Clotted Cream Gin
The Wrecking Coast Distillery, based in deepest, darkest Cornwall, took something of a topsy-turvy approach when making its flagship product, Clotted Cream Gin. Instead of flavour, the four chaps behind the brand – Avian Sandercock, Daniel Claughton, Steve Wharton and Craig Penn, worked on mouthfeel, building their gin around a soft, smooth, luxurious texture.
The quintet first decided to make a gin in November 2014. They had a mutual appreciation for spirits, particularly Gin and Whisky and as all true connoisseurs do, they spent a great deal of their time moaning about the imperfections in what they were drinking. Their wives were understandably tired of their griping, so told them to hurry up with making their own. Keen to find a gin that suited their collective palate, they crossed all of their fingers and all of their toes and launched the distillery.
The idea was always to use clotted cream. It’s an icon of the South West, a thick, rich and lavish sweet treat that’s best spread over scones and smeared with jam. Back at the very start of their journey, however, the team had no idea whatsoever how to make a gin, so they certainly had no idea that clotted cream, when cooked inside a still, would lose its absolute mind…
Head Distiller Avian began by trailing a pure cream spirit, one that would keep hold of the silky richness of clotted cream. Unfortunately, he found that once in a pot still, the clotted cream lost all of its depth, taking on a sickly sweet caramel taste instead. They soon realised it the cooking process that was changes the very nature of the ingredient, so looked towards cold distilling. Happily, after a couple of trials (and a couple of errors), their very 21st Century still coughed up the goods, leaving them with a sweet, viscous base from which they could develop the rest of the gin.
Using cream in gin isn’t an entirely new idea; The Wrecking Coast has a modern day rival in Master of Malt’s Cream Gin, which in itself was initially made for a cocktail at the Worship Street Whistling Shop and based upon illustrations of Victorian era Gin palaces, many of which featured barrels both of Old Tom Gin and Cream Gin. And while Old Tom is well and truly back behind bars, Cream Gin hasn’t quite made its arrival (there’s just no call for it in bars, and very few, if any, historic cocktail recipes demand it). While the 19th Century version was likely a blend of woefully distilled gin, cream and sugar, both of the modern day iterations added the cream ahead of distillation. In all fairness, there are a lot more regulations about what you can leave rotting in barrels these days…
The body of Clotted Cream Gin is created on the distillery’s futuristic iStill – a computer controlled bit of kit created by a Dutch company. Ten botanicals make their way into the iStill, all of which are added to neutral grain spirit and left to macerate for 14 days ahead of the run. These are juniper, coriander, chamomile, vanilla, angelica, liquorice, orris, grains of paradise, cassia bark, cinnamon quills, lemon peel and aniseed. After the run, the gin is left to rest for seven days before being blended with the clotted cream spirit and cut down to 44% ABV with Cornish spring water.
Clotted Cream Gin to taste…
There’s a sweeping sense of distortion here, with familiar flavours doing things so out of character it’s as though they’re wearing carnival masks. Vanilla and cream combine in a sea of softly sweet, calm scents, but they’re so gentle as to be overthrown by an incredibly, indelibly loud rooty note and a faint flicker of spice. You can breathe as deep of this one as you like with no alcohol burn at all – instead there’s just a sense of distant noise, like staring at a party through a soundproof window.
To taste, it comes alive. Liquorice and chamomile sweetness laps at the tongue, followed by a bright and herbal juniper. Coriander seeds step in almost instantly and are followed by a loud, burning grains of paradise, cassia and cinnamon spice. The coriander carries on right through to the end, lending some gravitas to the citrus that makes it feel not like you’ve had lemon, but rather like you’ve been visited by its ghost. The liquorice and juniper double back round at the end of the sip, though this time they combine to bring a flush of woodiness. All in all, Clotted Cream Gin is loud, complex, juniper forward and as smooth as was intended, slipping down the gullet with nary a glance. It’s quite an achievement and a gin that certainly stands up to inspection. Neat, it’s intriguing, but with tonic it’s something else altogether…
Dilution allows the more delicate botanicals a chance to rise to the top, with chamomile leaping up out of the glass to paint a very-close-to-the-mark-but-not-quite soapy floral picture. The sweetness of tonic gives the vanilla and clotted cream a new accent, but the grains of paradise really prevent the gin from going too far in any direction, making like that one supply teacher you were actually scared of and keeping everything in check. It’s a great gin for its adaptability; it’s like a spinning top, keen to veer off at the smallest touch. Want a herbal gin? Add lavender and juniper. Want it super sweet? Chuck in a handful of raspberries.
That changeable nature also makes it a perfect cocktail workhorse – it’ll play the part in near enough any classic. We wouldn’t be able to resist playing with that cream tea angle and putting it in a Gin & Jam cocktail. Cream and jam are, after all, the culinary equivalent of Victoria and Albert, Antony and Cleopatra, Kim and Kanye…
Clotted Cream Gin comes in a rectangular bottle, the front of which is bedecked in a great, swirling whoosh of a drawing created by local artist John Blight. It depicts a ship with tattered sails, struggling through a violent sea. It certainly makes you pay attention, and the gold edging brings a real air of quality. You’d notice it on a shelf, and you’d definitely buy it as a gift and given the taste – it would be gladly received.
It must be said however, that at the time of writing (now over one year on from their launch), there has not been much consolidation around the brand itself, and at this current rate, indications of future potential can be at best pessimistic. There are still no real assets that effectively communicate their story and their presence on digital platforms may be enthusiastic, but weak when it comes to conveying any clear aesthetic or identity. It’s one thing to be present and making sales week in week out at country fairs, it’s another building a brand identity and deeper engagement. Compared to other Cornish ginmakers, Wrecking Cost are lagging behind. In time this may change and for future growth and nationwide presence in this most ferocious of Gin era’s – it will need to.
It’s an easily rectifiable blemish to an otherwise impressive start to life as gin makers and it is safe to say that Clotted Cream Gin met the demands of its owners. When they launched it in June 2016 however, they had no idea how it would be received. Happily, their launch at Truro Gin Festival in June 2016 was an out and out success, with all 176 bottles selling. Craig still recalls that first sampler with a somewhat misty eyed nostalgia: “Seeing the first member of public trying our Clotted Cream Gin, nodding, then breaking into a big beaming smile… that was unexpected, and is never to be forgotten,” he said.
Clotted Cream Gin’s greatest strength is also a bit of a weakness. It is a great gin – versatile, smooth, piny and identifiable; you could pick it out of a line-up with ease. The clotted cream was always meant to give texture rather than flavour so its well and truly met all of its objectives, but we can’t help but wonder what the product could or would be if that cream was allowed to reign a bit more. If the grains of paradise piped down just a bit to let that rich, sweet spirit roam free.
Perhaps that’s a path The Wrecking Coast will go down with variants, but then, perhaps not; it took them long enough to find a gin they can sip without complaint, why twist it when it took so long to find something worth sticking to? Moreover, with some progression in their branding and continued growth in their volume – this is a team and a gin that has real potential. They are worth discovering and worth championing to help them reach it. Besides, who doesn’t want gin at tea time? And if you’re chucking in some scones and a dollop of cream anyway…
For more information about Clotted Cream Gin, visit the website: thewreckingcoastdistillery.com/
Say hello on Social Media!
Copyright © Gin Foundry