Sir Robin of Locksley Gin
Named after Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw who picked the rich pockets of Nottingham in an unbidden and undoubtedly jail-worthy act of wealth distribution, Sir Robin of Locksley Gin is a Yorkshire(ish) spirit with a tale to tell.
John Cherry first got the urge to open his own distillery in September 2006. He was working in the US at the time, and the craft scene there was starting to stir to life as distilling laws relaxed. He was already fully ensconced in the booze industry, having worked as a buyer in the wine and spirits industry, so – despite a distinct lack of distilling know how – the idea wasn’t straight out of left field.
For Cherry, it was always going to be Gin. “As a fan of all things booze, and being in the business, there were many directions I could have taken at the start,” he explains, “but since my Gran introduced me to it back in the mid 80s I’ve always loved Gin.
“I used to take her fish and chips for lunch on most Saturdays, then we’d watch the horse racing and wrestling on TV. She would have a gin & orange, whilst I’d have a dandelion and burdock. But as I got older (and after lots of pestering) she eventually let me try her gin and it stuck, even though my friends thought it was a bit of an odd habit. They’d all be knocking back the pints, but after one or two I’d switch on to the Gin. I was in a band at the time, so this long-haired, leathered up rocker drinking G&Ts at the end of the bar must have looked quite comical.”
It wasn’t until mid-2012 that John decided to make the leap from Gin drinker to Gin maker. He and his American wife, Cynthia, were living in New York at the time, but England was calling. They spent six months putting together a business plan before crossing the pond back home to Sheffield.
Sir Robin of Locksley Gin was finally launched in July 2014, following a huge development period in 2013. By development we don’t just mean the recipe, but also Cherry’s skills as a distiller. “I had never actually distilled anything on my own,” he told us, “so it’s all self taught. I started off compounding recipes and eventually stepped them up to distillates”.
“My process is almost like creating family trees using different botanical sets, playing around with intensities of ingredients until reaching something I’m aiming for. So it’s a fairly linear & focussed direction. For Sir Robin of Locksley Gin I made 104 variations, either compounded or pot distilled with full botanical mixes.”
Part of the complexity in finding the right ingredients was Cherry’s decision to make a gin that doesn’t quite fit any style, rather it sits somewhere between a London Dry and an Old Tom. He explains his reason for choosing this decidedly awkward path: “In 2012/2013 there were really no gins out there that had the sipability that I was looking for. Having drunk my fair share of brown spirits, I wanted to find a gin that had similar weight and texture. There were a few Old Toms, but I found them too cloying for the most part. So I guess I thought that if I could create something I was looking for, maybe a few other people would like it too…”
The botanicals that form the final line up for Sir Robin of Locksley Gin are: juniper, coriander, cassia, angelica, liquorice, pink grapefruit, dandelion and elderflower. The latter two are local, picked in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire respectively.
Initially, Sir Robin of Locksley Gin was made at Thames. As jaded old hacks, we were slightly sceptical of Cherry’s claims to bring all the distilling in house at the time, but sure enough – in March 2017 – his mailbox clattered open to deliver HMRC approval. Since then, all distillation has taken place at Cherry’s distillery in Portland Works, a cooperative in Sheffield filled to the rafters with craft makers.
To make Sir Robin of Locksley Gin, Cherry soaks all of the botanicals in a neutral grain spirit for 18 hours, before distilling them in his 250-litre stainless steel hybrid still. Each batch produces around 1200 70cl bottles after blending to 40.5% ABV, so while we’ve not been told, on maths alone it’s probably safe to assume this is not a one shot product. Nevertheless, it’s botanically intense and a gin with a full mouthfeel.
Sir Robin of Locksley Gin to taste…
There’s a busy pink grapefruit and floral nose to this gin, which is citrus led and joined by liquorice and elderflower sweetness. There’s a sense of the elderflower bomb that’s to come although the spice is doing its best to keep the aroma grounded.
That sweetness on the nose is far, far louder on the mouth. Sugary elderflower rushes right in, draping itself across the tongue and paving the way for a rush of pink grapefruit and dandelion sweetness. This is a gin that leaves legs trailing down the glass and such is the sweetness of the flavour and such is the booming nature of the sweet elderflower, it is almost like a huge dose of sugar has been added.
Overall, the citrus, elderflower and dandelion bring a wonderful freshness, with the latter providing a feeling akin to the bright, electric flash of daisies. The cassia is warm, but it’s never allowed to torture the tongue, instead – and right at the back – the shadow of juniper swoops above with a superhero cape, bringing in its shade a herbal finish.
With tonic, the fresh plants are loud. The citrus and elderflower take over once more, filling the mouth with green at such a pace that it feels like (a far tastier version of) expanding foam. Pink grapefruit citrus steals its way through to the centre too, given a loud and lively voice by the acerbic quinine. It’s a very sweet, very enjoyable G&T, with a transporting freshness that fills the mouth with a keen sense of the outdoors.
Cherry has undeniably met his aim, which was to create a gin that has both “sipability and versatility.” This is a fine, sweet treat when tasted neat and just as nice when mixed. We’re particularly keen to try it in a Clover Club or a Bramble…
The Locksley bottle is undeniably eye catching, but it’s er… well… quite a distinct look too. The rear label has a green inner that reflects throughout the clear glass and while it may intend to represent the greens of the forest, it has more in common with glow sticks and graffiti. The logo itself is nice though; an ‘R’ drawn in folklore imagery, with lots of nods to everyone’s favourite cartoon socialist throughout – from the feathers to arrows. You’ll spot the bottle a mile off, which is the idea really, but you mightn’t necessarily buy it as a gift. Unless you’ve got a friend as into Day-Glo as they are into Gin.
We’re keen to see what else Cherry and his distillery bring to the industry, not just in terms of variants, but experiences. With his very own distillery now open, he has a chance to interact with his audience face to face, and to create more Gin fans in the Sheffield area. The only thing that may set him back is the initial decision to stamp Yorkshire all over the bottle when it was still being made in London. We live in an age of transparency – there’s no room for bamboozling, nor is there a need to. In fairness to Cherry, he has always been open about this fact. Working with the likes of Thames Master Distiller Charles Maxwell has always been something that was presented at the hundreds of events Cherry and co have served their gin at since its launch. Unfortunately, having messaged around it early but not been able to capitalise on it means that, positioning his new space nowadays, will have to be done word of mouth as opposed to any re-announcement and the sudden rush of interest that comes from it. It’s a longer route and arguably a missed opportunity, but slow and steady is the name of the game and they will get there eventually.
Nevertheless, we’re all for Sir Robin of Locksley Gin. It tastes great, mixes well and manages to be unique yet not off piste. This is definitely one worth trying, especially for those with a sweet tooth.
For more information about Locksley Gin, visit their website: locksleydistilling.com
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