Southwestern Distillery Tasting Notes

Southwestern Distillery

It’s great watching a company start out and grow. You feel like you’ve followed them on a journey, gone through hard times with them, but ultimately enjoyed the ending as much as the producers do too. One such brand started as I began to follow them on social media. Always a great tool to utilise to have your brand reach certain clientèle, Southwestern Distillery did just that, and teased the fact that this small Cornish distillery were in the market to bring forth a gin, not one that had a quirky gimmick or uniqueness from the far corners of the globe, but in their words – “using traditional techniques, quality ingredients and old-fashioned equipment”.

Does it work?

Well before we go onto the tasting notes, lets see how Master Distiller Tarquin Leadbetter came into his journey.

Tarquin had an aim. An aim to go to the good old days when gin was made properly. Wanting to make great-tasting spirits with integrity, yet to be hands on in every way possible, Tarquin decided to create the first gin in Cornwall in over a century. Of course, you have to start out small when you’re new, and when Tarquin means small, we’re talking 300 bottles in each batch. Compare that to the thousands of bottles that an established brand could make and it really does put it into perspective. Even the copper pot still is small, and is even fired by flame which really does hark back to the traditional gin producing days of the Victorian era. Also, Tarquin utilises a one-shot distillation method, which means that exactly the right blend of his chosen twelve botanicals is used in every run.

Speaking of the botanicals, a botanical expert going by the name of David, has helped Tarquin with his extensive knowledge of travelling the globe in search of the weird and wonderful. With this, Tarquin has gone for twelve botanicals, including one home-grown ingredient – juniper from Kosovo, coriander seeds from Bulgaria, zests of sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit. Also angelica root from Poland, orris root from Morocco, green cardamom seeds from Guatemala, bitter almond from Morocco, cinnamon from Madagascar, liquorice root from Uzbekistan and Devon violets from their own garden.

Once distilled, the local naturally sweetened Cornish water sourced near to Boscastle on the coast of north Cornwall, is used to blend the spirits down to bottling strength.

But gin isn’t enough. Southwestern Distillery is also the home of something that has never been done before in the UK – pastis.

Cornish Pastis in a modern take on the French anise classic, and uses green aniseed and sweet fennel seeds from Turkey, star anise from China and liquorice root from Uzbekistan, Also, zests of sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit, angelica root from Poland, orris root from Morocco, green cardamom seeds from Guatemala, juniper berries from Kosovo and cinnamon from Madagascar and foraged gorse flowers from the nearby clifftops of Cornwall. Distilled the same way as the gin, but finished off with liquorice root for colour.

So, how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –

Southwestern DistilleryTarquin’s Handcrafted Dry Gin – 42%

Soft citrus on the nose, with orange aromas and the subtle violets coming through. Reminds me of an Aviation cocktail. Sharp on the palate, but soon mellows before bursting with grapefruit, cardamom and angelica. A spice tingle develops, but an incredibly long finish ensues. A very small hint of dryness.

Tarquin’s Handcrafted Cornish Pastis – 42%

Very aromatic, with the aniseed and fennel blending well with the cinnamon and citrus scents. Bursts of fresh cardamom and juniper on the palate, smooths out to a liquorice offering and a soft, sweet finish of fennel. A long finish, with no signs of any dryness, instead, a lingering fresh sweetness.

Two fantastic tipples by themselves, but what about introducing it to one of these?

Quin and Tonic

Glass –


Ingredients – 

25 ml Tarquin’s Gin
1724 Tonic

Method –

Build the tonic over gin in an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

or how about,

Cornish Martini

Glass – 


Ingredients – 

50 ml Tarquin’s Gin,
10 ml Dry Vermouth
Drop of Cornish Pastis

Method – 

Pour all ingredients into an ice filled cocktail glass and stir. Pour through a strainer into a chilled Martini glass. Serve with a lemon twist. 

Some great twists on two classic drinks! Tarquin has done superbly, with care and attention delivered, even down to the bottles that are hand-filled, sealed, labelled and personally signed before shipped to the rest of the UK for your own personal consumption. Look out for these two on bars, it will add something very different to your regular gin favourites.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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