New flavours, a new gin school, a new rum and a new hand sanitiser, world renowned spirit and household name Tarquin’s entered its eighth year with a few unexpected challenges. But from the days when founder and creator, Tarquin Leadbetter, was selling the first 300 bottles from the boot of his car, to becoming the 2nd largest independent distillery in the UK, this past year has allowed Tarquin’s to take stock of all they have achieved and all they have to come in an exciting future.
In the summer of 2013, 25-year-old Tarquin Leadbetter was selling bottles of his newly crafted homemade gin out of the boot of his car. Having graduated with a degree in Economics and Politics in 2009, Tarquin decided a life amongst big investment banks and large corporations wasn’t a life for him. Instead, he longed to return to the West Country, for a life by the sea. Inspired by the craft distilling whisky boom in the United States, and with his grandfather having one been a brewer, Tarquin was eager to undertake a new challenge that would offer creativity and the chance to be his own boss. As a result, Tarquin’s Gin began to take shape.
It was of course, humble beginnings, as Tarquin started out teaching himself to distill gin on a tiny copper pot still on his kitchen cooker at home in 2012. Several hundred batches later and he upscaled to an old cow shed outside of Padstow, with himself, his sister and his parents making up a small team. Today, Tarquin’s is the 2nd largest independent distillery in the UK, listed as the 29th fastest growing company in the Sunday Times Fasttrack 100 in 2019. Now with a team of 40, the leading craft distillery had doubled in size every year for the subsequent five years of its initial start-up, with no outside investment and on a shoestring budget. Very quickly, the Tarquin’s brand had become a prominent name in the UK’s spirit community, recognised by countless awards, including Best Gin in the World for their Sea Dog Navy Strength Gin in 2017.
Entering into 2020, Tarquin’s eighth year making gin, and it was full steam ahead, but lockdown and Covid-19 quickly scuppered the distillery’s initial plans. The closure of the hospitality industry saw over 50% of the business’ outlet supply cease. Overnight, Tarquin’s had to drastically change how it worked,
“It has been a bit of a roller-coaster, as it has been for everyone,” says founder Tarquin Leadbetter, “it’s been challenging for myself personally and for us as a distillery.
“Pre-Covid, a large portion of our business was supplying bars and restaurants, so we’ve had to adapt. But also, at the same time, do what we can to support the world around us and our Tarquin’s community.”
Putting their skills and knowledge to good use during the first lockdown, Tarquin’s swapped the gin for gel as they distributed free bottles of Tarquin’s own hand sanitiser to almost 3,000 retailers across the South West as well as to local NHS, Cornwall and Devon Police and local food banks. When it came to helping their retail outlets, Tarquin’s extended credit terms and scrapped minimum order quantities to allow even the smallest of their customers to bounce back from Covid once allowed.
Ever one to take advantage of silver linings, Tarquin chose to embrace the moment of quiet that lockdown afforded as well as striving to carry on with their exciting projects they had planned for that year, the biggest perhaps being the launch of their brand-new Gin School & Shop in Padstow and their very first rum, Twin Fin.
Opening in July 2020, Tarquin’s Gin School & Shop welcomed over 20,000 visitors over the course of the summer and early autumn. Just a few miles from the distillery HQ, the school offers hands-on experiences, from Tarquin’s Tasters to making your very own custom-made and individually flavoured gin for you to take home, complete with Tarquin’s classic wax label seal.
“We got off to a great start [eventually],” describes Tarquin, “we’ve had some amazing sessions with people creating all types of cool gins and we have a BYOB policy, that’s a Bring Your Own Botanical! From homegrown herbs to foraged fruit to wild coastal flowers, the overall aim was to re-create the time I had when first making gin on my kitchen stove, playing with flavours, enjoying the process and sharing it with friends.”
Next, came Tarquin’s first launch into the world of rum with the arrival of Twin Fin, a golden spiced rum infused with a secret recipe including orange and vanilla, designed to blend together the very best of Cornwall and the Caribbean. Rich, smooth and swimming with aromatic spice notes followed by a smoky finish, this bold flavoured rum has been met with rave reviews and has quickly become a firm favourite amongst eager rum enthusiasts,
“I’ve always loved rum and have wanted to make one for a long time,” Tarquin explains, “it was simply a question of finding the right ingredients and using my experience making gin in a creative way to try something new. I’m really happy with how well it has been received and we’re currently looking into a couple of new, unique Twin Fin expressions for release before the summer, so watch this space!”
From his downtime over 2020, Tarquin and his team also crafted together two more exciting releases in the gin world with Tarquin’s Cornish Sunshine Blood Orange Gin and the most recent Tarquin’s Hibiscus and Lemon Gin hitting the online shop and outlets in a splash of vibrancy. In Tarquin’s own words, his latest Hibiscus and Lemon Gin is a celebration of the return of English Spring, where Cornwall’s wildflowers take centre stage, and the buzz of excitement hangs in the atmosphere as the county begins to waken up from its winter sleep,
“Lockdown actually gave me the time to get back to our roots as a progressive distillery looking to innovate, experiment and take risks. Freeing up the time to distil new gins,” he says. “We’ve launched a series of ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ online to share our ultra-small-batch special gin releases…and to bring a little bit of Cornish sunshine to people across the globe.”
Like so many, the challenges of Covid-19 have undoubtedly thrown many unexpected hurdles down Tarquin’s way, but they are challenges that have been met with determination and positivity from this resourceful craft distillery, which Tarquin still finds himself surprised by since his first days experimenting. Behind the business’ strong ethos of creativity and love for the local, natural environment, comes an undeniable love for the local community, which when looking back, Tarquin has always felt supported by,
“Gin is a pure expression of flavour and the creativity to craft something entirely unique is what I love! But even better than that, it’s being able to share it with friends.”
“If I could say anything to my young self, it would be to stick to my guns and trust in the products and the local Cornish community. I was incredibly proud of what I created in 2013 and it was fantastic that everyone else thought so too…We wouldn’t be where we are today with the support of local bars, restaurants and shops.”
With a taste of the future on their tongues, Tarquin, his dedicated team and the distillery’s four uniquely tuned copper pots are ready and raring to continue taking on each new challenge in their stride and to continue delivering outstandingly delicious gin, and rum, to the people of Cornwall.
Check out all the latest releases and special editions at Tarquin’s online store at www.tarquinsgin.com