There is something about island life that lets a little mystery remain. Sure, the internet has us all connected and it isn’t exactly difficult to get to the Isle of Man these days, but somehow, despite modernity making its insidious creep, the local people still have time for a good old fashioned fairy tale. And this, readers, is the tale of Fynoderee Gin, albeit with less fairies and more graft.
Husband and wife team Tiffany and Paul Kerruish just so happen to share their surname with the star of an old Manx tail – Kitty Kerruish. Kitty’s story is a long, mad, slightly rambling one that involved fairies and fairy courts and dashing princes and, ultimately, our sweet heroine dying because she makes the foolish mistake of falling in love. Gross. Kitty’s tail takes place at her family home – a pretty little cottage at the top of Glen Auldyn in the north of the island. The modern day Kerruish clan stumbled upon the story when researching the island’s flora, as its setting is currently home to a very interesting conservation project…
“This magical love story is set in Glen Auldyn, a picturesque mountain glen in the north of the island. It just so happens to be an area where the Manx Wildflower Trust are re-introducing juniper groves to the island. It is also an area where we forage some of our wild botanical ingredients.”
Given the abundance of flora on the island and the entirely jaw dropping number of gins in the world, it seems almost strange that the Isle of Man didn’t have their own until very recently. As lifelong lovers of the spirit, the Kerruish clan didn’t just find it odd, they found it frustrating. “The Isle of Man is a world UNESCO biosphere and we could see the exciting opportunity that the island represented in terms of locally sourced botanicals that would lend themselves to creating a unique gin with very strong Manx provenance and backstory.”
A chance encounter with former Masons and Tanqueray distillery man, Gerard Macluskey saw their ideas become concrete. Macluskey, it just so happened, was seeking his own project, so this moment of serendipity tipped everything into overdrive. The trio teamed up as equal partners and set to work right away. With Macluskey’s years of technical experience he was able to set up a distillery with ease, leaving Paul free to work on the administrative side, while Tiffany grew the marketing and branding. Each member of the team was entirely bound by their passion for it, so within (a mightily impressive) nine months of Macluskey hopping on board, Fynoderee Gin was born.
Fynoderee Gin is designed to be as juniper forward as possible, whilst still humming that old Manx tune. The first to be produced was the Winter edition, which launched in November 2017. It’s a complex gin, with 15 ingredients including locally foraged elderberries, sloes and blackberries. A handful of traditional gin botanicals fill the middle end, whilst fresh ginger, cloves and cinnamon add some deep, warming spice notes.
The Spring edition, released in March 2018, carried that traditional backbone, but the local botanicals making their voice heard this time around are fresh coriander, mint, lemon verbena and gorse flowers. Each of the recipes are created on Fynoderee Gin’s 10-litre trail still, Babban (Manx for baby, since you asked so nicely).
All of the Fynoderee Gin editions will be made in the same way. A mixture of NGS and demineralized water is added to the distillery’s alembic copper pot still. All of the botanicals – both fresh and dried – are added to the still and it is turned on straight away – no steeping required. The stills are heated with an open gas flame (a little mad if you ask us as this is much harder to control, but also far more whimsical), with Macluskey standing present for every step, tasting the spirit at various intervals to decide where and when the cut should be.
Each distillation run, when cut to bottling strength with water, yields enough spirit to fill around 210 bottles. Numbers like this are the ones that make you really consider just how far people can push the small batch claim: if the Fynoderee Gin team are pushing out 200 bottles a time, how can a brand that makes 5000+ each run, yet brandish the same credentials?
Fynoderee Winter Gin (2017) to taste…
‘Evocative’ is the first word that springs to mind upon taking a sniff of Fynoderee Winter Gin. A thick, sappy, green palm leaf smell rises to fore – it’s almost as tropical as a jungle (part of us suspect coriander leaf, as is named in the Spring edition). It’s not familiarly ginny, though it is overwhelmingly inviting, with that spice base anchoring it somewhere in a safe space.
It’s overwhelmingly intense, with those rich greens assaulting the tongue at the fore and the warm ginger, cloves and cinnamon conspiring to leave a fire in the chest. The fruitier botanicals are really held back when sipped neat – it’s just this big, bushy thing that coats the mouth with wax and pine.
