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Capreolus Distillery - Limited Edition Eau de Vie

Eau de Vie doesn’t mean a lot to some people in this country, in fact, there is virtually no dedicated commercial production in the UK. We understand Whisky, we understand Gin, maybe Vodka but with the possible exception of Calvados, probably the most famous fruit Spirit out there, we misunderstand and underrate Eau de Vie.  Also known as Schnapps, Brandy, Edelbrand and Aqua Vita many think of these Spirits made from distilled fruits as fire water, only to be consumed when already pretty drunk and usually on a Ski slope ( in the case of Grappa) or in a bar somewhere in Denmark after an afternoon on the beer (in the case of Schnapps).  We think of Eau de Vie as being harsh, burning alcohol that you can only manage drunk or freezing cold but in truth, fine Eau de Vie can be just as complex, textural and high quality as any of the other more appreciated spirits.  In most cases Fruit Eau de Vie is not aged and perhaps that is why we undervalue it.  Our Whisky culture has led us to believe that anything without at least 10 Year Old on the label is rubbish.  Also, Eau de Vie is sometimes made from fruits we know little about, Williams Pears, Greengage or Quince for example.  Lastly of course, a lot of Eau de Vie is made cheap and pretty nasty, very little fruit actually gets in there and the distillation recycles plenty of unpleasant heads and tails of the original spirit which go to making the final product, harsh and dominated by alcohol.

So why all this context?  Well, there is some amazing Eau de Vie out there, the French, Italians and Scandinavians all have a culture of it and make some pretty fancy stuff but we would like to introduce you to the new kid on the Eau de Vie block and this is made in the UK!  Barney Wilczak, a crazy guy who decided to make world class Eau de Vie from local fruit in the Cotswolds!

Barney was a conservation photojournalist in his previous life, but he was always a madcap experimenter and someone who found a passion for distilling.  He did it as a hobby for years, learning and honing the craft with natural perfectionism which kept him aiming always for higher and higher quality.  Eventually, part time was not enough for him and so he took the leap and set up Capreolus in 2014 with the first harvest of fruit in 2015.  His aim, ‘to capture each fruit’s momentary peak of ripeness’, and he did it in the most beguiling and delicious spirits we have ever tasted.

Working from the old lean to greenhouse in his childhood home, made of timber and Cotswold stone, Barney and his small team of family and friends now create unique Eaux de Vie and small batch Gin to the highest of standards.  Fruit is sourced locally from some incredible growers including the 1000 organic apple tree Orchard on Prince Charles’s Home Farm, near Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home.  Every piece of fruit is hand graded and cleaned, harvested at the peak of ripeness which occurs only in good years and plenty of fruit is rejected when the quality is not high enough.  Each litre of EDV contains between 15 and 45 kg of fruit.  All fermentations are done slowly with natural yeast before double distillation.  The products are free from the typical recycling of feints, artificial colourants, sugar and chill filtering.  To reflect the spirits quality, they are hand bottled, and finished with traditionally printed letterpress labels.  UV proof bottles preserve the delicate essential oils and natural cork allows a slow evolution in storage.

These products are not just spirits, not just something to drink, they are like jewels, bottled essences of nature and made with such passion and artistry, it almost seems a shame to drink them.  They transform the experience of drinking Spirit into something intellectual and artistic.  The aromas and flavours will relax the mind and fill the soul.  We recommend them after a good meal with excellent natural wine and enjoy them in peace and quiet with people you love and the pleasure of great conversation.