Ginvent means one thing: a Tarquin’s exclusive! Pairing up with team Gin Foundry for the third time (first was the Hedgerow gin, second was last year’s Tan Ha Mor), they kept fairly shtum about what exactly is involved, but luckily months of Instagram stalking (and a few conversations with Emile and Olivier) plus their release a few weeks ago mean we know a bit about this now. They wanted to really invoke the sense of Cornwall of barbecues on the beach (which TBH is summer in most coastal areas, Brighton included). Pictures from their Instagrams show the team on the beach with trays of woodchips, and they have said they threw everything on – sea samphire, fennel, saffron, spiced butter and, I kid you not, lobster. Whacked on a few extra lemons and let it all char and griddle to get a real sense of candied fruit and smoked wood and the job is a good’un. This mixture of non-veggie friendly goodness was then throw in the the pot to be distilled. So, let’s see how it tastes.
As per the last two years, I’ve received my Craft Gin Club delivery in December. Due to the daily blogging for Ginvent, I then never get to try it until after Christmas. But here we go; this month’s delivery contains an exclusive collaboration with Tarquin’s, one of my favourite distillers. I’ve tried many over the four years I’ve been writing, too many to list here but feel free to have a search back, and never have I been disappointed. This edition is only available to Craft Gin Club members and was distilled using a whopping 18 botanicals including Tarquin’s staple violet alongside Christmassy botanicals nutmeg, star anise, ginger and allspice. There’s also plenty of citrus fruits and tonka bean to bring a mulled fruit note to balance the zest and marzipan.
Anyone that knows anything about the Gin Foundry calendars knows that Tarquin’s is ingrained into everything they do. One of the first to be involved with Junipalooza, they have also been featured in every Ginvent calendar since the beginning (you can read about their Cornish Dry, Seadog and British Blackberry). This year is no exception and we get to try a brand new and exclusive gin, the Tan Ha Mor. So what makes this gin unique? Working in collaboration with our favourite Gin Foundry folk, they built two firepits on their local beach and smoked English oak chips with coriander, juniper, pink grapefruit and oranges which had previously been smoked in seawater. These were then left to macerate in their Seadog gin before being bottled at 50.5% ABV – the co-ordinates of the beach they roasted the botanicals on.
You know it’s ginvent when you get to this year’s edition of Tarquin’s. I’ve already been lucky enough to sample their original gin (here) and their Seadog Navy Strength gin (here). For 2017 we are trying their British Blackberry Gin which combines gin and blackberries as well as some Cornish wildflower honey to add a touch of sweetness. I tried this at Gin Foundry’s Winter Wonderland event last week in a cocktail which was a twist on a Bee’s Knees with lemon and honey and it was delicious.
Note: I met the team behind Caspyn Gin at Imbibe Live and they kindly sent me some samples post-event. As always, I’ll let you know if they’re grim.
Caspyn Gin is the product of Pocketful of Stones distillery, yet another craft gin from Cornwall – this time in Long Rock, just outside Penzance. They currently produce two gins – the Cornish Dry and Midsummer Dry – as well as the Cornish Summer Cup. The original Caspyn gin is loaded with floral and citrus notes using the less regularly used botanicals hibiscus flowers, Japanese tea, gorse and lemongrass. The Midsummer version takes the original gin and infuses it with fresh English cucumbers. This leaves the gin with a slight green tinge (apparently, I can’t quite spot it). The Cornish Summer Cup is their take on the English cup (aka a Pimms to us plebs) loaded with fruit such as raspberries and strawberries mixed with star anise and wild carrot seeds. So all in all, for a small batch distillery, they’ve got a lot going on – there’s an Absinthe in the pipelines. And, more importantly, my bottles arrived with my name on them. So they’re the best.
I went to Junipalooza last weekend on World Gin Day and I bumped into the folks from Curio gin. After gushing about their branding and having a chat, they kindly gave me a bottle to review properly on the blog. Curio Gin comes from Mullion in Cornwall – a mere 30 minutes from my Dad’s house (Happy Father’s Day Dad!) and has one of my favourite bottle labels ever. Their range includes the Rock Samphire Gin, a Cardamom Vodka, a Cocoa Nib Vodka and their Cornish Cup. Hand foraged on their local cliff tops, the rock samphire is blended and distilled in small batches.
