This story starts a long time ago in 1867, when a young man from Auchenblae in Aberdeenshire founded a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was then known. This man was James Taylor – and I think he went on to be very old – writing “Something in the way she moves” some 99 years later! I might be slightly confused with that! James is the ‘Father of Ceylon Tea’. Over a century later, a couple were wanting something a little special for their wedding. Nick and Emma were experimenting with Sloe Gin and a lightbulb moment popped and the genesis of a new gin was formed. To make a premium gin with tea, as one of the botanicals, as a homage to Mr James Taylor.
Now, it is one thing to have a crazy idea, but quite another to bring that idea kicking and screaming into the light. But Nick and Emma were tenacious and with much research, travelling and botanical fun have at long last brought their ‘baby’ to be christened - so, let’s have a taste out of the font and wet the baby’s head!
The baby is called The Teasmith and is dressed in an apothecaric bottle with subtly embossed tea leaves and juniper berries and beautifully designed label. A solid chunky bottle with a wooden topped branded cork - the design is authentic, vintage and reassuring.
For a gin with such an oriental heritage I have the pleasure of tasting it in the exotic purlieu of Aberdeenshire by Tolquhon Castle about 5 miles from Udny, where this gin was conceived. So, with little further ado lets uncork, glug into the glass and taste.
Unlike a lot of the new gins, the Juniper is slightly more forward on the taste, but is grassy and fresh rather than resinous. This is supported by an earthy sweetness from Liquorice and Angelica root This gives a good steady base for supporting a delightful middle section with dried Orange peel, giving a musky citrus sweetness, that rolls into the Coriander seed finesse of orange and spice. Sweetness is also brought into the middle section by Honeyberry – the fruit of the honeysuckle. The spice is then accentuated by peppery Grains of Paradise, but all are deliciously blended and smooth – yet distinct. The balance and staccato is beguiling. It is as though the botanics have been distilled individually and then mixed with a lightness of hand that only an alchemist could achieve. It is no surprise then when we know that Nick and Emma had called in the help of Strathearn Distillery to help achieve this high wire act. It was well worth the effort as it certainly makes The Teasmith stand apart. Our old friend Orris root is working away in the background knitting the botanicals together and maintaining the balance.
Then, there is the Tea botanical. To be exact, its Sri Lankan Golden Tippy Orange Pekoe – which sounds like a song by Black Lace – from a single estate. This is the essence of The Teasmith. The tea is hand-picked, hand rolled and then steeped and distilled by itself to ensure that the extract is captured perfectly. On the taste the tea and the orange notes marry beautifully, but the tea adds a cooling element – like a very muted mint. The overall effect is one of distinct provenance, with each botanical getting a solo spot and then retracting into the blend – like improvised jazz, the theme is explored with solo and ensemble work. This GINovative technique has been achieved by two separate distillations of the same botanicals that gives different nuances, that when mixed gives each botanical at least two distinct notes. It’s a magical mix.
With tonic, The Teasmith has a more piney edge to the juniper and the tea cools more and with an ABV of 43% the gin does not get lost in the mix. It’s a perfect pour with Walter Gregor Tonic or Peter Spanton No. 1 London Tonic.
The delicacy of The Teasmith makes a mixed drink problematic – as you’d lose the essence of the gin. So K.I.S.S. it! (Keep It Simple Stupid) and plump for a Gin Rickey:
50ml of The Teasmith Gin
Pour The Teasmith into a Hiball glass and squeeze in the lime juice. Throw in the lime carcass and then stack with ice, top with soda water and enjoy.
The Teasmith was only launched at the beginning of the year, but I see great things for this most subtle and superior of premier gins. It is an unabashed G&T gin that adds something new via the distillation and botanics and its class bottle and label will make it a must for the drinks cabinet.
It is good to be back home in the NE of Scotland and to be landed with such a great gin that was conceived around 10 miles away! In the words of Mr James Taylor:
“She has the power to go where no one else can find me and to silently remind me Of the happiness and the good times that I know, and then I just got to go then”