Bimber Distillery, est 2015
HOW YOU STARTED OUT
Bimber was founded in 2015 and we laid down our first casks in May 2016. Our heritage is from Poland. Our master distiller, Darius [Plazewski], has a background in both in engineering and woodworking, but he also has three generations of moonshining history within his family.
He learnt the art of distillation, in a moonshining sense, in Poland from his father and grandfather, using basic equipment, away from prying eyes, in basements and woods, without any automation. Everything was done by touch, taste and smell.
Out of that stemmed several things: firstly the name Bimber, which literally translates to “moonshine” in Polish.
Our logo, the eagle, comes from the Polish flag, although we’ve modernised it by turning it to the right to face the future. And that sense of traditional distilling, using your senses, very much comes into play in terms of both our set-up and our ethos around how we make single malt.
WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT
We are a single farm distillery, with all our Laureate and Concerto barley from Fordham & Allen in Hampshire. We don’t mill the barley, we simply crack it to promote both the flavours from the husks but also a clarity of wort. For mashing, we have two temperatures and two waters for sparging. Where it gets more unusual is in fermentation. Our seven washbacks were custom-made by Darius and his carpentry firm. They are 3,500 litres. We fill them to 2,000 litres and ferment for seven days.
The washbacks are American oak, rather than pine, and they have been lightly charred. They are temperature-controlled individually to around 25-26 degrees, and they are open topped. All that together effectively goes to one of the things that we fundamentally believe, which is that distillation is a reinforcement of the flavours and profiles that you’ve generated in fermentation.
So while the active fermentation is pretty standard, at three or four days, we’re sitting in those tanks for another three or four days to promote the wild yeast from the open tops and to just build up a massive esterification, both from the yeast and from the charred surface of the wood. That promotes our highly fruity new-make style.
Distillation then takes place in alembic-style stills from Hoga in Portugal. Both the wash and the spirit stills are 1,000 litres and the spirit run takes roughly six hours and is direct fired.
The stills have rings which have both gas and steam – the steam gets them up to temperature, and then we click on the gas and then it’s direct fire. A lot of people think that’s going to promote some type of vicious, aggressive boil, but it’s actually low and slow. The stills have also been heavily customised because we’re all engineers. Every part, from the base of the still with the heating element, all the way through into the shell and tube condensers, everything’s copper.
So the liquid is permanently in contact with copper for its whole journey. We also don’t redistill heads at all.
We literally just take the smallest cut of the smallest cut, so it’s like, the heart of the heart for a slow distillation. And all measurements, the cut points, they’re all done by hand. There’s no automation whatsoever. We fill about a cask a day, so it’s the definition of craft, primarily into ex-bourbon casks. We favour the consistency of the cask, that we know what it is and we know we can work from it. We’re filling a lot of ex-bourbon and sherry, but we are now getting in a lot of different casks: madeira, rum, imperial stout casks. We’ll use some for a finish, give a light touch to provide a unique spin, in the same way that the Society does, taking a cask and then offering a different spin on it. Some we’ll put down full-term, and we’ll see what comes out the other end. That’s both nervy – because you never want to fill a cask and then taste it and go, “Not good” – but exciting because we don’t know what’s going to happen.