Capturing the essence of life.
Remaining true to the purity of science and nature is at the heart of Symphonia’s ethos.
Because unusually, its founder and distiller Ric is also an organic chemist. His life has been spent studying the structure, and properties of molecules – searching for the essence of life.
It is how he revolutionised spirits production. And how Symphonia wins its awards.
He has enjoyed an impressive career in the pharmaceutical industry. With a PhD in Organic Chemistry and driven to use his talent for the greater good, he worked at the cutting edge of anti-viral innovation. On leaving that world, he turned to his other great passion, food and drink, applying his understanding of molecular science to gin – a drink originally invented by chemists.
Now with his own business, his aim is to be consistently mindful about how to reduce the company’s impact on energy and the earth’s natural resources.
In practise, it means harnessing science with nature to create the best tasting spirits possible, capturing the wonderful flavours and fragrances of botanicals in the most eco-efficient way.
It means making spirits that reflect the glory of the Northern Irish countryside. Our commitment to the region is deep: embracing the ‘giant spirit’, we live, work and create in the Orchard of Ireland. It is a rural landscape of rustic natural beauty, rugged coastlines, rolling green hills – and the wildest botanicals and herbs.
With its unique micro-climate, balmy winds of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, peaty soil and nearness to Lough Neagh freshwater lake, it is beautiful land and is much treasured.
Symphonia’s ethos also means giving something back to the country. It inspires, it is home, it is energy and with cutting-edge science it is the reason for our success.
Symphonia’s Ethos – the four Elements
- Product – the most authentic.
Uncompromised taste has always been our objective. Wanting to faithfully capture the flavours which grew around us, we found that a few of the ingredients in our recipes were not readily available on a large, or sustainable enough, scale. For instance, juniper trees although native to Ireland have become an endangered species here.
So, using scientific skills to analyse these ingredients we searched the world for sustainable sources which had the same molecular fingerprint – and hence the same taste profile as the local ingredient. We used the same technique for coriander seed.
The remaining ingredients are sourced as ethically and locally wherever possible – this helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions due to transport and supports the local economy.
For example, the herbs and flowers –– are handpicked and distilled immediately to capture all their essence before they have time to lose any element of their flavour or fragrance. The local botanicals used are foraged within 10 miles of the distillery.
The ethanol is the purest available and the purest water nano-filtered to remove everything except H2O.
The distillery is different: they use recycled glass in their stills, which are not only more environmentally friendly than copper, but they have also been scientifically proven to give a cleaner taste.
- Process – science led.
We created a unique process combining three techniques: cold distillation, hydrodistillation, and molecular analysis.
These ground-breaking innovations ensure the rich, delicate, flavours of the botanicals are extracted with the maximum efficiency and preserve their taste quality.
They also hugely reduce energy consumption using only 2% of the energy required for traditional distilling.
These techniques bring additional space efficiency: the distillery has a reduced physical footprint compared to others.
We are the only distillery in the world using these combined processes.
The three techniques:
- Cold distillation. Pioneering the use of modern technology to bring out a new side to familiar ingredients, we gained consistent, more energy efficient, space saving results – and greater opportunities for flavour creation.
We use a vacuum rotary evaporator in a different way. The distillation occurs in a glass still allowing infusion to take place at much lower temperatures, meaning that each botanical can be distilled at the optimum temperature for that ingredient.
For example, fresh basil can be distilled at a low temperature, which means it can retain its flavour profile and be detectable in the final gin. This would be lost in traditional methods as the basil would be destroyed in the high heat of distillation.
Cold distillation and heating at low temperature saves energy as only the minimum amount of ethanol and water is heated up to extract the flavour, as opposed to traditional distillation which involves heating a large amount of ethanol for extended periods.
Most extractions can be carried out under partial vacuum (cold distillation), meaning it uses even less energy.
Distilling at different temperatures also means greater ability to create. Because each ingredient is vacuum distilled individually, maximum flavour is extracted using the minimum amount of energy and separate flavour ‘notes’ can be explored.
This makes for greater balance with no one flavour note dominating. These notes, composed together, create a symphony of flavour. Symphonia.
- Hydrodistillation. Used to extract the precious essence of the botanicals prior to distillation. We use microwaves, a very efficient source of energy, to excite the water molecules naturally present in botanicals causing them to break open the cells and release all the flavours and aromas. This technique is commonly used in perfumery and aromatherapy to extract the essential oils from precious materials such as rose petals, sandalwood and frankincense. We have embraced and adapted this technique to spirits manufacture.
- C) Molecularanalysis is rigorously conducted on every ingredient used: to date we have studied nearly 100 individual herbs and spices for their molecular
This has brought a certain freedom in flavour creation: we can find exotic flavours in everyday plants around us.
For example, the esoteric Indonesian Cubeb pepper, a common gin ingredient. Its distinctive flavour was perfectly substituted with specific elements of the dandelion flowers found in hedgerows and lawns – so reducing food miles and of course, using local ingredients.
Or the apple rum which features the aromas and taste elements of nutmeg and cloves. Surprisingly, these come from a bush grown from a clipping Ric’s father gave him when he and his family first moved into the house.
- People – who share the same values.
The company works with stakeholders – suppliers, customers, and community partners – who are committed to best sustainable practise with business relationships that are respectful and enduring.
For example, last Christmas and Mother’s Day the company offered a gift pack for sale containing gin, and made with local craftspeople, a Symphonia flavoured jam and a Symphonia scented candle.
- Future – thinking ahead.
Symphonia is committed to producing gin in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
Several initiatives lie ahead to support this including the use of its visitor centre as a space for the local community to trade, and to stage arts/cultural events. Ultimately, we will move to a greenfield site and have a carbon neutral distillery where visitors can stroll through the orchards of apples and juniper and admire our botanical gardens.
And above all, connecting company, colleagues, friends and community to what is real and true – the land, the seasons, friendship, quality, great taste, fulsome flavour, enjoyment, the beauty and generosity of nature
– Life’s chords no less.