On your sail to the BVI, you've got to take a sip of the famous home-grown BVI Gin in a real special distillery.
The Caribbean has been synonymous with rum since the beginning of time with every island making its own. Yet it looks like the Caribbean has now a new flirt. While rum is certainly ruling the scene when it comes to Caribbean drinks, a new wave of home-grown distilleries is testing out new flavors with several gin microbreweries springing up on the different islands.
On top of that, the popularity of gin in Europe was soaring and almost all the gin sold in the Caribbean was imported. Matthew saw an opportunity to bring gin production to a historically ‘well-spirited' part of the world.
“We wanted to spread more positive messages about the territory – messages of resilience, messages that the BVI was open for business. We had been working on the idea for a while but it seemed the perfect time to set up the Little Bay Distilling Company.”
Made up of more than 60 idyllic islands, islets and cays, and being well known for its white powdery beaches, crystal clear sailing waters, lush green hills and warm, friendly people, the BVI is the perfect setting for this distillery.
BVI GIN is distilled using carefully selected botanicals using the traditional “London Dry” method in a bespoke copper column still. Each small batch produces just 60 bottles. The branding aims to pay homage to the sailing heritage of the British Virgin Islands with a hand-drawn map of the British Virgin Islands visible through the back of each bottle.
“One of our aims, since we launched BVI GIN, is to promote the British Virgin Islands through the brand. We believe that our product is featured internationally can only be a positive thing in improving awareness of the BVI as a tourist destination.”
Driven by persistence and belief, Matthew and his team learned to overcome the logistical obstacles of setting up a distillery on a small Caribbean island, including sourcing equipment, base ingredients, bottles and labels, and gaining licenses and health inspections.
Finding the right scent and flavors for the final gin was also part of the journey: making sure to get the right balance of ingredients between those of the traditional London Dry Gin but that extra Caribbean identity (which involved making hundreds of test batches and running a number of very welcome tastings). It took a year to get there and the result is a traditional London Dry Gin with beautiful flavors of juniper and citrus from grapefruit and lemon, balanced with floral notes taken from the Caribbean hibiscus flower. Cassia bark and licorice root are also there, resulting in a gin that is light and refreshing and pairs perfectly with tonic or Ting, and a twist of grapefruit. There is also a BVI Pink Gin infused with raspberry.
BVI GIN has already won Bronze in the International Wine & Spirit Competition, and Best in the Americas from The Gin Guide. “We’ve had a very positive reaction so far,” says Matthew. “People who don’t usually drink gin have enjoyed the product. We believe we’re putting gin on the map in the BVI and, once we start exporting to the wider Caribbean, we hope to increase the awareness of a new image of BVI
in the region.”