‘Ice and a slice’ is now an extinct phrase in the gin world. Your favourite gin now comes with a range of tonics, a concoction of pink peppercorns, grapefruit slices and rose petals; all served in a fish bowl sized glass. But your standard Gordon’s just won’t do anymore. People want more from their gin, whether it’s the wacky flavours or the personal touch, and it seems Cornish gin encapsulates the latter to a T.
As I walked into Dolly’s Gin Palace in Falmouth, I was welcomed with a beautiful, glass goblet full of gin and tonic with a garnish of orange peel. Over 200 gins stood before me, amongst the 1920’s inspired décor. I was attending the launch of Holly’s Gin, the latest edition to the long list of independent Cornish gins. The candle lit room was full of gin enthusiasts all sipping on their tipples to the tune of an accordion – it was all very theatrical.
I sat down with Holly herself to find out why Cornish gin has soared in the past few years: “I think that it’s because gin can be made in such small quantities and it’s very artisan and sort of hand crafted,”
“Cornwall is almost like a brand in itself,” she told me.
And it’s true. Cornish gin distilleries are popping up all over the county, all offering their craft gins. Perhaps inspired by the front runner, Tarquin Leadbetter, who went from being stuck in his London office to winning ‘World’s Best Gin’ at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
But if the charm is the authenticity and originality of small batch gin creation, how does a thriving brand like Tarquin’s stick to that ethos? Tarquin’s Senior Brand Manager, Tom Perkins, told me: “Irrespective of how much we grow (and we’ve been incredibly fortunate for such overwhelming public support in helping us do so), we’ll always remain true to the original set of brand principles and the company ethos we developed when we first set up five years ago. The ability to scale responsibility and within our own means is the real challenge, but one we are relishing.”
A G&T was once considered a high end, celebratory drink, but now youngsters can be seen down at their local pub enjoying the county’s gin offering and that has meant landlords have had to stock up on everything from the traditional gins, to the likes of Turkish Delight gin; which according to Michael Oliver, owner of the Seaview Inn in Falmouth, “is just nasty!”
“We just sell a lot more of it, it’s on trend. We’ve sort of woken up to gin again. We used to just have Gordons and Bombay, and now we’ve got 60 something bottles,” he explained as he lined up his Cornish gin collection across the bar.
The attraction is, given the boom in the variations, there is something for everyone. You can’t escape gin, you just end up loving it. At her launch, Holly spoke to me about how she started out disliking it, “There’s always a gin out there for someone, it’s definitely something you can learn to like. That’s the greatest thing about the fact there’s so many out there now.”
That being said, it’ll take some more convincing than others to convert from their trusty pint. “Never!”, a punter added in whilst I was chatting with Michael about whether local pubs will ever sell more gin than pints.
The popularity of gin has not only rocketed in Cornwall, but all over the country. From gin advent calendars to gin subscription boxes, I think everybody will have something gin inspired under the Christmas tree this year. The novelty gins are particularly fascinating, with colour changing gin and ‘collagin’ (gin with added collagen which supposedly makes you look younger!) being two that are sure to sell out.
It has gone further than just being a drink though. Gin drinking is now an immersive, interactive experience. Many distilleries in Cornwall offer tours to see how your favourite spirit is made, there are tasting events, ‘G & afternoon tea’ options and all of the Wetherspoons chains in the region even hosted a 10-day gin ‘Southwest Gin Festival’.
As with everything, there is the possibility that Cornish gin will come and go. So where does a brand like Tarquin’s go next to ensure this craze isn’t just a passing phase? “Gin is here to stay; however, the category will see some significant changes and challenges in the years to come. Being at the forefront of those new trends and continuing to produce spirits with creativity and the highest standards of quality will be crucial,”
“In terms of new product development – very early stages, but we’re constantly floating ideas and getting the creative energy flowing; potentially watch this space.”
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