I’ve always enjoyed a long refreshing gin and tonic but, in these days of trendy drinks, gin has taken a bit of a back seat and become rather ‘old hat’. But now, it seems, gin is in! Boutique gins are all the rage and small artisan gin producers are springing up all over the place – we have several in the Westcountry. My partner in writing crime, Julia Wherrell, recently interviewed a new young Cornish gin maker for an article she was writing and, as soon as we discovered he used Devon violets in his gin, we thought you’d like to hear more about it…
At just 26, Tarquin Leadbetter seems rather young to have set up his own distillery – but that’s just what he’s done, making him the first person to craft gin in Cornwall for more than a century.
Tarquin is from Devon and, after living and working in London for a few years was very keen to get back to the Westcountry and start up his own business ‘doing something’ in the food and drink industry. Settling in Cornwall, he identified gin as a market with potential and spent the next 18 months distilling the spirit in a traditional copper still on his kitchen cooker.
”After a lot of work and research, I finally perfected my own recipe,” he says. “I use 11 botanicals in addition to the traditional juniper in my gin, resulting in a contemporary take on a classic London Dry.
“One unusual ingredient is the Devon violet. From these I take the delicate leaves, which add a vibrant green freshness to the gin and create something deliciously unique. At the heart of our process is a special flame-fired, copper pot still called Tamara, goddess of the Tamar. The copper gives the gin a very smooth finish – there’s no stainless steel and industrial quantities here! We make small batches of gin, fewer than 300 bottles at a time, and I check every one personally.”
The essential oils present in gin have also been used in herbal medicine for centuries. By looking at each botanical he uses – and its known effect – Tarquin has had fun drawing up a complete character profile of his gin.
“This might provide insight into the effects of drinking Tarquin’s Gin!” he jokes. Here’s the result of his research:
- Juniper – a natural stimulant, great for versatility and effectiveness
- Coriander – soothing and calming
- Lemon – a mood enhancer
- Orange – creates a feeling of happiness and warmth
- Grapefruit – increases ones sense of humour and well-being
- Cardamom – soothes the mind
- Cinnamon – reduces drowsiness and irritability
- Orris – therapeutic
- Angelica – has a protective quality, but also helps to release negative energy
- Bitter almond – wonderful scent and flavour
- Liquorice – soothing
- Violets – relaxing, soothing and inspiring
His gin is delicious. It is a little dearer than standard gin, but as a treat it is well worth trying. It comes in lovely wax sealed bottles and you should be able to find it in independent wine merchants across the country. If you come on holiday to Devon or Cornwall, you’ll have no trouble finding it as it is becoming immensely popular in this area. We reckon Tarquin is onto a winner!