Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Sloe Process

I've been asked by a couple of friends and bloggers recently if I would go through the process I use for making my own Sloe Whisky, so today was the day of the bottling so I hope this helps and is of interest to you.

As you know sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bushes found growing wild in most parts of the country, along hedgerows and by the roadside.

Once blackthorn bushes are found they are kept a secret by some folk so they will have a supply of sloe berries for their gin & whisky making process.
I have to admit I do have a few places I go to collect berries in case some of the bushes I frequent have been used by another picker.

I tend to harvest the berries at the end of September when they are ripe in this part of the country. The berries should be dark in colour with a slight blue sheen over them, any green ones are unripe and should be left alone.

Depending on the size of the bush depends on the amount you will harvest, this year has been a good harvest and I collected  just over 9 lbs of ripe berries. 
Next stage is to wash them off and remove the stems.

Washed, and ready to weigh into bags. In the early days people would sit with a needle and prick each berry at this stage to allow the skins to split and let the juice from the berry escape....laborious & time consuming work which thankfully I have found that if you freeze the berries for 48 hours, on thawing the skins split apart saving you a lot of time and effort.

The berries I picked last weekend thawed out after being in the freezer all week, note the colour of the juice on the tray, take care when thawing the bags out as it can be messy work and the wife will get irate if you get her kitchen worktop covered in sloe berry juices.

The 4 key ingredients to making sloe whisky or gin.
  • Sloe berries
  • Whisky / Gin ( doesn't have to be an expensive make as the process changes the taste anyway.) 
  • Sugar
  • Time ( 3 months minimum I work on)

I use Kilner jars to store my whisky for the process before bottling as they are just perfect for the job, Wash them out with boiling water to sterilize before use.

First stage is to tip the berries and the sugar into the jars. I work on the ratio through my own experiences and the way I was taught of 1 litre whisky / Gin to 2 lbs of Sloes and 220 grams of sugar. Its all down to personal taste on how much you want to add, this recipe suits my taste so I stick to it.

Simply pour over your whisky, seal the jar and give a good shake to mix it all together.

I've made 4 litres of whisky this year and I have another couple of bags of berries frozen in the freezer should I find myself  running short, all depends how much you give away or consume.

Make up labels and store. I put on my labels which brand of whisky I've used and the recipe for each jar and when I bottled it,  that way I know what is made up in the jar should I want to add to the mix to make it sweeter.

Note the sugar at the bottom of the jar, you need to shake the jar every day for the first week or until the sugar totally dissolves after that you only need to shake the mixture once a month. Simply then store in a cool, dark & dry place, I store mine on the top shelf of my clothes cupboard and I slide bags over the mix to cut out the daylight when the cupboard doors are open.

People leave for varying amounts of time but the soonest I would open and bottle the mixture is 3 months from the date I made the mixture. I've tasted mixture which was left for 5 years and the longer you leave it the better the taste but if like me your very fond of the stuff then work on 3 months and go from there.

When you come to bottling, the easiest way I've found is to buy some muslin cloth (a pack from lakelands cost me £4)  and pour through the muslin cloth into a container, when complete simply wash the muslin cloth by hand and dry off and store for the next time. Pour the sieved whisky into suitable seal-able bottles and enjoy your efforts...you WONT be disappointed.


  1. When I was in the military Sloe Gin was a regular part of my diet. I really enjoyed that stuff.

    1. It was cherry brandy in my days of the military especially in winter and a generous slug always went into our coffee, I do enjoy making and of course drinking the sloe whisky .


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