When mixed with tonic, the elderberries rise up a bit, presenting their sweet, gloopy qualities. Still, it’s that leafiness that dominates, along with a crisp, almost brutal pine. As far as G&Ts go, we’d serve with a great whack of grapefruit to cut through the herbal and spice nature, but as far as cocktails go, we’d love to try this in a Basil Smash or a Ramos Gin Fizz.
Fynoderee Spring Gin (2018) to taste…
You know when you go to the beach and the only sound for miles is waves kissing the sea wall? This reminds us of that; it’s like a gentle but persistent attack, with lemon verbena lapping in and out of existence, bringing with it a sultry, musky night-time smell. Buttery coconut gorse sweetness steals in with a deliberate freshness, while mint – arguably well used – tries to cool the whole thing down. In fact, the cooling here is quite intense – there’s a brief hint of cucumber, but its so subtle that it can’t quite be the all-dominating vegetable.
The taste is quite something! Fresh coriander explodes across the tongue, bringing that bone-dry soap hit. There’s a real hint of lavender here, too. The mouth is saturated by a waxy coating, and while this is less piny than the Winter edition, something about it feels slightly more successful, flavour wise. It’s less overwhelming and more nuanced.
With tonic, the sweetness from the gorse is given so much room to wriggle that you can almost taste the pollen flying out of it. It’s sweet and light, a G&T designed to drunk at the 7 o’clock golden garden hour, where the sun is low and the booze is required. Those more traditional gin botanicals poke through, too, but they’re not aggressive, rather they just serve as a gentle reminder as to what’s been going on the whole time.
It’s absolutely lovely, and though its wildly different to its counterpart, we’d still be tempted to give it a similar serve – some ruby red grapefruit would make an utter treat out of this (though when it comes to cocktails we’d head down a Martinez or a Bees Knees path).
We’d heard through the grapevine that the plan was to make these seasonal varieties to gain a better understanding of the bounty on offer before working on a flagship/year-round edition. Glendalough did the same, so it’s not an unheard of notion. That said, it seems to be off the table for now. “We are really enjoying the flexibility of the seasonal approach and there is likely to be re-imaginings of our existing seasons as and when we discover new or exciting local botanical ingredients,” Tiffany explained. “We also intend to create limited editions and one-off batches.
“We really want to keep Fynoderee a creative and innovative distillery and being open to new recipes, collaborations and opportunities gives us something to talk about and engage with our growing ‘fyn base.’
This outlook suggests that collectors are going to be kept busy! Much like wine, this is a product of its terroir, and as such each year is going to be led by crop quality and quantity. It’s not only each season that will vary, but each batch. Spring 2019 could be an altogether different affair… vintage, darlings. It’s all the rage in the Gin world these days.
Each bottle of Fynoderee Gin tells the tale – or at least some of it – of the Fynoderee – the horned beast, the wild flora. It’s an exquisitely beautiful package, with rich paper labels featuring illustrations drawn by local artist Julia Ashby Smythe selling this in not just as a gin, but as a fully realised brand. It’s gift worthy and immensely eye catching – probably one of the most grabbed set of bottles on the (400+ bottle strong) Gin Foundry shelves.
Having just received their full distiller’s license, the Fynoderee team are looking into making their own spirit. This, of course, adds so, so much work into the process, but it also allows full control and genuine provenance. As the team has just released the delightful sounding Fynoderee Manx Bumbee Vodka, distilled using pure Manx honey, it would make sense if they do eventually create the base themselves.
Provenance and locality can be a dangerous nail to hammer – you go to far and you end up isolating any audience outside of your hometown. You play it too safe and you end up with a product just like any other. While it’s undeniable that anyone with an Isle of Mann heritage is likely to clamour for this, we think the story itself is one of universal appeal: it’s about celebrating the diversity of the UK, the diversity of the Gin category and about celebrating the beautiful nature of this funny little province.
The goal for Manx team was clear from the get go: “We want to capture the enchanted spirit of our beautiful island in every bottle,” Tiffany said. Local collaboration and island restoration is also key to their objectives. “We have made a pledge to the UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man to promote our outstanding living landscape and seascape, engage with the local community, protect natural resources and promote our cultural heritage wherever possible. We have been delighted by how the local community have really embraced The Fynoderee Distillery and supported our products. We love the idea that one day we may be so intertwines within the fabric of island life that our spirits become synonymous with the Isle of Man.”
It’s a hefty old goal, that one, but something tells us it’s not out of reach. Not in the least…
For more information about The Fynoderee Distillery, visit fynoderee.com/
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