What did you do before creating your distillery?
Initially, I served in the RAF Regiment, an elite fighting unit within the Royal Air Force. This was an amazing life of adventure and hardship, doing something that really mattered, with some great people. Mid-career, I transitioned into the financial world, and set-up a business raising capital to help grow private businesses. This was fine for a few years, but I wanted to do something more creative, and develop a business of my own.
What made you decide to create your distillery, and what's the inspiration behind Dartmouth English Gin?
I have always loved gin. We planted vineyards and orchards on our small farm near Dartmouth, a few years ago, and have always intended to make spirits from the fruit that we grow. Gin is the foundation for this, and we have made a contemporary juniper-led classic gin, Dartmouth English Gin, as a first step. The name is a tribute to our family’s Dartmouth maritime heritage.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and distillation?
The heart of the distillery is our amazing Müller still, made in Germany by 4th generation still makers, to a unique specification that we decided upon with Sebastian Müller, their master distiller, who later was to teach me how to distil well. It is a beautiful blend of German traditional craft and modern engineering. The still is in the winery at the moment, and we are in the process of moving it into its own purpose-built distillery, as the focal point of our visitor centre.
Dartmouth English Gin is made with a range of botanicals to produce full-flavoured gin – flavour groups include citrus, spice, floral and sweetness from liquorice. The still includes a vapour infusion chamber where the delicate botanicals can give up their flavours in a more gentle process.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
We will be offering gin schools from this summer onwards, where up to 10 guests can make gin using their own 1 litre Ambic still with help and guidance from us, right next to our own still. We will also run cocktail master classes to introduce the magical world of cocktails that can be made at home. Guests will also have opportunities to visit the vineyards and winery.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The first challenge was to develop a gin that people love. Key objectives were to make a gin that is smooth enough to be enjoyed on its own and has a complex range of flavours that would delight. This took some time – while waiting for the Müller Still to be built, we used a vacuum still that enabled to distil at low temperature and in very small batches. This us helped to decide on the botanical mix but it wasn’t until the Müller Still arrived that we could develop a method that would produce exactly what we wanted consistently.
To be honest, the breakthrough came when I completely misunderstood Sebastian Müller’s telephoned instructions in German, and did the opposite to what he suggested!
Our first major achievement was to win the Craft Distillers Classic Gin of the Year 2019 award within weeks of launching our first product. This endorsement has helped us enormously. Happily, people really do love Dartmouth English Gin and its popularity continues to grow.
How would you describe Dartmouth English Gin in 3 words?
Ultra-smooth - Complex – Delightful!
What's your favourite way to drink Dartmouth English Gin?
Dartmouth English Gin makes terrific G & T with virtually any tonic and citrus fruits. It also makes outstanding Dry Martini because of the gin’s smoothness.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)
I still like Lone Wolf, so clearly, I do favour juniper-led gin. Haymans Old Tom is lovely too.
What's next for Dartmouth English Gin - any exciting plans?
We have an exciting year ahead developing a Navy Strength gin and an Old Tom gin. In autumn we will be making our first fruit gins from the Damsons, Mirabelles and Blackcurrants grown on our farm. To prosper, we must reach out further into the markets too, so we are working hard to find new distributors both online and through retail outlets.
The Gin Guide's profile, tasting notes and review of Dartmouth English Gin.