Colwith Farm Distillery and Potatoes

Colwith Farm Distillery and Potatoes

“*Po-tay-toes!* Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew…”

– Samwise Gamgee

…Or if you are positively abundant with the knobbly carbohydrate then why not make some alcohol?

I don’t have any doubts in my mind that Samwise would have jumped at the chance to distill with potatoes if given half the chance. And who knows, being from Hobbiton and sounding very much like he’s from the West Country, he could have even been Head Distiller at Colwith Farm Distillery as long as potatoes were in the vicinity.

 Muddy Potatoes being held for Colwith Farm Distillery blog
Humble Potatoes
Colwith Farm Distillery is Cornwall’s first single estate ‘Plough to Bottle’ distillery, Gin School, tourist centre and fully functioning farm shop. Many producers have opened their doors to the tourism trade as a result of the love affair with artisanal food and drink, and distillers are no exception, but this facility is unlike any other in the south west.

Colwith Farm Distillery is owned buy the Dustow Family; their tale begins in 1904 when Stafford Dustow purchased the 200-acre Colwith Farm between Lostwithiel and Fowey, and it has been farmed by five generations since then. During World War II, the Dustow’s grew potatoes to feed the country, and the distillery continues this heritage.

Steve, the fifth generation Dustow, has elevated the simple potato to new heights by distilling it into Aval Dor (Cornish for potato) Vodka, a project that began in 2014. A year later, using Aval Dor as the base spirit and botanicals foraged from the farm, they developed Stafford’s Gin, which they named after Steve’s great great grandpa.

Although there are several businesses producing Gin in Cornwall, as Steve correctly points out, the Dustow’s are the first to integrate the entire process under one roof.

Steve, like most others, believed that all distilleries created their alcohol from scratch, handling every stage of the process in-house. Most artisan distilleries, it turned out, acquire mass-produced ethanol from an industrial source before adding their own touch on it, either through adding a flavour or just decanting it into a marketable bottle.

Despite the odds, they were insistent that everything would be made from scratch on a single estate. It doesn’t get much better in terms of provenance, authenticity, environmental effect, and product quality.

They created a unique facility to contain a distilling and bottling area, tourist centre, and store to undertake the unusual notion of developing the region’s first plough to bottle distillery.

The next step was to explore the world for the specialised and unique technology needed to turn their home cultivated potatoes into spirits, all on a single estate.

They had to narrow down twenty types of potatoes to just a handful, which they adjust during the harvest to meet seasonality, once the specialised equipment had been acquired.

Only then, eight years after the Colwith Farm Distillery concept was formed, did they begin to properly understand the intricate procedures that go into producing the most exquisite and authentic handmade spirits. Preparing a wash, fermenting, distillation, rectifying, mixing, and hand-bottling are among them. These operations are being carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why We Love Colwith Farm Distillery

We are big fans of the sustainability ethos that Colwith Farm Distillery have, particularly in our current ecological climate.
From a production angle, the fact that the distillery practices all occur on a single estate means several things;

Mileage

Each potato harvested for distillation travels less than 5 miles before arriving for production. This is a massive reduction in carbon emissions compared with other distillers. (It also means their spuds are super fresh)

Energy

Not only did they make the decision to install photovoltaic solar panels, they also manage to acquire a REGO backed GREEN ENERGY tariff in 2021. This means that the distillery runs on 100% renewable energy

Wastage

As everything here is done on a single-estate, any stillage (wastage) created from the potatoes during production gets spread onto adjacent grassland in order for the entire potato planting process to begin all over again.

Conservation

They’re also sure to circulate their potato crops and not use the same field for at least 5 years. This means they don’t release too much carbon into the atmosphere nor do they strip the land of important minerals.

They’re just great!

The whole vibe they have on sustainability is perfected by being a completely eco-friendly single-estate distiller. Their entire cyclical process from harvesting, distilling to how they handle waste is an inspiring model for any other potato farmer out there.

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Written by a Rusty Nailer

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