2013 has been a booming year for British distilling and a few months back Cornwall got its first new gin distillery for centuries. There is, of course, a very famous distillery across the Tamar in Plymouth, but, today, our feature distillery is closer to Padstow on the northern coast of the land of Kerno (Cornwall).
The master distiller at South Western Distillery is Tarquin Leadbetter and I got the chance to talk to him about his gin before he had even finalised his recipe. Tarquin is keen to go back to a style of distilling that was more common 100 years ago than it is today: his still is heated by a wood fire and he measures his botanicals by hand, rather than using any sophisticated equipment. The freedom to pursue this more rustic style of production is, to me, what independent or craft distilling is all about.
Tarquin’s Dry Gin is bottled at 42.0%ABV and contains a mix of 12 botanicals.
On its own
Nose: Sherbert lemons and a hint of pear drops, followed by juniper and lovely, fresh citrus.
Taste: The spirit has a pleasant warmth, but no burn, and, stylistically, it straddles the worlds of classic and contemporary gin. The flavour starts with dry juniper and then moves onto a bright, spicy citrus, followed by a slight floral flair. The finish is slightly savoury, with a touch of saltiness that definitely puts me in mind of the Cornish coast. This certainly has an original flavour profile.
Gin & Tonic
Dry and refreshing, with the bright citrus coming through again, along with a long, crisp, dry finish. This is a very accessible and easy-to-drink Gin & Tonic, with the use of fresh citrus in the gin’s production being very apparent.
Clean, with a little vanilla creaminess and some subtle, earthy pine. There’s also a touch of dry chocolate orange on the finish. Superb.
Full-flavoured, with an engaging, bitter finish. Once again, the use of fresh citrus (especially the orange) shines through. This is a lively cocktail and a good choice for a pre-dinner drink.
In addition to gin, Tarquin also makes a pastis, a spirit usually associated with France, which was originally created in the early 20th century as a replacement for the recently banned absinthe. Both absinthe and pastis have a great affinity with gin distillation as, like the juniper spirit, they are usually made by distilling various herbs, spices and peel in spirit.
A big fan of pastis myself, I was very pleased to see that one was being made in the UK.
On its own
Colour: Light lemon, straw yellow.
Nose: Anise, liquorice and hints of stone fruit and citrus.
Taste: A smooth spirit with a very dry character; compared to other pastis, this is dryer and more subtle. In addition to the usual anise/liquorice there is also a hint of menthol at the end which adds to the long finish of the drink.
I added enough to take the pastis just past the louche point (the point where the liquid turns milky) I like to use ice water for this drink, I love how to the chilled mixture impacts on your tongue with both flavour and temperature. Lovley and a pastis I’d happily drink and again.
A nice balance between drinking the pastis neat and with water. The oiliness (after all that is what causes the louche) adds a nice creaminess to the drink which gives way to the intense herbal nature of the pastis. This is a great way to drink the spirit and you can really appreciate that Tarquin’s pastis is less weet then most. That siad I (and all the other tasters who I tried this with) were reminded of the little blue/pink liquorice allsort (I believe the technical term for these is “Buttons” – splendid!