Let’s start week two of Ginvent with a gin that excites me – I tried Tarquin’s gin a long time ago thanks to my father so ramping it up to navy strength is a good prospect. Bottled at 57% instead of the usual 42% it certainly smells more intense. I gave it a sniff, and it whacks you in the face and burns your nose out. Quite a shock to my lazy afternoon.
Mixed with tonic, it smells very juniper heavy. It’s tastes fairly savoury, I think adding some rosemary wouldn’t go amiss as a garnish. Doesn’t taste as strong as it smells, but the warmth running down my throat says otherwise. I found it very sippable and could happily settle in for an evening with this. Unlike NB’s 57% gin which knocked me out after one drink. This is easy going, despite it’s strength, but have enough flavour to make it stand out.
You can find a bottle of navy strength gin on Masters of Malt for £40.52 a bottle. Whilst I’m not certain I would go out of my way to buy this, it certainly is a good addition to the collection.
I spent most of March unemployed. This meant I was pretty bored and feeling a bit down. So my Dad decided he would try to cheer me up and sent me a present. A box bearing the marks of Southwestern Distillery arrived. Underneath a mountain of packing chips was a bottle of Tarquin’s Gin and a card.
I had mentioned this gin to my Dad before as he lives down in Falmouth and I knew it was made nearby. Only after receiving the gin did I look it up – it is made 36 miles from his house. Good local gin. For those that don’t know, Tarquin’s Gin is made by Southwestern Distillery in Wadebridge on the north(ish) coast of Cornwall. They make their gin in batches of no more than 300 bottles at the time, each bottle corked, sealed, labelled and waxed by hand. Each bottle comes with a unique batch number and information about that batch’s individual tasting notes. The key botanicals in play here are hand-picked Devon violets and orange zest. These aren’t my favourite things in the world so I’m a bit cautious about what I’m about to drink.
Now the best part – drinking it. Peeling off a wax seal is one of the most satisfying feelings. The first smell that hits you is a strong citrus note – good start in my books. I pour out a measure with an equal amount of water. It smells like flowers, the citrus notes dropping off for the violet to come through. It smells quite sweet, which I’m not used to experiencing with a gin. I take my first sip. It’s very easy on the tongue for want of a better phrase. It doesn’t taste harsh or too strong (bottled at 42%). The zest comes through at the front of the mouth, giving way to the aromatics. It’s one of the most flavoursome gins I’ve ever had, there’s lots of tastes going on in my mouth. To quote my brilliant notes that I wrote: “Good hit to it. Definitely drinking gin. Not so powerful it’s overwhelming.” I clearly have a career in drink tasting ahead of me.
Deciding that I shouldn’t just drink straight gin, I mix a new drink with some tonic – because the real test of a gin is how it works as a G&T. To quote my rather brilliant notes again, “lovely stuff”. A hint of palma violets (can be added to the list of drinks that taste like sweets alongside Southern Comfort and Lemonade). My batch (104) has the tasting notes of candied oranges, and there is certainly a hint of it at the back of the throat. Not so much it is overpowering – which is good because (as we all know) I’m not an orange fan. But this tastes nice, the bitterness cuts through the sweet violets and balances quite nicely. It produces a very distinct flavour which, on first tasting I wasn’t super keen on. But I always believe in giving things a second chance, and once I had got used to the taste I found myself rather enjoying it.
Aside from the taste, the other thing that makes Tarquin’s Gin unique is that they have launched Taste with Tarquin.
To celebrate the unique tasting notes of each batch, they played with Apple’s FaceTime code so we can have a chat with Tarquin (sort of). I tried calling when I first tasted the gin but couldn’t get through. On my third attempt the call connected. Then the connection dropped. Twice. But once it finally worked it was good fun. It starts with Tarquin talking about Southwestern Distillery and what makes them different. Then you battle with voice recognition software to tell them your batch number. Tarquin (who, by the way, is rather beautiful) finds your bottle, pours a glass and tells you – well, pretty much what it says on the bottle. He told me my bottle tasted of orange. He wasn’t wrong. Then you have a chance to leave a video message. I think I accidentally left one going “your gin tastes like sweeeeeeeeeeetiiieeeeesssss thanks!” You’re welcome Tarquin.
Slightly disappointing FaceTime adventure aside, it’s a bloody good gin. If you’re into floral, aromatic gins then this is for you. According to their website, Tarquin’s isn’t available in Brighton yet, but is widely available around Devon and Cornwall and some places in London – you can find stockists here.