Nestling within the rolling green hills of County Armagh and bordered on one side by the broad expanse of Lough Neagh is a specific micro-climate where the temperature rarely falls below 3oC and rarely rises above 18oC. Aided by a rich, fertile soil high in calcium and essential nutrients and an abundance of rain, these conditions produce an apple that has no equal anywhere in the world – the Armagh Bramley apple. An apple that is high in malic acid and low in sugar, its unique flavour assures its position as the king of culinary apples. No wonder DEFRA awarded the Armagh Bramley apple Protected Geographical Ingredient (PGI) status.
It was the abundance of this fantastic ingredient that was the inspiration for Ulrich Dyer, the innovator behind the multi-award winning Symphonia gin brand, to create an equally unique apple gin. He is the founder of Woodlab Distillery, literally ‘Laboratory in the Woods’, so-called because of the rural location and the use of science to get the best from nature. All the gins he produces showcase local ingredients and he extracts the essence of these ingredients using an innovative distillation process that preserves delicate flavours. This novel approach has already been validated with Symphonia No.1 Dry Gin winning Irish Gin of the Year 2019, Champion of Champions, beating 37 other distilleries across Ireland.
“I had to produce an apple gin because of where I live, here on the border of Tyrone and Armagh. I wanted to capture the crisp tart taste of green apple not the sweet taste of a dessert apple,” says Ulrich, “I achieved this by using the juice of these Bramley apples which have a perfect balance of sugar and acid. Juniper and crisp apple don’t sound as if they should work on paper but in the glass they combine beautifully, the juniper first followed at the end by crisp green apple.”
Launched in 2018 Symphonia apple gin has already been awarded three internationally-recognised awards and two stars in the Great Taste Awards. It also was a finalist in the Irish Gin Awards for flavoured gin, picking up a bronze medal, and most recently receiving another bronze medal at the very prestigious World Gin Awards 2020.
The judges at the Great Taste Awards commented, “The sour apple mingles with juniper nicely and ends with a very pleasing refreshing sweetness. Characterful and outstanding, a real pleasure. Completely nailed the flavour balance and interest. Outstanding beyond delicious.”
The gin has been welcomed with open arms in the bars and restaurants of Belfast not only because it is a local product but because of the uniqueness of its crisp apple taste, balanced with the usual gin botanicals. It very easily lends itself to a wide variety of different serves and it is for this reason that it is stirring the imagination of local mixologists. It is perfect in a green apple martini or as a gin and tonic with a crisp refreshing apple finish. It has also developed a following for the most simple of serves, Fiona Beckett, the Guardian’s food and drink columnist, tried Symphonia’s gins and commented, “I like the basic gin in the range, but the apple gin, redolent of a good schnapps, is absolutely outstanding. Drink on the rocks.”
2020 is going to be an exciting year for the company, it is opening a brand new distillery in Moy, Co.Tyrone which will include a gin school where people can come to learn the history, science and art of gin-making and put it into practice by making their own recipe gins. Ulrich and his team are very much looking forward to welcoming guests, “It’s a fantastic opportunity to find out more about how we have brought distillation into the 21st century and to have some fun with flavours.”
Symphonia Dry and Apple gin is available from email@example.com