Look no further than Devon for some inspiring spirits to keep you in very good cheer, writes Clare Hunt
Over the course of the past few years, spirits – predominantly gin – have seen a massive upsurge in the number of artisan distillers bringing products to a reinvigorated market.
With innovative ideas, enthusiasm and vigour, new distillers are taking on the big boys at their own game. And consumers are keen to experience hand-crafted spirits made via small-batch processes, with a strong nod to heritage and a huge focus on flavour and drinkability.
Already producing some of the world’s best-loved gin, Devon is already established as a distilling heartland. A legacy some new distillers are very keen to take to the next level.
Distilled and blended on the banks of the River Lyn, Wicked Wolf is a premium craft gin from Exmoor and the brainchild of husband-and-wife gin enthusiasts Pat Patel and Julie Heap. A true artisan process, Wicked Wolf is distilled in 25-litre batches and blended, filtered, bottled and labelled by hand.
Combining 11 exotic aromatics, including coriander, hibiscus and kaffir lime as well as juniper, this is a contemporary gin with distinctly Asian inspiration. Pat and Julie’s aim is to deliver a smooth, consistent drink, which they do by distilling each of their botanicals separately in a copper alembic still.
“Our gin makes a wonderful martini,” says Pat, “but if cocktails are not your thing, we recommend Fever Tree tonic. For a shorter drink, just add ice and lime, and for a spicier winter’s drink try Wicked Wolf Gin with a good fiery ginger beer to complement the Asian-inspired botanicals beautifully.”
Now producing five gins (and a recently launched vodka), Wicked Wolf is widely available at pubs and restaurants across Devon, or visit the website for stockists.
Undoubtedly the big daddy of Devon distillers, and with a history closely linked to that of the city itself, Plymouth Gin is one of the UK’s oldest and best-known gin brands. It’s distilled in the same building it always has been, to the original recipe from 1793, using soft Dartmoor water, pure grain alcohol and a Victorian copper still.
Since the 1920s, Plymouth Gin has been acknowledged as the perfect gin for cocktails. Its balance of botanicals – juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica root, cardamom pods and coriander seeds – combines fruity and spicy notes with a smooth, full-bodied taste.
“We see the rise in the popularity of gins over the past couple of years as a positive thing,” says Master Distiller Sean Harrison. “New product launches generate excitement for gin lovers all over the world, which only means consumers gain a deeper understanding of the world of gin.”
“Exceptionally smooth, balanced and very moreish” is how Howard Davies, Founder and Director of Salcombe Gin, describes their product. Part of this smoothness is credited to the soft Dartmoor water that’s used in Salcombe’s distillation and blending process, with a complex concoction of 13 botanicals giving it a distinctive flavour.
Salcombe Gin is soon opening a tasting bar overlooking the sea, as well as a gin school, where enthusiasts can blend botanicals and distil their own bottle.
Salcombe Gin is available at retailers and bars across Devon, including Bowers Wine and Spirits, regional Majestic stores, Salcombe Harbour Hotel and The Pig at Combe.
With a long list of award-winning beers under his belt, John Lawton from Teignworthy Brewery is now developing his first gin at Dartmoor Distillery, based at the Brewery.
John designed his own still earlier this year, and Black Dog Gin is his latest alcoholic adventure. Using 22 botanicals – a mixture of those of standard gin and those hand-picked from Dartmoor – plus the addition of Dartmoor spring water, John describes the flavour as “grassy and herbal. This is a new-style gin – it’s a craft drink produced in small batches from our 250-litre pot.”
This brand new gin is ready to buy now – be among the first to try it! It is being sold at the Brewery’s new micro-pub, and will soon be available in selected pubs locally.