Fishers London Dry Gin is a coastal spirit with a wild heart. Originally made at Adnams’ Southwold distillery, the creative minds behind this seaside tipple have crammed their bottles with beach-plucked English seaside botanicals like spignel and rock samphire, imbuing their drink with a strong sense of salty sea air.
Fishers Gin was founded by Andrew Heald, a drinks industry veteran who was struck with the inspiration to make a gin when wandering around Suffolk. He told us: “We wanted to make a drink that encapsulates the flavours and diversity of wildlife on the English Coast. One cold and crisp spring morning I was walking along marshes near Southwold on the Suffolk coast, on some of the most beautiful RSPB land in the country and couldn’t believe how many interesting wild plants were growing. I was already involved with drinks production in France and Scotland and wondered how we could use these plants to make something as a tribute to this very English landscape. I immediately thought of gin.”
The journey from inception to production took around a year, with the first step being the procurement of a botanist. They landed on James Firth, an Oxford University botanist with a vast knowledge of plant life – more specifically, of which plants give the best flavour (and of which plants give the most poison…). After they had James on board, the Fishers Gin team enlisted the help of Adnams Distillery and the talents of Head Distiller John McCarthy, to complete the task of making the gin.
Adnams Distillery was a good fit for the team, with their East Anglian Barley base spirit adding heft to Fishers Gin’s strong sense of regionality. The sea, too, serves as home – hence the moniker. Fishers is named for fishermen and the coast – even the bottle itself is reminiscent of the sea, with the clear glass printed with a yellow, orange, blue and white fishing net style pattern.
While provenance is clearly hugely important to the producers, Fishers Gin doesn’t make this a constrictive rule – quality is king here, so the more traditional gin botanicals are imported. These include juniper, coriander seed, orris root, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom pod, caraway seed, fennel seed and angelica. The “Fishers botanicals”, as Andrew refers to them, are predominantly coastal and either grown (some were even planted so that they could meet demand for the gin) or foraged by James. These include spignel, wood aven, bog myrtle, rock samphire, wild angelica and wild fennel. Spignel, Andrew informs us, is the most elusive of the bunch, so Fishers grow their own in a well-hidden spot that’s been kept secret.
The recipe was chosen by James, who worked hard to strike a balance between the core gin botanicals and the coastal Fishers accent. The traditional gin botanicals needed to tread a fine line; to be light enough that the Fishers botanicals would shine through, but strong enough that the drink retained the core characteristics of a gin. Once James has picked the botanicals, they’re taken to the Adnams Distillery, where John McCarthy sets them to work.
The long term plan was always to make Fishers a standalone product, with its very own home and its very own stills. Adnams was a brilliant starting point and one that helped the journey come to life, but Heald wanted to bring his gin home, so in 2019, after a great deal of effort (and almost 18 months of delays) they are set to open very own distillery based in Aldeburgh.
At the time of writing, the build is being completed and the commissioning process just beginning for the stills, with tours due to begin fully in the new year. Talking of which – being a product of the Suffolk coast, it seemed fitting to build the distillery right by the beach, so Gin tourists better be preparing themselves for a visit. There’s nothing quite like sipping a G&T as you watch the sun setting over the sea, especially if half the botanicals came from there but we’re also hearing talk of linked partnerships and activities to explore the coast to it’s fullest too. More on those soon…
What does Fishers London Dry Gin taste like?
To nose, a rich, wet, herbaceous smell comes through. There’s a thick layer of spignel which provides a huge, highly distinct (cumin/caraway-like) aroma, that is further accentuated by bog myrtle. The unfamiliar nature of the botanicals means that there is nothing one can quite place a finger on, though there is an overwhelming sense of underlying, almost mentholic spice.
The medicinal nature of the spirit carries through to the tongue; juniper isn’t immediately obvious to taste, instead the English botanicals shine. Spice hits the back of the throat and the coriander seed bring a real, deep warmth to the citrus. Juniper as a singular ingredient isn’t up front and obvious but goes towards the end, wherein the mouth is coated with a sharp, piny taste.
Tasted neat, Fishers is an intriguing gin with a long, winding finish. In a G&T we’d recommend a slice of lemon to serve – this will freshen up the herbal and spiced botanicals, which at times can conspire to overwhelm the glass. Andrew himself recommends a sweet garnish like dried pineapple, which would counteract the gin’s otherwise savoury tone.
Three years on since our initial review, what’s noticeable if you taste the original vs what’s being made today side by side is the change in base spirit. While we’re not sure when it was swapped from the Adnam’s made base with its distinct cereal undertones (we think in 2017), what is certain is that they now buy in a more neutral one. Perhaps it was in anticipation of the move to a new home and it certainly isn’t a secret. It was just a tactical change, no fuss no muss.
As a result the gin is a lot less funky and, in our opinion, better for it with the botanicals able to shine with more clarity. A characterful base can be a wonderful addition for many gins, but here, the blank canvas nature seems to have allowed them to better express the coastal vision they were chasing.
We’re also going to issue a quick round of applause to the Fishers Gin team for making a very bold and very sensible decision on their bottle size. For the past few years, it was sold in 50cl bottles but now that the team is moving, they’re distributing the gin 70cl at a time, for the exact same price. Two-hundred is a lot of extra milliliters, so their offering (£39) is undoubtedly more tempting than before and moves it from being an unreasonable sum to spend on Gin, to being in the thick of the craft gin offerings.
With a new bottle comes a new look too, although here, we’re talking minor updates rather than wholesale change. The fishing net pattern on the bottle remains, but the anchor changes to a sea shell to reflect both the Suffolk coast and their Aldeburgh home.
Fisher’s, it seems, are evolving and the new size, new look and new home will open up a world of new fans and breathe new energy into their future endeavours. No doubt having a hub for their brand may also inspire new products to sit in the range too. 2020 will be one to watch that’s for sure.
What’s clear is that it is a gin that tastes like no other. Years on from its launch and despite the hundreds of gins that have joined it on the shelf, it still stands distinct and instantly recognisable. The aim – to create a rare, unique flavour – has been well and truly met. It may not be a gin that everyone uses for every day sipping, but it is one that lends itself to certain moods and moments. This is when Fishers comes into its own and transforms itself into a wildly transportive spirit.
As a gin, it’s the sort you’ll keep around, because you’ll never quite know when the urge will strike and you’ll want to be whisked away. It’ll sit there, at the back of your mind, washing in and out with the tide.
For more information about Fishers Gin, visit their website: www.fishersgin.com
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