The Balearic Islands is an exciting place in the gin market right now, with new producers pushing boundaries and producing great spirits. One of the early pioneers in these Mediterranean islands, Gin Eva, is showing others how things should be done on the sustainability front, too.
Mallorca-based Gin Eva was launched in 2012 by Stefan Winterling and Eva Maier, seasoned winemakers who were ready for a change from the challenges of viticulture.
“In every way you could think of, gin was always our plan B,” Stefan says. “As a winemaker, achieving the perfect vintage is a quest. You might get in your whole career only 10 vintages that turned out like you planned. It might sound romantic, but it is not. Therefore, we enjoy the freedom distilling gives us.”
Being an island producer has its difficulties, but it is a great driver for ensuring sustainable sourcing of materials and production methods, as Stefan and Eva have strived to do since day one.
While their wheat-based neutral spirit is shipped in from the Netherlands, Stefan and Eva source many of their botanicals from small farmers on the island. This includes canoneta oranges from Sóller, in northwest Mallorca, and juniper berries, which grow wild on the sea shore and lend a slight salinity to the final spirit.
To create its spirits, Gin Eva distils all its botanicals separately in neutral spirit and lets the resulting distillates rest for several months before they are blended and bottled. To reduce the distillery’s energy consumption, all liquid is moved ‘by manpower or gravity’, with no electric pumps.
It partners with a local ice cream maker to source its oranges to reduce waste – the distillery takes the peel and the ice cream maker takes the juice. The olives pressed to make its La Mallorquina Olive Gin are also repurposed. Stefan says, “As we grow it becomes easier to make smart decisions and to get better regarding this issue.”
Hailing from Southern Germany, Stefan can quote multiple examples of good practice on food waste in the distilling industry – from grappa producers in Italy that use grape pomace from wineries, to Kirsch and fruit brandy distillers in Switzerland and Germany who use damaged or overripe fruit that retailers won’t buy.
He says, “Distilleries always have been at the end of the chain, taking care of what was not good enough for other purposes and elevating it to something magical.”
Since they first visited the island in 2008, Stefan and Eva says Mallorca’s food and drink scene and its tourism industry have been through significant changes. One major shift is the increased prominence of local produce on restaurant menus and shelves. Stefan sees this as a narrowing of the gap between ‘sustainable tourism and mass tourism’ in the region, which has long been a bolthole for Brits and other Northern Europeans seeking summer sunshine.
“You can feel that people are more hungry for local produce,” Stefan says. “They are interested learning about the Mediterranean culture and the way of life. They want the whole experience, not only lying on the beach and eating in the hotel restaurant. Doing so they empower small businesses, like farmers, young chefs, wineries and all kind of artisan producers.”
As Gin Eva prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, Stefan says he and Eva have dialled back new product development to focus on their core range, which includes the Signature Citrus Gin, Bergamot Gin and La Mallorquina Olive Gin. However, he hinted there could be ‘something special’ in the pipeline for their anniversary year.