especially with all these pink gins, glitter gins - everything has a flipping gimmick. It just seems to be going the same way the vodka industry went in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, there were thousands and thousands of flavours of whatever you wanted, now you hardly see vodka at all.

Where do you see the distillery in 5 to 10 years?

I would love to have a visitor centre, get more involved with the tourism side of things and obviously be making a lot more whisky. I think that is the route we want to take. Everyone is talking about rum at the moment, personally I don’t think the climate is right here, we are not huge fluxes in temperatures, you are not on a ship with the barrels rocking about. Whereas with whisky, with the Cornish climate there is a nice balance with the environment, it’s never too cold or too hot. The whisky is going to sit there for a long time and mature, and I think it is going to come out amazing.