The Southwestern Distillery, founded by Tarquin Leadbetter in 2013, has placed the village of St. Ervan in Cornwall firmly on the map with its award winning and utterly brilliant Tarquin’s Cornish Dry Gin.
After his university degree and a brief career in city finance, Tarquin decided to pursue his interest in food and drink after enrolling himself in a cordon bleu cookery course. While working as a bartender he hit upon the idea of making his very own craft gin. He began distilling different botanicals, including the exotic and unusual pink peppercorns and cacao, experimenting with different flavour combinations.
18 months and over 100 trial batches later, Tarquin’s Cornish Dry Gin was born. His recipe uses twelve botanicals – a mixture of traditional and modern, which fits his style of gin making. The first gin to be distilled in Cornwall in over a century, Tarquin’s Gin is an outstanding example of traditional artisan distilling methods combined with a modern approach.
For the citrus flavours he uses fresh oranges, lemons and grapefruits, complemented by Bulgarian coriander seeds which have a distinctive lemon sherbet tang. He sources botanicals from far and wide including orris root from Morocco, green cardamom seeds from Guatemala, cinnamon from Madagascar and liquorice root from Uzbekistan. One particular ingredient is cultivated a little closer to home – Devon violets grown in Tarquin’s back garden!
The twelve botanicals are sorted by hand and steeped overnight in wheat spirit before gently warming to distillation temperature in the morning. The distillation is a one shot process, taking 8 hours and yielding a batch of only 300 bottles. Tarquin’s copper pot stills, named Tamara and Senara, are fired by flame, which Tarquin credits with producing extra complexity in the spirit.
The heart of the distillate is blended down to a bottling strength of 42% using locally sourced naturally sweet spring water from near Boscastle on the northern Cornish coast. After resting for several days to allow the spirit to settle, each bottle is hand filled and tasted to ensure it’s up to Tarquin’s uncompromising standards (with all that gin to taste, quite how anyone gets any work done in St Ervan, we don’t know!).
Following the success of Tarquin’s Cornish Dry Gin, Tarquin has been busy experimenting and has created the UK’s first ever pastis, the superbly named Cornish Pastis, distilled with a selection of exotic herbs and spices including foraged gorse flowers and Chinese star anise. He has also created a number of limited edition gins, using a wide range of botanicals including honeysuckle, rosemary, lavender and blood orange. In 2016, Tarquin added another permanent gin to the line-up with the launch of the Sea Dog, a brilliant navy strength version of his modern classic gin, bottled at 57% ABV.
The Southwestern Distillery is without doubt one of the finest artisan distilleries in the UK and Tarquin’s gins are an essential part of any gin enthusiast’s collection.