What did you do before creating Thunderflower Gin?
For the last 10 years myself and my wife Anicca have been actively running our cookery school and chefs academy business located in the heart of Devon, and we are surrounded by chefs, ingredients and flavours. Prior to that I was a designer and marketer, so all of our branding and design is done in house. Anicca handles all the sales and marketing.
What made you decide to create Thunderflower Gin?
A few years ago we ran some mixology classes at the cookery school and I started looking into the possibility of a setting up a gin course - with the mini copper alembics. I learned how to distill and to make a gin properly and started using a 25L pot still and fell in love with the process. At that scale every minor tweak and change to your process has an amplified impact on the final spirit so I like the precision of making but also the creative aspects of recipes, and branding.
We never set out to launch a gin brand so for a year I was perfecting distillation and recipe development for ourselves to enjoy. Early this year we went to a Gin Festival and sampled a decent selection of 'craft' gins, that we returned home and felt that our gin was at least as good. Not surprising really as it was developed for our palates.
It was at that point that we decided to bring it to market and see if anyone else agreed - and Thunderflower Gin was born.
Almost immediately we started getting positive feedback and picked up some awards along the way, which has given us confidence to scale up.
What are the distillery and distillation process like?
We call ourselves a nano-distillery - which is a factor below a micro-distillery. But that is entirely by design. Gin making is an enjoyable, almost zen like practice at this level and we're not looking to get industrial any time soon. We converted a floor of our property into a distillery and run a 200L pot still with carter head botanicals basket. We have space to expand to 600L based on demand.
Thunderflower Gin is a London Dry Gin and our process is a 'one-shot' run where all of the flavour comes from vapour infusting the botanicals in one pass, so what you get in the bottle is the best cut from the run with the only addition being spring water to dilute the spirit to a drinkable 42% abv. There is no other blending, alterations or additions made. The spirit is left to 'relax' for at least a week before being filtered and bottled by hand. This for us is the purest process and gives the best results at small scale. The skill comes in replicating it time and again so each run is of the same taste and quality.
What botanicals go into Thunderflower Gin?
Our botanicals recipe draws from spice, earth and floral notes to create a complex flavour. Its juniper-led of course with a solid coriander seed base but floating above this you will get a hit of green cardamom, pink peppercorn and our favourite, black cardamom which is dried over a wood fire and has a real smokey quality to it that will occasionally hit the nose and remind you of camp fires. You'll also pick up some muted sweetness from cassia bark. On the earth side there is a touch of liquorice and angelica root, and a remote floral note from elderflower and heather. It's been described as 'Feisty Spicy' which we like.
What have been your biggest challenges and achievements so far?
There was a fair learning curve over the last couple of years and I suspect our biggest challenges are still to come. Our biggest achievement so far was once we decided to launch the gin brand, we managed to pull everything together (bottles, labels, design, stockists) etc in 6 weeks to be able to enter the big regional competition, Taste of the West. When we beat 25 regional gins to be named a Gold Award Champion Finalist that was the confirmation that we needed to develop further.
How would you describe your Thunderflower Gin in 3 words?
Spicy, complex, true-craft
What's your favourite way to drink Thunderflower Gin?
At the end of work, a well-made G&T with a rocks glass full of ice, a generous shot of Thunderflower Gin, a half slice of lemon, and a premium tonic water that has a little sweetness to it, but not full of competing botanical flavours is ideal. At the end of a night, Thunderflower Gin on the rocks is a great sipping drink.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
There are some incredibly exciting South West gin brands right now, so we are working our way through these. Tarquin's Cornish Dry is a must, Newton House London Dry, Salcombe Gin are doing some amazing things, Plymouth Gin of course, and a whole batch of local craft gins from across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset that we've yet to try.
What's next for Thunderflower Gin - any exciting plans?
It's early stage for us, but we have recently scaled up to a small-commercial level but really we have no idea what the future will bring for Thunderflower Gin. We'd love to be trying our hand at rum in the future, but for that "we're gonna need a bigger boat"!
The Gin Guide's Tasting Notes and Thunderflower Gin Review