When four young friends fresh from a couple of years international travelling as digital nomads settled down in a small town in the south of England they found the UK in the midst of a gin frenzy, with hundreds of new varieties on offer. From hand bottled, small batch offerings such as the citrusy Sacred gin and the exotic Hougari which uses frankinsense as a botanical, to the best selling Monkey 47, an influential distillation from Germany’s Black Forest which uses 47 botanicals, the entrepreneurial friends set about creating their own brand. Inspired by the country’s enthusiasm for new flavours, particularly with a local story, they began planning their own distillation.
Time spent in Spain where gin has long been a favourite drink fed into the friends ideas and inspiration, as they found people in the UK no longer left the choice of gin to the barman but were seeking out particular brands and increasingly upmarket tonics such as Fever Tree and Double Dutch.
Despite so much competition Ben and Katie Larcombe, and Sam and Emma Priestley felt there was room in the market for their take on a London Dry gin with a brand tied to their adopted home town, Royal Tunbridge Wells. Launched in June, 2018 the Earl Grey and Cucumber gin, says Emma, is an “elegant, flavoursome gin that combines two eponymous botanicals – not a common pairing”. The combination gives a nod to a great British tradition, that of afternoon tea, which in this case uses the citrusy fragrance of bergamot distinct to Earl Grey and the cool, refreshing crunchiness of cucumber”.
Personally, I find the cucumber is the dominate taste but friends who’ve enjoyed a glass or two find that it’s the floral, citrussy bergamot bouquet fills the mouth while others find the pairing of the two produces no obvious dominant flavour, although the fresh, zingy cucumber does gently linger on the tongue. Hints of the herbal juniper and a key botantial angelica are followed by subtle notes of fresh cucumber.
I first tasted the Pipehouse at a gin festival held in the iconic Pantiles area of Tunbridge Wells and was intrigued by the flavour combination and the story behind its creation. Many of the popular gins coming to the market today are flavoured so, indeed before the team had settled on a name (Wheelbarrow Gin was also in the running!), the upmarket sounding ‘Earl Grey and Cucumber’ pairing came out as the favourite during marathon tasting sessions, says Emma.
The gin is named after the long shut Pipe House which helped bring the spring waters to Pantiles which gave the town its reputation as a spa destination and ultimately being proscribed as a ‘Royal’ town, its rusty tasting waters reputed to be a hangover cure to eighteenth century party goers, gamblers and rakes.
Pipehouse is likely to bring out more flavours, perhaps something warmer, spicier to complement the summery Earl Grey and Cucumber gin and one we can look forward to tasting as the four friends draw flavour inspiration from their travels, capturing the exotic in a bottle of Pipehouse.
A launch party in early June saw the gin served in three specially designed cocktails including a Pipehouse Martini (50ml Pipehouse gin, a dash of gomme and 15ml of lime juice. Mix in cocktails shaker, strain, pour into chilled maritini (wide brimmed) glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber and pinch of black pepper).
The Pipehouse Summer Cup involved muddling raspberries and cucumber slicles into a cocktail shaker, add 50ml gin, 25ml Pimms, 25 ml of lemon juice. Shake and strain over ice in a large glass before topping with lemonade and garnishing with raspberries, cucumber and mint.
The third cocktail on offer was a Pipehouse Gin & Tonic, the classic pairing (fill a copa glass with ice before pouring over 50ml of gin, and tonic to taste. Garnish with a ribbon of cucumber).
Get your bottle of Pipehouse Gin here.