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Tom Perkins – Tarquin’s Gin

Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Tom Perkins of Southwestern Distillery, creator of Tarquin's Gin
Written by Gin Foundry

The Tarquin’s Gin range from Southwestern Distillery is an exquisite collection, taking the spirit on a raft of new adventures (though always obeying its juniper core). With founder and distiller Tarquin featured in other interviews already, we spoke to Nomadic Kitchen founder Tom Perkins, who heads up Sales & Marketing for the distillery, about the new gins pouring out of the distillery.

For those who don’t know you – what’s your role in the Southwestern operation and where are you based?

I guess with such a shoe-string team (only four full time Southwesterners at the moment) set lines and roles become pretty blurred. Essentially I’m the London part of the company – pushing, growing, selling, creating and representing all things Tarquin’s Gin and Cornish Pastis within the best cocktail and bar scene in the world.

You spend a lot of time in bars and talking to trade – do you ever get tired of gin?

Not in the slightest. There’s nothing static in this industry, it seems to be ever evolving. There’s always something new to learn, places to discover, and people to meet. That’s the beauty of it – it’s persistently social.

On top of that, over the past year there’s been a noticeable shift from some great brands and distilleries to really start pushing new areas of product development within the category. Some work amazingly well. Some are pushing some fun, innovative ideas. Some fall a little short. But there does seem to be this movement – whether driven from within the industry or from the buying trends of the consumers – to push the conventional constraints of traditional ‘gin styles.’

What’s your favourite place to go for a G&T?

Get me to a beach in Cornwall. No London venue will rival that.

Many people have discovered the SeaDog Navy Gin this year – could you tell us a little more about how it came around?

We were originally approached by the Royal Navy to make a Limited Edition Navy Strength Gin to commemorate over 40 incredible years of service from the 771 Squadron – a search and rescue operation based down in Cornwall. So we produced only 771 bottles, complete with their full insignia and badges on the label, and it just flew. We originally thought that would be it, but we knew that we’d produced something we were really proud of and importantly something that could compliment and strengthen our existing portfolio. We thought ‘we’re having this’ so changed the name to “The SeaDog” and brought it out as the punchy big brother to the Tarquin’s 42% ABV.

It’s a very different recipe to the regular, as well as being higher proof. If you were presenting it to a Tarquin’s fan, what would you describe as they key differences? And what elements of the gin would they love?

While the juice is very different, the really interesting thing about The SeaDog is that it uses exactly the same 12 base botanicals as our flagship Tarquin’s 42% – we just use a heavier weight of botanicals and cut with less water, but that extra 15% ABV completely turns the flavour profile on it head. It’s got this amazing hit of black pepper on the nose, then some warm earthy spice, then finishes with a big oily, creamy mouth feel from all the fresh citrus peal we add. It’s a Gin perfectly suited for those after something extremely full bodied but that still has subtleties and a big breadth of flavours. It certainly doesn’t feel like a 57% spirit – the alcohol has been managed very skilfully and there’s a freshness to it that pulls through strongly when mixing drinks.

How do you serve it (what’s you favourite way to drink it?)

I’d always go for something dark, stirred and boozy. My favourite serve is as a Martinez or an all-British Negroni using Kamm & Sons and the Collector vermouth.

Your book inspired a very cool collaboration with Tarquin – The Nomadic. How do you feel about the gin and how it all came together?

We really dig working collaboratively at SWD – getting inspiration from different creatives and collectives and pushing some interesting flavour profiles and styles of gin. I felt very lucky that Tarq agreed that it might be fun to develop a gin based on the cookbook I wrote – Spices & Spandex – before I joined SWD team.

The book is based on a culinary adventure from London to Cape Town by bicycle, through 26 different countries, for 501 days. With The Nomadic Gin we wanted to use this journey and the flavours discovered along the way as the blueprint to develop something a little bit different, using some pretty unconventional botanicals combinations (26 in total). Botanicals such as sumac, barbary, za’atar, Ethiopian korarema, Rooibos tea, pomegranate, dried mango, three different types of dried chilli (Urfa, Aleppo, piri-piri).

Being unashamedly biased, I was super happy with the result. It’s got a slight Old Tom sweetness to it, some fruity notes, some fresh spice and also some warmth from the chilli. It’s different. It’s fun. It’s also now very rare – only 18 bottles left, so a real one for the collectors. 

Is there a second batch on the cards for next year? If so would you tweak the recipe at all?

Ah, we’re always open to new ideas at SWD, so who knows. I’d need to get convincing Tarq again – perhaps inspired by another trip! When you’re part of such a young team that’s constantly seeking to innovate and experiment there’s always the possibility for fun opportunities like this.

The book is called Spice and Spandex, there’s something slightly horrifying about the idea of distilling wearing lycra. Please tell us it wasn’t like that…?

It was mandatory to wear Spandex – the order came from the very top. Horrifying is certainly the most appropriate word to use.

Are you gutted that the new Christmas edition is not call Tomquin?

I was furious. Tried so hard to make a gin using Tomatoes instead of Tonka Beans specifically for that reason. Luckily Tarq saw sense. The Tonquin is a really awesome drop – very warming, with big hits of vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee and sour cherry. It’s going to be a real winner I think.

What is Southwestern working towards next year?

2017 is looking set to be another exciting year of growth and development for us. We’re focused, as ever, on experimenting with new products and flavours – trying to constantly learn and refine our processes. Our aim is to cement our position as one of the most dynamic, young micro-distilleries in the country. With so many incredible distilleries out there we know we need to be at the top of our game.