Article in "De Limburger"
DOING BUSINESS IN LIMBURG — VERA DA SILVA — SHISO & KAFFIR GIN
Vera takes her own gin back to the basics.
Why do we only mix gin with tonic and not drink it neat like whiskey? And why add all sorts of garnishes when you can give it ample flavor with minimal basic ingredients? Vera Kerckhoffs Da Silva couldn't stand it any longer. She formulated a recipe, created Shiso & Kaffir Gin, and now sells it from Simpelveld to star-rated restaurants throughout the country. "Authentic and pure, as it should be."
She came for one love and stayed for another. Vera Kerckhoffs Da Silva moved from Portugal to Maastricht 25 years ago for her then-boyfriend. She learned the language, made friends, and found her place. The relationship ended, but Vera decided to stay.
A few years later, she met her husband from Simpelveld. At that time, Vera was working at Oil & Vinegar in Maastricht, but she was willing to move to Simpelveld and live with him for a high-quality culinary store nearby. She found that store in Eyserhalte, a delicatessen in Eys. Vera worked there for fifteen years until she had to quit due to physical discomfort.
Pure and Authentic
Vera had stopped working, but she didn't want to sit idle at home. She collaborated with her husband in his accounting firm at home, but Vera also wanted something for herself. She eventually decided to share her culinary knowledge in cooking workshops, but that came later. She first looked for something else.
She found that something in her search for an authentic, pure gin. "Most gin makers think 'the more ingredients I add, the better it becomes.' With that thought, every gin eventually tastes the same, forcing you to inevitably combine it with, for example, tonic and add various garnishes to still make a difference. That's not how it should be," says Vera. "I wanted it differently. I wanted a gin with a specific base flavor, eliminating the need for tonic or garnish. A gin that you can drink pure and smooth on ice like a whiskey."
Shiso & Kaffir
Drawing from her twenty years of culinary experience, when formulating the recipe, Vera focused on two main ingredients: shiso, a Japanese leaf similar to basil and mint, and the thin peel of kaffir, a Thai lime. She added a few ingredients like chamomile and coriander seeds to soften and balance the drink before sending the recipe to a distillery in Zaandam. After a year of testing, Vera found the right balance. She bought bottles in Germany, had them painted black in France, and numbered and labeled the bottles herself. Shiso & Kaffir Gin was born.
Today, the gin is served in star-rated restaurants throughout the country, while culinary aficionados order bottles from the webshop. A second batch is on its way. "Things are going well, I can't complain," she says proudly. In the meantime, the gin has twice won silver at spirits competitions in the UK and the US. "It confirmed I was on the right track."
She has plenty of ambitions, but the future will show how and where Vera will realize them. "My father-in-law has been ill for some time," she explains. "My husband and I don't have children or relatives nearby, so it's quite possible that at some point we'll buy a house in Portugal and travel back and forth regularly. After all, we can do accounting anywhere."
Wherever she ends up, Vera wants to continue with her own gin. "It's something I genuinely enjoy. It's immensely satisfying when I present the gin somewhere, open the bottle, and see people visibly enjoying it. It's heartening when a major restaurant agrees with my vision of pure, authentic gin. Or when I suddenly see a renowned chef sharing my gin on his Instagram account. The gin is popular; it's a hit. This food enthusiast is genuinely proud’