The Cottage Smallholder

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Gilbert’s blackberry whisky recipe

blackberries growing on the bush

Blackberries on the bush in various stages of ripeness

If it wasn’t for the fact that he was wearing his battered panama, Jalopy and I would have not noticed Gilbert. He was wearing some sort of camouflage fatigues and carrying a bucket. Curious, we drew to a halt beside him and he swept off his hat with a magnificent bow.

“I suppose you want to know what I am foraging for.” He tipped the bucket towards Jalopy’s open window. It was full of large, succulent blackberries.
Actually, I was far more curious about the fatigues.
“Ah!” He lowered his voice to a whisper, although there was nobody around. “A birthday present from Marjorie. The man from the woods look.”
“But your panama?”
“There is a matching baseball cap. I thought it looked a bit too much like ‘an outfit’.”

I threw some empty paint pots off the front seat and offered him a lift home. He clambered in and sat cradling his bucket. He explained that he was going to make blackberry whisky.

We have tried making blackberry gin and vodka but found that our process (seeping the fruit for a year) seemed to enhance the underlying woodiness of the fruit and it wasn’t a success. Gilbert explained that if you use blackberries for a fruit liqueur the fruit must be removed after three months and then the grog has to be matured for for a year. When we arrived at Gilbert’s house I sampled the 2006 batch. It was delicious.

I think I might have another go at making blackberry vodka and as D loves whisky, I am going to try that too. Meanwhile here is G’s recipe. As we haven’t tried it there is no rubber stamp but I trust Gilbert. He just knows.

Gilbert’s blackberry whisky recipe
Recipe Type: Liqueur
Author: Fiona Nevile
  • 2 kilos of blackberries, gathered on a sunny day
  • 1 x 75ml bottle of whisky – Gilbert says don’t go too cheap here but no need to buy the best
  • 250g of good white cane sugar
  1. In a Le parfait jar/demi john, that is large enough to contain all the ingredients, combine the blackberries, sugar and whisky.
  2. Shake each day until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Then place the jar in a dark place for 3 months.
  4. Strain off the liqueur and store in a cool place for at least a year.

Tips and Tricks

You are free to forage on the hedgerows along the roads. There should be plenty for everyone.

There is no need to trespass to find fruit. If you see bounty it is worth speaking with the owner of the land and negotiating a swap such as a bottle of grog in return for an afternoon’s foraging.

I am eying my neighbours apple trees at the moment as we need extra apples to start our cider making venture this year. Most people just let their fruit drop and rot. They will jump at the chance of a bit of bounty in return for something that they don’t value at all.


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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Mimi 36

    Yes you could. Add the juice as well as berries.

  2. Hi – this is my first post to your site!

    We have picked about 5lb of blackberries and frozen them – but they def don’t taste as nice 🙁 Could I defrost them and then use them for this?

    Many thanks – Michelle

  3. Does anybody have any ideas on any recipes for Cherry Brandy/gin/Whisky /Vodka?

  4. Hi, after reading all these fabulous ideas i have been had a go and managed to pick enough sloes to make 3 1/2 gallons of sloe gin. I am praying its going to be drinkable. Tomorrow its blackberry whisky and vodka. Do you have any recipes for cherry vodka please?

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    Thanks for the tips!

    Hello Dave

    The whisky covered the blackberries in my Le Parfait jar, so I think that you need to add some more whisky so that all the fruit is covered with liquid.

    I’d love to hear how it turn out.

  6. Hi,
    Ive just made some blackberry whiskey using the quantites shown above. The demi john is 3/4 full of berries but the whiskey only comes upto about 1/3 of the bottle! Is this correct or should the whiskey completely cover them?

  7. thanks for easing my mind. i thought i had missed them all, or that there was some horrible disease in our locale. there are a few in the lanes, but there is quite a lot of school run traffic so i think they are bast left alone.
    nick did point out that we had a very good summer fruit liquer harvest this year, with blackcurrant gin, redcurrant rum and strawberry brandy. yumyum!
    the blackcurrant was a gillian pearks recipe, as was the stawberry brandy….give them a try, they are fab.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sam

    We had pickable blackberries quite early in August (East of England). Sloes are bad. Plums and damsons are a disaster. Sharp early frosts destroyed a lot of the fruit and the wet weather hasn’t helped.

  9. is it just me or do the blackberries seem very late? maybe it’s just round here (Bath area). it hasn’t been a great summer i know, and maybe that has affected the fruit. our blackthorns don’t have many sloes either. last year they hanging like bunches of grapes but this year they are literally only 5 or 6 on the whole branch! my neighbour has had a lean crop of damsons too. the blackberries are still red. will they turn? it’s starting to look a bit bleak as far as my autumn stocks go….aaaarrrgggghhhh

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sally

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Vicky

    I must make some more. Thanks for the nudge!

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