Tarquin Leadbetter, creator of the eponymous Cornish gin, has been busily expanding his range over the past couple of years. In 2016 alone he treated fans of Southwestern Distillery to several new releases, including the Seadog, the Nomadic, the Hopster and the Tonquin. Needless to say, with our relentless public fanboy/girling over Southwestern Distillery, we were excited to try them.
The idea for Seadog began as a run of 771 bottles which were created to mark the disbanding of the 771 Naval Air Squadron. The opportunity to create Navy Gin for the Royal Navy was too great to pass up, so the team set to work creating a higher proof bottling. Once word spread of the release with such positive enthusiasm surrounding it – Southwest Distillery decided to make it a permanent fixture, though with a new name and bottle so as to honour the limited nature of the 771 run.
The recipe is the same as that of Tarquin’s Dry Gin, though the botanicals have been ramped up ever so slightly. In the lineup is fresh orange, lemon, grapefruit, coriander, violet, juniper, cinnamon, angelica, orris, cardamom, liquorice and almond.
To nose, a vivid and fresh juniper comes through, pushing its hand out and bowing at the waist as it introduces itself in the most forward manner imaginable. An underlying hint of fire comes through, though this could be as down to the high ABV as it is to the cinnamon. That warm, coriander citrus so noticeable in the flagship joins in too.
The cinnamon lashes at the tongue instantly, and the roots fill the mouth, bringing both an earthy taste and a rich feel. The juniper is slightly shyer to the palate compared to it’s boisterous aroma, though when it comes through it comes through in a big way, leaving an incredible sense of pine on the tongue – as though one had taken a bite out of a Christmas tree.
Tarquin himself describes it as having a “more intense juniper on the nose, with a lovely peppery spice on the palate and rich earthy citrus notes. All in all it’s pretty serious stuff and a very exciting liquid, particularly in a higher ABV cocktail. It makes a ridiculously good Negroni or Gimlet.”
We also think it makes for a divine G&T – pair up with a slither of grapefruit to up the citrus and help the coriander shine through and enjoy. A sprig of lemon thyme would work well as well.
Fans of Tarquin’s Dry Gin will love this, as it is very much the older, bigger, louder brother; slightly more brash, but just as loveable.
The Nomadic has a somewhat more convoluted story, with the gin fully embracing some of the core principles of Southwestern Distillery – those of collaboration and experimentation. The team places great emphasis on meeting with other creatives, particularly those with an interest in flavour, a commitment to creating new products and a desire to push boundaries.
The project is a tie in with Tom Perkins, founder of The Nomadic Kitchen and author of cookbook ‘Spice & Spandex’ (who also happens to take care of sales & marketing for Southwestern Distillery). The cookbook was inspired by a 501 day adventure Perkins took, wherein he cycled through 26 countries, collecting countless recipes and stories. The Nomadic Gin aims to capture the sense of adventure and discovery of that journey.
An additional 14 botanicals were added to Tarquin’s original 12, with the final number – 26 – representing the different countries travelled through on Tom’s journey. The idea was to incorporate interesting and unusual flavours, particularly botanicals that may not have had their place in gin before. Chillies were played with, not just for the heat they deliver, but for their intriguingly complex fruit flavours.
Another idea for the gin was to build upon the citrus note in Tarquin’s Cornish Dry by adding botanicals with similar tart qualities, but without adding in any more citrus fruits – this was achieved with sumac, barberry and de-hydrated pomegranate powder. The other botanicals making their way into the mix are urfa biber, alleppo biber, piri-piri chilli, Ethiopian korerima, grains of paradise, amchoor powder, sage, thyme, rooibos, ginger and caraway seed.
To nose, something of a musty, earthy spice emerges. Juniper comes through alongside, though is shyer than in the regular Tarquin’s. Spice builds upon the nose the deeper one breathes and though there is a vague sense of familiarity about the mix, it is nigh on impossible to put your finger on any one thing.
To taste, a surprising sweetness comes through first, followed by the warming spiced botanicals. Fruity elements also emerge, with a notable pomegranate kick – especially in the aftertaste. This would pair well particularly well with something like Bottle Green’s Pink– a pomegranate and elderflower take on tonic water.
Tom’s suggested serve for the Nomadic is “a gin and tonic with Fever Tree Light and garnished with mango and black pepper,” though he also advises a red snapper, which would work well with the chilli and earthy spice.
Southwestern Distillery waited until their third birthday to release this very limited collector’s edition, of which there are – and will only ever be – 220 bottles.
A collaboration with Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall, the Hopster is a predictably hoppy treat, although – what with this being a product of Southwestern Distillery, it never strays far from juniper. Pilot and cascade hops are distilled alongside the regular Tarquin botanicals, bringing with them a vague hint or cereal and a real lightness. Juniper stays at the forefront; it’s sappy and gooey, as present as if you were crushing a berry between your fingers.
Fans of the brand will undoubtedly enjoy this expression, which carries a spicy, toasted grain taste, landing it somewhere slap band in the middle of a new make whisky and a gin.
Finally! A Christmas expression from Southwestern. Tonka beans and clementines are distilled alongside the regular Tarquin’s Dry Gin botanicals, bringing an altogether festive vibe to proceedings. Tonka brings a vanilla quality to the gin, latching onto the spices to create a dusty, baking cupboard feel.
Tonquin, perfumed with a slightly floral, rosey hint, falls somewhere between a gin and a kirsch. It’s silky on the mout with vanilla-like qualities, with tonka somewhat enveloping the tongue in something of a velvety blanket. The mouthfeel is so smooth that it borders on strange & slippery, albeit in a very good way. There is no deep resinous base to the taste, nor a huge depth of presence; just a soft, almost ephemeral glide through citrus, then pine and through to a melange of dark cherries and woody sweetness.
It’s indisputable that this will make a great Christmas gift for somebody, but the chances of it sitting around your house without accidentally ending up smothered in ice and tonic are very, very slim. You’ve been warned!
For more information about Tarquin’s Gin, visit their website: www.southwesterndistillery.com
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Discover them and Meet the Makers at Junipalooza Hamburg on September 21st and 22nd 2018!
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