After a little break, I’m onto the final gin from my York gin tasting set. The Chocolate and Orange gin is inspired by the Christmas classic – the chocolate orange. I’ve tried a chocolate and orange gin before from another distillery and for me it’s a tough one – the chocolate side was great but the orange was not (very much a personal thing and I fully understand why people without an aversion to orange enjoy it). So what does a chocolate orange have to do with York? Did you know the Terry’s chocolate orange was invented in York? I certainly didn’t, and once you know that, this makes more sense. They take dried, roasted and crushed cocoa beans and fresh oranges which are combined with the York original gin. They suggest serving this in an espresso martini, but I think chocolate and orange are the perfect match for a negroni. So, let’s see how it tastes.
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.