Curio Gin co-founder Rubina Tyler-Street has rather a strange reason behind getting into Gin making, and you’re going to want to sit down to read this bit: she just didn’t like Gin. Her mother-in-law, an avid juniper supper, very sensibly refused to get on board with such a notion, so sat her down to take her on something of a Gin odyssey. Rubina quickly learnt that how a gin tasted was entirely dependent on the botanicals that went into making it, and – full of intrigue – she began experimenting.
This was back in November 2012, and in the following months her and her husband, William, began to create some weird and wonderful distillates. After some time the duo realised that they could probably make the gin thing work for them; they enjoyed the work hugely, they wanted to live and work locally and while they knew they’d have to pour their hearts into it, they’d be living the dream.
Neither Rubina nor William had worked in the alcohol industry before registering their distillery, Soul Spirits, in January 2014, so as well as honing their recipe, planning their wedding and working full time, they had to learn all about booze.
Fine tuning the recipe was one of the more difficult parts; the Tyler-Streets wanted a well-balanced gin, but with little chemistry or distilling knowledge in the early stages, theirs was a near impossible blend to find. “We knew what we didn’t want it to taste like,” Rubina said. “We wanted to use local botanicals and we knew there were certain ingredients which needed to be added as stabilisers, so then it was a matter of practical tests to find out what quantities worked and what didn’t. Availability of local botanicals was a major factor when finalising the recipe, too, as we needed to be sure we could access fresh supplies. But once we distilled what was to be the final recipe and taste it, it was a eureka moment!”
The distilling is all performed by William, though Rubina assists when required. Rob Dorsett of Alcohols lends his ear as a consultant occasionally, but most of their learning has been conducted through trial and error (at a ratio erring very much in favour of the latter). “It’s a matter of practice. You can only learn so much from reading, but when you put the theory into practice, that’s when you learn,” Rubina told us.
Curio Gin has 15 botanicals in its line up: juniper, lime flower tea, star anise, fresh lemon peel, fresh lime peel, seaweed, rock samphire, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander amongst them. The spices were very deliberately added. “We both have Asian heritage, which has an influence on our creations,” Rubina confided.
All of the ingredients are gathered together, weighed and lined up ready to be placed into the still alongside a neutral wheat spirit for a 12 – 15 hour maceration. The gin run takes around five hours, with the resulting liquid poured into a stainless steel mixing tank and mixed with Cornish spring water to an ABV of 41%. Rubina is quick to stress the tempestuous nature of alcohol: “I guess this sounds quite straightforward, but of course every element of the process needs a careful eye and precision; watching out for temperature changes, ABV output, exact blending… No amount of experience can assure perfection ever time; it needs absolute and total attention and control.”
Curio Gin to taste…
Coastal flowers hit the nose, bringing hints of sea salt and a splash of something vegetal. The juniper is fresh and clean, while the citrus adds a burst of light. A hint of the smoothness to come is within; the spices are undoubtedly present, but there’s no sting or burn, just a mixed bag of baking cupboard smells that are all at once sweet and dusty. The tag on the label says curiously distilled and while the distillation may well be actually a simple affair – their’s allure in the aroma and their spirt has our senses curious to say the least.
To taste, those baking cupboard elements rear up and charge, knocking the senses slightly askew. The tongue is dominated by an overall savoury taste, with seaweed providing a dark green leafy base upon which cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg dance, bringing both depth and warmth. Juniper is present throughout, though playing a more humble role, like a proud parent pushing their child into the spotlight. For those of a more sensitive disposition and tasting neat – stay tuned for the lime flower tea which adds a secondary citrus that seems to work to perfection with star anise. Overall, there’s more than just an enchanting nature about Curio – it’s got true character that holds the attention.
With tonic, Curio Gin becomes a much lighter affair. The lime tea and fresh lemon peel are given more room to show their colours and they flourish accordingly, burning bright for a short while upon each sip until the seaweed/spice tastes take over. It’s a nice, serious G&T – one that certainly will certainly appeal to those who enjoy the bitter tastes of a Negroni.
Curio Gin’s packaging is a real strong point too; it just stands out. Cute, colourful sketches of the botanicals adorn the textured paper label, meaning that it will never shy away from a back bar. It’s a gifting gin, for sure (it certainly beats an Eden Project pencil…).
The brand also has Cocoa Vodka and Cardamom Vodka to its name and has just made a Cornish Cup, based on 17th Century punch. It uses Assam tea growing in the garden where William was born, and also features chai spices, honey from West Cornwall and local water. “A real mix of heritage,” Rubina says, fairly summarising the overall approach Curio Gin has taken.
Curio Gin is a nice, clean spirit with a big burst of salt and spice. It tells the tale of its home and of its makers all in one, and manages to be unique even in today’s mad market. There’s a lot to support and both it as a gin and they as a duo deserve attention. They’ve managed to live the journey so many have of working for yourself, of creating real products filled with intrigue and a sense of with soul. There’s an element of the handmade, but done with enough Savoir–faire to make something to covet. It hard not to be a little inspired by Curio Gin and to not walk away form tasting it without a smile that Cornwall has yet another fantastic producer. Seek it out – you won’t be disappointed.
For more information about Curio gin visit the website: curiospiritscompany.co.uk
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