Salcombe Gin Fever on Island Street!

Posted by thewinkingprawn on August 11, 2016

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Its arrival has been eagerly anticipated for months, but now the time has come for Salcombe Gin®  to take its place on Island Street where it’s available at the Bar and Grill as well The Winking Prawn and The Cracking Crab in Polzeath.  So we got the inside scoop on what it’s all about from co-founder Angus Lugsdin…


What gave you the idea for Salcombe Gin?


A love of gin and a love of Salcombe – what better combination could you have?  I have always been interested in distillation as a process and the idea of producing a hand crafted product using traditional techniques that can compete successfully compete against the big brands. .  So I wanted to produce a beautiful product with an attention to detail that’s second to none, using traditional techniques without any compromises.  Our gin is distilled according to the London Dry Standard, on hand beaten copper stills using the time honoured, traditional one shot method. It is the least efficient way to make it, but with the best results, and we never compromise on quality.  So for each batch we charge the stills (two 60 litre stills called Hoshi and Provident, which were two fantastic sailing yachts once owned by the Island Cruising Club in Salcombe), with English wheat spirit, which is essentially a high strength vodka, and then we then add our secret blend of botanicals, measured out to 0.01 of a gram.  Then we add Dartmoor water, which is amazingly soft, and we seal the still.  Both stills are flame fired and we  judge everything by sight, smell,  taste temperature, alcohol level and flow rate, constantly tweaking the flame and testing the spirit to ensure we produce an amazing gin. The cut points, as they are known, are perfectly judged and we have been able to achieve amazing consistency from one batch to the next. 


Why gin instead of any other spirit?


 There are two reasons.  Firstly, it’s a fantastic spirit – we want to highlight that, and although there’s a resurgence at the moment, it’s nothing like as popular as it was a couple of hundred years ago.  Secondly, it’s an interesting spirit.  Vodka is supposed to be flavour neutral, but with gin, as long as juniper is the main flavour (otherwise it’s not technically gin), then the world’s your oyster.  So we use 13 botanicals including three fresh citrus peels (un-waxed and organic) which are traceable to the same trading routes as those once served by the famous Salcombe fruiters in the 19th century.  Our other botanicals include Macedonian juniper, English coriander seed from Sussex and a whole raft of other ingredients, all of which are hand sourced from around the world.


How did you come up with your secret recipe?


We looked at the gins we liked and then started to investigate why we liked them – principally the flavours and the smoothness - and we found out roughly which botanicals were in them.  Then we set about creating our own version, which took about 18 months, including many long nights and early mornings tasting gin!  We blind tested gin neat and worked out the flavours we wanted.  We wanted a gin with lots of layers – one that’s complex and smooth enough to drink neat – that’s always the sign of a good gin. Balance is the key, too many gins nowadays seem to use weird and wacky ingredients for the sake of being different.  We wanted to let the liquid do the talking. Nothing strange, nothing fancy, just a citrus led dry gin done really well.


Why make it in Salcombe?


I have been coming to Salcombe since I was about one, and I met Howard, my business partner, when we were teaching sailing at the ICC in our late teens, where evenings were spent drinking gin and tonic at Salcombe Yacht Club.  Howard and I have both had a strong connection with Salcombe ever since and independently chose to move back to this beautiful part of the world in 2010. When we met up, after not having seen each other for years, over a drink in the pub, we came to the conclusion that what Salcombe needed was a really good gin!


What makes it better than any other gin?


Gin is very subjective, but what we’ve managed to produce has far exceeded our expectations. It is too easy to be big, bold and brash with flavours, letting one flavour dominate all the others. We wanted to create a balanced and nuanced gin that was smooth and approachable enough to drink neat but that could also pair well with a premium tonic water.  After all, that is how more than 90% of gin is drunk. We decided to use fresh citrus as opposed to the dried peel used by most mass produced gins, to ensure we got the best possible fresh citrus flavours. The other botanicals are designed to work in harmony with one another; liquorice adds a touch of sweetness, angelica root adds a wonderful earthiness, chamomile flowers and bay leaves add a floral note, cinnamon and cubeb berries add spice and warmth, and green cardamom seeds help to lengthen the finish.  

The gin is really smooth, in part due to the amount of contact the spirit has with the copper stills, which remove any impurities in the spirit.  It’s also as a result of the Dartmoor sourced water that we are so lucky to have access to in this part of Devon. It is amazingly soft; perfect for distillation. As my wife says, it is dangerously refreshing. It is 44% ABV, but very soft without any of the noticeable harsh alcohol aromas you get with lower quality, mass produced gins. 


What’s your favourite way to drink gin?


I love trying out new gin cocktails, but I must admit I drink it most often with tonic. It works really well wiith Fevertree as a classic gin and tonic.  I love it without any garnish, but I also like adding a splash of colour, like a slice of ruby grapefruit, using three parts tonic to one part gin – it’s what I call the ultimate Salcombe Gin Fever.  It also makes a stunning dry martini with just a twist of ruby grapefruit peel on the rim of the glass.  As a summery alternative, it also works well with elderflower tonic water.


Are you more an Island Street Bar & Grill, Sailor V, Winking Prawn or Cracking Crab kinda person?


The Cracking Crab is a bit too far for me for a regular visit, so it’s a real treat to go there.  I do like having a coffee at Sailor V, but I also like the Island Street Bar & Grill in the evening, particularly when they have live music on.


What do you get up to in Salcombe when you’re not making gin?


I love going out fishing over the bar whenever I can.  It’s fantastic fishing ground for cod, pollock, mackerel or bass – not that I often catch bass!  I also like to get out walking along the South West Coast Path with Tilly, our distillery dog, and of course going to the beaches or to Bantham and drifting down the Avon on the paddle boards.