Eric Bachli recently took over the reigns as Master Distiller at The Vale Fox Distillery. The Poughkeepsie, New York-located brand is currently in the process of aging its first Whiskey (just over 660 days to go at the time of writing this article), but has already made waves with its Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651, which has picked up several awards, including Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
For us, Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 has become our go-to choice when making a martini. It’s a Gin made for cocktail lovers by some of the best bartenders to ever mix up drinks. Developed in hand with the late great Gary (gaz) Regan, Leo Robitschek, and Jeffery Morganthaler, the spirit is an example of the collaborative process delivering on every level and for Bachli, its an admirable approach.
Bachli steps into the role of Master Distiller after being Brewmaster at Sixpoint Brewery. “From a technical and process perspective making gin is very different from making beer,” says the new distiller. He, however, does see the various parallels in the creative craft process and his vision is already paying dividends to The Vale Fox. In this week’s Bottle Breakdown, we sat down with Bachli to discuss the history, process, and creation of Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651.
Spirited Zine: Just to start, what was your first experience with Gin? And how does that memory impact the way you view Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651?
Eric Bachli: Admittedly, like many others, my first experience with gin was in my later years of college sipping the quintessential gin & tonic. Even back then I was impressed by the complex flavor profile and depth the spirit offered through its botanical profile bringing together a medley of aromatics and flavors in such a harmonious way. Tod & Vixen’s represents the manifestation and culmination of extensive research into flavor expression and botanical sourcing – a true articulation of a vision that now manifests itself in this offering. I have a profound appreciation for the process of producing Tod & Vixen’s and the depth of flavor that develops from carefully selected raw materials and a process that is solely focused on maintaining the integrity of the botanicals – delivering an experience that we hope transmits our passion to the consumer.
SZ: As I understand, your background is as a brewer? When you look at making a beer versus making a Gin what are the similarities?
EB: I am the former Brewmaster of Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, NY and former Head Brewer at Trillium Brewing Company in MA. I have a strong background in brewing and brewery engineering both in experience and education. Prior to my journey into the beverage industry I was an exploratory scientist and bio-engineer for the better part of a decade. As a brewer we often drew inspiration from spirits when we created new products. A few examples are the use of bourbon barrels for aging porters and stouts as well as beers that are inspired by cocktails – at Sixpoint we even fashioned a beer inspired by the French 75 cocktail. So from a visionary perspective as it pertains to flavor expression and complexity there are many parallels between the brewing and distilling industry. From a technical and process perspective making gin is very different from making beer!
SZ: You’re somewhat new to The Vale Fox. What are the challenges in stepping into a distillery that already has an established Gin with a particular flavor profile?
EB: I have an incredible respect for the creative vision and process behind Tod & Vixen’s. The effort and passion in creating this gin is impressive to say the least. As I write this I am sitting in an office with 100 plus bottles of single botanical isolates that were distilled initially to understand how each botanical would be expressed in the maceration and distillation process. Ultimately after a long, arduous and exciting process they landed on 8 botanicals and defined a specific process to achieve the desired flavor expression. For me, as a lifelong student, it’s a great insight and learning experience – and I get to expound upon the product line through various barrel aged iterations that are set to release in the near future.
SZ: Can you take us through the botanicals in Tod & Vixen’s and tell us how they impact the aromas and flavors of the Gin?
EB: Tod & Vixen’s is a conglomeration of 8 hand selected botanicals macerated in a wheat base spirit and then distilled on the botanicals – culminating in a vibrant and harmonious expression of juniper, citrus, spice and earth tones found in our gin! The ingredients were carefully selected by first distilling each botanical as a single isolate to better understand its contribution to the final gin and then finding its perfect harmony with other selected botanicals. Our gin uses Juniper berries contributing the traditional pine-like characteristics in harmony with our other botanicals. Coriander contributes spicy undertones and complements the flavor with nutty and citrus attributes. Fresh and bitter orange peel lend citrus flavor and aromatic notes. Angelica and Orris root bring herbal and earthy undertones – the latter botanical also acting to bring texture to the gin as well. Makrut lime leaves further add to and accentuate the citrus and spice characteristics and lastly we steep rooibos tea prior to distillation bringing in earthy undertones as the final touch!
SZ: Tod & Vixen’s Dry Gin 1651 was developed in hand with the late great Gary (gaz) Regan, Leo Robitschek, and Jeffery Morganthaler. I know you were not involved with the initial creation process, but might you know how the idea of working with bartenders to make a Gin came about?
EB: I have always admired the creative approach to product development that utilizes outside perspectives and insights. It’s easy to become so insulated and create for yourself – but at the end of the day it’s not just about yourself – it’s about connecting with an audience. Bringing gaz, Leo and Jeffrey into the equation allowed us to take the creative vision and fine tune it with the help of some of the top industry experts. Tod & Vixen’s is truly a collaborative example of bringing together great people with the purpose of creating an experiential gin!
SZ: There’s this idea that Tod & Vixen’s was reverse engineered from cocktails. How does that make the Gin different from other brands we usually find at the market?
EB: I know for The Vale Fox it was critical to design with intent – the intent being that we wanted to create a gin that would appeal to people and work as the essential foundation gin in any gin-based cocktail. Working with bartenders and mixologists provided insight into flavor direction and expression. I think its an awesome way to develop a new brand by working with those on the front lines of the industry – to give people what they want. I can’t speak for other distilleries on their approach to designing a gin – but I have a great appreciation for the creative approach that welcomes audience feedback.
SZ: What are the best cocktails to make with this Gin? Is there a food pairing that you’d recommend as well?
EB: That depends on who you ask at the distillery! It is the perfect partner for a classic Negroni, Tom Collins, or Gin Martini. My favorite expression with Tod & Vixen’s is in the French 75 where I often take liberties with different types of fruit infusions like freshly made blackberry syrup in lieu of simple syrup. I often appreciate foods that complement the expression of the gin or cocktail like berries and chocolate – and also love a good pairing with soft cheeses where a gin & tonic can both accentuate the flavor and aromatics of the cheese and at the same time cleanse the palate for the next round.
SZ: When you’re not drinking Tod & Vixen’s, what are you sipping on?
EB: We all love whisky here at The Vale Fox – and we’re working daily (and the barrels are patiently aging) to bring our single malt whisky to the table in the next few years. I’m always looking for inspiration in the industry – lately I’ve been enjoying an evening dram of Westward single malt and have always been a fan of WhistlePig Old World Rye. Apart from that, my daily dose of Sixpoint’s the Crisp can’t be forgotten!
Such a creative approach to gin! I appreciate all the background information and never realized how much went into that delicious martini, but I do now!
This is a fun interview – I found the discussion of botanicals especially interesting and am looking forward to tasting this gin to see if I can discern the botanical ingredients. The Master Distiller’s background is fascinating — and a lot more fun than being a regular old scientist!