Tastethedram spoke to Patrick Burke, the founder of Burke Spirits about what it takes a normal man to make quality gin spirits.
(Photo Credit: Chelsea Jackson)
Patrick please tell us about yourself. How did you find yourself in the world of spirit distillation?
PB: I’m sure everybody that you ask has a far too long explanation for this, although maybe not. I know of one distiller her in NorCal who went to some three day conference that labeled them ‘Master Distillers’. Sadly I have no such certificate.
I got into distilling as an extension of my inability to sit still. After I got out of college I found out that doing science in industry was painfully repetitive. It’s good for that industry to work that way, but I can’t work that way. It started out in my backyard as an escape from boring adulthood. I started brewing in 2004, winemaking in ’09 and built my first still in ’11 or so. We brewed every weekend for three years or so, that kinda waned but picked back up when we switched to distilling.
After a few years of working out recipes, I got licensed three years ago. Am now stuck in the mire of small business. It’s wonderful to do what I care about, it’s terrible to be so poor.
Give us a brief rundown on the name Burke Spirits.
PB: My name is Patrick Burke, I’m not good at coming up with names.
How did the distillery come about?
PB: I met a guy named Greg Baughman about seven years ago. He was one of a handful of hobby distillers in the area, and the only one I really interacted with. We became friends and eventually he started Gold River Distillery. While discussing his starting of the business, I looked into ways to do my own runs with him. Of the options available I liked getting my wholesaler’s license the best. Having a distiller that I know and trust so well is a luxury since I didn’t want to go through distributors. This way I get to have my cake and eat it too.
What does your job entail ? and is there anyone else involved in this venture with you?
PB: I do literally everything, at the present moment it’s just me. Hopefully I’ll be able to hire someone next year to help me promote, etc. For the time being though, every bottle is labeled, shipped, and sold by me.
What types of expression do you currently produce? Do you see more variety of gin expressions in the future, or any other spirits perhaps?
PB: My gin is front loaded with citrus. Like, a lot. Citrus is a great tool in all sorts of recipes, it hits the palate pretty abruptly and fades almost as quickly. It’s also pretty universally liked, so I found out that with gin (which is not universally liked) it was a good first flavor. Once the initial citrus fades out there’s a mellow floral/gardeney vibe (cardamom, coriander, angelica root, juniper), then earth (fennel, cinnamon, clove).
I don’t think I’ll make another gin. My personal goal is to have three or four products, and that’s it. I’ve already picked what they’ll be (kinda), and they’re the ones where I feel like I can contribute something valuable. The gin is a clean and well mannered sort of spirit. It gets along well in cocktails, you don’t have to try to fight against the juniper or clove. At the same time, it can stand by itself neat or in a martini and with enough going on so as not to be boring.
I didn’t see a lot of that on the shelf, so I felt good with the notion that I was making something worthwhile. It’s important to me that I feel like I’m contributing.
Do you believe now is an exciting time to be a gin drinker?
PB: Every single day is an exciting day to drink anything! I kid, but yeah. There are new and interesting gins coming out all the time and variety is the spice of life. I have a tendency to not wear a name badge at events as too many people would see what I do and think “Hey, this guy knows what he’s talking about.”, which is total horse shit. I have as much or more fun than anyone getting to see what the other players are up to.
Where are you currently available, and do you have any plans to expand nationally?
PB: Sacramento Ca, and one Whole Foods in Berkeley, Ca. I plan to expand until I find a market that doesn’t want or like it. Then I’ll just chill.
What three words do you want people to associate with your gin.
PB: You’ll notice that the label on my bottle has one word on it which isn’t required to be there by law, and that’s my last name. This is probably not a very good question for me.
What are the most important factors affecting spirit distillation? How do you ensure that these are carefully balanced to produce a consistently high quality product?
PB: Time! The only thing that really matters is time and attention to detail. Distillation is a SCIENCE not an art! Sure there may be some art in making cuts, but not really and aside from that it’s just math. There is art and skill in brewing and fermenting and selecting botanicals and cocktails etc. etc., but the only thing that really makes the difference between good and bad spirits is time. Number of distillations, hand made/craft made, small batch, blah blah filtered; these are all lies. If I were hired to make a more honest tag line, it would be “Made carefully and with attention to detail.”
Where do you see your distillery 5 years from now?
PB: Either bankrupt or with two new products on shelves that I’m very proud of. R&D is already done on them by the way, gotta keep my cards close to my chest.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
PB: No, but thanks very much for checking me out!