Symphony 6 is a moment in an eternal summer; a point where light and dark, day and night meet, when ephemeral and timeless come together.
Symphony 6 explores the potential of often underutilized leaves. It plays with the fragrant flavor profiles of mandarin, lemon, coffee, black currant and fig leaves elevated by deep notes of ambrette seeds and vetiver roots.
On the palate, the fragrant black currant bud aromas lead the way, followed by the refreshing citrus acidity. The green fruity fig leaves are then expressed, succeeded by the leathery muskiness of coffee leaves and ambrette seeds to finish on the length of the vetiver roots.
We first looked at citrus leaves and opted for mandarin and lemon leaves for their refreshing bright acidity and light fruity notes. To create contrast, coffee leaves brought darker tones and leathery length. The combination resulted in an elegant base to work from; it was the start of a conversation and interplay between light and dark notes.
The Narrative Arc
This conversation needed some more flesh to create a full narrative arc, with high points of conflict and resolve, a melody telling the story of Symphony 6. We looked at our library of botanicals and found a fig leaf distillate we had made that tasted delicious but never found its right place in a product. Its green and earthy flavors came with the cooling sensation of finding shade after a sun-drenched day.
To further tune up these high notes, we added black currant buds. These folded leaves that have not bloomed yet are praised in perfumery as being one of the very few natural fruity notes available to the perfumer. The buds bring biting, green, sulfurous, and liqueur-like aromas to Symphony 6.
The connection between the perfume and the spirits worlds is one we have always been dancing around at Empirical and decided to explore further. Ambrette seeds and vetiver roots highlight the darker tones of coffee leaves revealing distinct musky and warm characters to the spirit.
It suddenly started feeling more animalistic, intuitively building towards a summery twilight sense memory; a moment where light and dark, day and night meet, ephemeral and timeless come together. It is a point between times, recapturing that universal feeling of a perfect summer evening hanging out with your crush near water; that instant when everything is new and exciting, a visceral experience. It is a memory you’re not sure you’ve had. Did it happen or did you just picture it? More so, is it yet to happen?
Mashing is the first step in the brewing process for our spirits and cans. In a custom-built wet hammer mill that’s on a loop with our mash tun, the grains are ground with water and heated to fully convert the starches into fermentable sugars. When done, the wort (sugary liquid) must be separated from the undissolved materials.
To make our wash for Symphony 6, we mash our Pilsner malt. Once our wort is filtered, Belgian Saison yeast is pitched in for fermentation. This strain bestows estery, fruity notes, and farmyard aromas to our wash. Our wort is transferred into tanks where It is top-fermented at 26 Celsius. If we hit it just right, the wash reaches 10% abv after a week, ready to be distilled.
Traditional distillation techniques rely on heat, which can kill off flavor. Instead, we vacuum distill our spirits in order to preserve the fresh flavor and aroma compounds of the botanicals.
Vacuum distillation works with a pump that pulls the atmosphere out of the distillation vessel, lowering the pressure so that ethanol begins to boil and evaporate as low as 9°C.
After distilling our wash twice at an average temperature of 30°C, we have what we call a “low wine”, which is around 60% ABV. We transfer it into stainless steel barrels and start our maceration process.
Maceration and infusion
The maceration and blending of Symphony 6 come in several movements to allow each botanical to shine.
We start the process with four different macerations. Lemon and mandarin leaves are macerated together in our low wine. We then macerate separately fig leaves and coffee leaves. The coffee leaves come in treated like tea through a bruising, oxidizing, and drying process. We then do a third maceration with fig leaves. Each maceration takes between 2 and 4 days, to allow full botanical expression. They are then distilled and blended to create our flavor canvas.
In addition to the three distillates, we separately infuse black currant buds, coffee leaves, ambrette seeds, and vetiver roots in our low wine. The blend reaches 70% ABV, above optimum flavor expression. To make it palatable and enjoyable, the blend is reduced to 40% ABV with reverse osmosis water. Color, reminiscent of that perfect twilight moment, is added through carmine.