I like artisanal producers. I like their passion, I like the variety of product they provide and I like the type of people they generally are. Through Relax with Dax and Slow Food I get to meet a lot of artisan producers and all of them, whether they produce beer or wine or a food product, are lovely people. Roger and Dawn of Jorgensen’s distillery are no exception.
They are passionate about their product, a range of spirits which includes Primitiv Vodka, Naked Limoncello, Savignac and Field of Dreams Absinthe. They will also be releasing a gin in a few weeks time. I took a group of people to visit the Jorgensen’s distillery when we were in Wellington for a wedding recently.
Roger spent some time explaining the process of distilling and what makes his product different from the mass produced stuff to which we have become accustomed. There is a lot of precision involved as he can easily destroy a batch by over distilling it. By distilling just the right amount he retains the flavours and aromas of the essential oils of the raw materials which then give the product its distinctive character.
There is no point in retaining the essential oils of the raw materials if the raw materials are not themselves of a high quality. Roger sources the best quality, organic ingredients he can possibly find. Because he is not a large producer, he can buy small amounts of raw material from people who are also passionate about their product. As an example, the vodka is produced from organic spelt grown high up in the mountains.
Once the base alcohol has been produced, it is time to add the herbs and other ingredients. We are taken into the ‘garage’ where Roger has laid out a selection of interesting herbs and spices, most of which we have never heard of. Some of them he grows himself, others he has spent a long time sourcing. All the while we are impressed with Roger’s intimate knowledge of the production process and each individual ingredient. His passion is infectious, it almost makes you want to start producing your own spirits, if it wasn’t so complicated!
After the tour by Roger we are taken through their home onto the back porch where we are greeted with the most fabulous view, and Roger’s gracious wife, Dawn. The tables have been laid out with glasses and snacks, so we each find a seat and settle in to taste these hand crafted spirits. Starting with the vodka we are told that this vodka is not for mixing, it’s for sipping so that you can taste the flavour which was so painstakingly retained. Everyone is impressed with the vodka (and with the fact that they can sip it) and we move onto the Limoncello. Using the peel of hundreds of hand peeled lemons, this Limoncello has the right balance of sweetness and alcohol, not too rich and not too strong, perfect. Next we try the Savignac, a cognac style brandy which is already getting a reputation as a premium product. The brandy appreciators are impressed, the rest of us are able to sip brandy for the first time. Lastly we try the absinthe, a product which has a reputation of note. Roger has been careful to produce a product which is not mind bending like the absinthe of old. It’s far gentler and has a very interesting taste, quite refreshing but very characteristic, loved by some and hated by others.
As we nibble the various snacks during the tasting, we realise that certain foods go with certain products. We’re engaging in an informal ‘spirit pairing’ and enjoying the surprising combinations. I was particularly impressed how well the atchar went with the vodka.
Before we know it, we have to leave for our lunch at the Stone Kitchen up the road. But not before we take the opportunity to purchase some of the fantastic wares. This is another thing about small producers, you can’t just pop into any store and buy their products. They are available in some places (I’m sure Dawn will append a list below for those who are interested), but you need to make a plan to obtain them.
With arms full of boxes and bottles we reluctantly make our way to our cars and say goodbye to our lovely hosts. Our hearts are warmed not only by the spirits we’ve just consumed but by the passion and love of those who have produced them (and also the ridiculous Wellington heat!).
You can view more pictures from our visit in the gallery here.
Versailles Farm, Regent Steet, Wellington
Tel: 021 864 1777