Friday, 21 March 2014

Cornish Pastis and Tarquin's Gin

So the charming people at Southwestern Distillery decided to send me a half bottle of their gin and their Cornish Pastis.  Now I have always found it strange trying to impartially judge a spirit’s merits based on a nip in my lounge.  So, David Attenborough style, I decided I would study these products in their natural environment.

Joining me in this little study at the excellent Epernay Manchester are friends and venue managers Barry Van Goethem & Marc Farrell and queen of the northern cocktail scene (and Barry’s much better half) Susie Wong. 

As first impressions go, the branding gets an all-round seal of approval.  Classic and clear, it sets the tone well.  The only point that raised a few eyebrows is the waxed dipped bottle necks, perhaps a little unnecessary, although I imagine the effect to be much better on the full size 70cl bottle.

We decided to start with the Cornish Pastis.  Wonderfully named, but the charming pun aside, a really nice way to subtly introduce the idea of locality, a very strong trend in modern British cuisine.  As Marc put it;

MF - “Straight away I'm thinking of childhood trips to St Ives and aniseed penny sweets.  There’s a slight sea saltiness and strong floral finish, possibly the locally sourced violets?”

Susie was equally impressed.

SW – “Slight hint of saparilla sweetness, long anise on the finish but sweet and delicate, not too dry.”

We diluted the pastis with chilled water, in the traditional manner, and found it opened up wonderfully.  Complex layers of anise coloured with orange and citrus with a really nice floral finish.  Personally I could have drunk it all day in this way, maybe complemented with some apple or cucumber as a garnish, though it really had so much flavour going on this was hardly necessary.

On to the gin.  Claiming to use ten ‘traditional botanicals’ plus orange zest and Devon violets this really is a small craft product.  Using a flame fired still, and producing only 600 bottles in a batch, this is pretty much home distilling quantities.  The violet comes through strongly on the nose as does the orange peel, both lovely.  On the palate it's soft, sweet and delicate, perhaps more akin to Plymouth though than the claimed London Dry Style.  Not by any means a bad thing, though with its ABV of 42% and hints of spice on the nose, maybe I expected a little bit more body. 

MF – “The flavour and balance are excellent but it is very sweet and soft for a London dry style.  It lacks a bit of punch and being juniper light I wonder how it would stand up in the more spirit heavy classics.”
Happily the guys decided it was time to get behind the bar.  Susie dived straight off with the pastis and came up with this lovely number;

  • 50ml Cornish Pastis
  • 15ml White Crème de cacao
  • 15ml Passionfruit Syrup
  • 20ml Lemon Juice
  • 1 egg white

Shaken hard and fine strained into a chilled cocktail glass.  The crème de cacao is a stroke of genius, the soft creamy flavours helping to mellow the tangy passion fruit and allowing the softer aromas of the pastis to shine.

Marc then used the gin to make a play between two classics, the Clover Club and the Maiden’s Blush:

  • 35ml Tarquin's Gin
  • 15ml Pastis
  • 4 raspberries
  • 15ml simple sugar syrup
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 1 egg white

As mentioned the real strength of this gin is in the mixing and this lovely hybrid that also incorporates the pastis is refreshing and beautifully delicate.

As a modern gin it falls nicely into the trend of local botanicals and gorgeous branding, although we think it might be too soft as a stand alone gin for some tastes.  While great for mixing or with tonic, it is possibly not quite ballsy enough to stand up in a martini.

And the pastis - well, the pastis blew us all away!

BVG – “The sweet finish and balance is exceptional, as good as any pastis I have tried.  When opened up it keeps giving and giving layers of flavour without any bitterness on the finish.  Truly superb.”

If you want to grab a bottle yourself Master of Malt sell the Tarquin's Gin for £35.50 and the Pastis for a very reasonable £34.95 

Any thoughts or to follow any of the guys get in touch @tomhigham2402, @susiewong8, @dutchbaz, @MarcFarrell 

No comments:

Post a Comment