Local Food Stories


A hairy idea

Bertha's Revenge Irish Milk Gin
#ireland #spirits

An old cow, a wonderful estate in Ireland and an unusual gin. This is what this story is about, and in just that order. Everything began on New Year’s Eve in 1993 at the Blackwater Tavern in the small village of Sneem in the west of Ireland. The gathering there that night was not in celebration of the New Year, but of a much sadder occasion, the wake of a famous local, Bertha.
Bertha is world-famous. Her entry in the Guinness Book of Records proves so. She died at the grand old age of 48 which is as far as a cow’s life goes could be described as ancient. It is because of this fact that she has been given the title as the longest living cow in the world. If you don’t believe me just go and visit her at Hazel Fort Farm in Killarney where she stands… stuffed of course!

Away from dairy

Anything but museum-like and stuffed is the estate of Ballyvolane and the creators of Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin, Anthony Jackson and Justin Green. The latter grew up on the estate. In Ireland, as in many other countries, the dairy industry has become one which struggles to make a profit. As a result, Justin and his family have slowly taken measures to move away from traditional agriculture and have ventured into new income sources. The picturesque country house and estate which includes several stone buildings have been converted to accommodate guests from all corners. They come seeking peace and quiet from the city, to have exclusive wedding parties or to hunt pheasant. Although this strategical change for Ballyvolane has been fortunate, the Greens did not want to rely only on tourism as the Irish summer is notably short. 

A waste product – a solution for everything

And so it came to be in 2015 that Justin Green had an idea. That of becoming involved in a new field concerning spirit distillation. He set off with an old school colleague, Antony Jackson, to London in order to learn about the art of distilling liquor. Only after some time and many talks with hip barmen and gin distillers did the idea dawn on them that it was the perfect moment to introduce an authentically new gin on the market.
However, already at the production stage of the alcohol base there presented a hurdle. Wheat or barley which would normally be used is next to impossible to get a hold of in Ireland due to the whiskey industry’s majority stake in the much valued grain. Despite a challenging start the problem was resolved by no less than the master distiller at the Thames Distillery. Whey was to be the basis for the gin which Green and Jackson should use. As good as this natural product which occurs in cheese making is it is also suitable for gin, the two newcomers noticed only later. Whey gives the drink a completely other texture than grain. The gin becomes soft and rounder and the whey transports the taste from the spices also used in gin production. 

The perfect combination

What seemed like a mad idea back in 2015 after nine months of trial distillations was beginning to take shape. The recipe for a home-made gin with nineteen ingredients (most gins have six) was established. Then Bertha came into play. As a nearly worldwide representative for milk and therefore whey products, her name and even her picture were the perfect theme for the new Irish gin. The combination of a novel alcohol base, chosen spices, carefully prepared small batches which involve a lot of manual work and Bertha’s story make Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin a product which could conquer the world or at least its bars.