Some may be familiar with the story of Thomas Dakin, namely as he was one of the early pioneers and a key figure in British distilling during the 18th Century. Parts of his story has been brought to life through Bombay Sapphire and Greenall’s Gin in the past as both brands’ heritage emerge from his original distillery. For those unfamiliar with the name – Thomas Dakin was just 25 years old when he began distilling his gin in Bridge Street, Warrington. The distillery was situated half way between Liverpool and Manchester and ideally linked to both thanks to the development of the English canal network.
In 1761, Warrington was a bustling and prosperous town with some of the best trading links in Great Britain. As fans of life on the canals and the English potteries of yesteryear (no we’re not crazy cat people who collect Wedgewood, but we’ll admit sipping Old Tom Gin from a bone china tea cup doesn’t go a miss here…), it’s worth noting that the world’s first canal, the Bridgewater canal, was built in the same year Dakin began distilling. Moreover, canals and the manufacturing north were at the outset of the Industrial Revolution.
Historical sceptics might say that Dakin’s timing may have been fortuitous, establishing his distillery at crossroads between two soon-to-be influential and rapidly growing cities. We’d err on the side of Dakin having a brave and entrepreneurial spirit, as Gin’s reputation was only just beginning to recover after decades of being blamed for the scourge of society. The Gin Craze only really came to end in the mid 1750’s and respectable gentry were not often connected to the spirit yet, with the Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Beefeater dynasties only beginning some years later. He would have been bucking the trend working with Gin and no-one could have predicted the scale of change that swept the nation over the next 50 years.
Regardless, Dakin’s spirits, including gin, were marketed to wealthy travellers journeying between the two major cities as well as increasingly affluent local residents. Soon the business flourished.
Thomas Dakin Gin isn’t a recreation of any original recipe, but the era provided inspiration for the botanical selection with its combination of exotic spices flooding into the port cities as well as native British ingredients. It took Master Distiller Joanne Moore 12 months to develop the recipe. Some may have thought that her pregnancy might have influenced her tastebuds when the idea of using horseraddish as a botanical was first discussed, but it was soon evident upon her return from maternity leave that “red cole” (as it was called back in the 1700’s) was the perfect choice for a signature flavour in her new gin.
Some months into the development of the gin, the team found a historic recipe for a red cole and orange cordial, which would have been used as a stimulant to revive weary travellers on long journeys. A sign that they were on the right path and something we’re hoping will inspire future projects for their team, or bespoke cocktails made in homage…
Created in a small-scale pot still, Thomas Dakin Gin contains 11 botanicals, including juniper, coriander seed, cubebs, angelica root, liquorice, sweet orange peel, grapefruit peel and horseraddish to name a few.
Bottled in bespoke square bottles, inspired by 18th century bottle designs with heavily embossed glass with traditional text and colouring – the end gin is cut to 42% ABV. Explaining her decision, Moore describes the difficulty of selecting the perfect ABV for the botanical mix. Too high, the red cole dominates, too low and the gin is too citrusy. In many ways, these two ends of the spectrum are true when tasting the gin neat.
To begin, juniper merges with horseradish in an unusual heady mix. Sweet orange and a sharper grapefruit join soon after, along with classic gin flavours of piney juniper, coriander seed and sweet liquorice. There’s a distinct savoury finish along with a warming spice thanks to the cubebs. Thomas Dakin Gin has a distinct flavour journey and a lot of personality that emerges at different stages, it’s different whilst also being respectful of the fact that it is first and foremost, juniper centred.
What’s clear is that having already created 4 gins that encompass different areas of the flavour spectrum, Joanne Moore has demonstrated once again why she is considered to be one of the leading lights in the gin world. It’s an entirely different flavour, unique to the others in the Quintessential portfolio and a distinct Gin packed with character.
Moore recommends flat-leaf coriander and orange peel as the G&T garnish of choice and we agree. The dual garnish harnesses Dakin Gin’s core flavours – the savoury almost herbal notes as well as the warming citrus zing. Given the ingredients, it’s easy to see it in a Red Snapper (Gin version of a Bloody Mary) or a Gibson Martini (with pickled onions) – using Dakin Gin transforms it into quite the meal in its own right (even if it was a little too much for us)!
Currently, the gin is being made in the Greenall’s Distillery base, but plans are afoot for Dakin Gin to have its own small distillery in the heart of Manchester City centre, at which point the still will be uprooted and transferred over. As with all major endeavours worth undertaking – it hasn’t been easy. Finding the right site, let alone converting it into the perfect space to act as their new home may seem simple on paper, particularly as micro distilleries are popping up everywhere. They’ll have to consider the fact that the distillery will need to act as a catalyst for new innovative projects, and that the Greenall’s distillery isn’t very visitor friendly, so this will act as their unofficial second home too. Combine this with wanting to represent the old links to the canal system and the manufacturing heritage of the region – the brief is tough for any venue hunter!
We’ve been brutally outspoken in the past about the lack of heritage being presented and the long term cost to credibility to Greenall’s flagship gin. We still stand by those words, but with this in mind, Thomas Dakin’s Gin is a major tour de force.
Taking control of their own heritage and presenting it is going to be huge for them and Thomas Dakin Gin combines all the elements required to be successful in today’s overcrowded gin market. It is a genuinely different gin that is unique and memorable to taste, it has real provenance in both historical terms and where it’s (eventually) made, and a team with established contacts to make it fly out the door faster than they can make it.
Much like sister brands Opihr and Bloom, it’s an easy bet to make that UK gin fans will see a lot more from Thomas Dakin Gin over the next year, however, expect it to do so a lot better, faster and with much more conviction. Manchester has long needed a flagship distillery in town and once this happens, the city will finally have a local brand to back (assuming half the city doesn’t rebel against the red label that is…). Moreover, the Quintessential team seem to have learned how to better position a new brand since the early mishaps of previous releases, with transparency and clarity more prevalent this time round.
The learning curve was evident with the release of Opihr, which has achieved considerably better results in its early days than Bloom or Berkeley Square did. This is again, one step further in the right direction. They are not finished building their home yet and they are not quite where they wanted to be by the time they launched. They are not “wordsmithing” around it however, nor gender targeting to create a false sense of difference. This time, they have a real contender and are presenting it for what it is – a genuine article.
Combine this with natural brand links to young entrepreneurial projects – it’s a recipe for an exciting year ahead. We will update this article in 6 months time to keep it refreshed with what is sure to be a whirlwind finish to 2015. In the meantime, find it, try it and let us know what you think!
For more information about Thomas Dakin Gin, visit their Twitter page: @ThomasDakinGin
Copyright © Gin Foundry