Southwestern Distillery – Master’s Distillery Visit

Off a small lane that meanders through the stunning Cornish landscape which rolls between Wadebridge and Padstow lies a huddle of farm buildings that is home of Southwest Distillery and Tarquin’s Gin, one of the great gin success stories of recent years.

Alison and I were joined by Liveryman Chris Nadin, Chairman of our Distiller’s South West Region group, which represents and runs events for Liverymen and Distillers located in South West England.
Chris kindly agreed to head up a committee of South-West based Liveryman to focus on the region with a view to running future gatherings, tastings and events for those based in south-west England.

Here, he explains plans for 2023 for the South West Group – What better place to meet than the Southwestern Distillery!

We were warmly welcomed by Tarquin, who had kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to be there to greet us and his colleague and Customer Experience Manager, Sophie Chamberlain.

L–R: Chris Nadin (Chair, Distillers South West Region), The Master, Tarquin Leadbetter (Owner & Founder), Sophie Chamberlain (Head of Customer Experience)

The story of how Tarquin started Tarquin’s gin is one of one man’s desire to bring his vision of establishing the first Cornish distillery for over 100 years to life. Armed with only a 0.7 ltr copper pot still, a suitcase stuffed with botanicals weird and wonderful, and a prized surfboard, Tarquin starts with a completely blank canvas. Self-taught throughout, starting his “experiments” in 2012, making individual distillates of any and every botanical he can find.

The first batch is distilled then filled, labelled, waxed, stamped and signed all by hand – a process that remains the same to this day. On 30th July 2013, the first bottle is sold to the Gurnard Head Hotel in St. Ives, Cornwall – Southwestern Distillery is now officially trading.

Awards for his gins swiftly follow. A gold medal for the Cornish Pastis from the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Awards and a Gold medal for his gin from the 2014 IWSC awards.

More gold and double Gold medals followed for these two original labels and meantime the Southwestern Distillery continues to grow. Two more copper pot stills are added to keep up with the growing demand.

In 2017, the third addition to the range, Tarquin’s “The SeaDog’ Navy Strength Gin, is crowned “World’s Best Gin” at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition from a contesting using age pool of over 260 individual gins. An amazing achievement for a self-taught distiller, using old techniques in a converted cow shed perched on a windswept hilltop overlooking the wild Cornish Coast.

A fourth 500 litre copper still is added, bringing yet more opportunities and scope for continued growth. This one-of-a-kind modern still now stands side by side with the three original pot stills.

Whilst creating a fusion of the old and the new, Tarquin is determined to keep to his traditional roots, whilst embracing a progressive approach to his product and business plans for the future.

This modest and unassuming man has made a remarkable contribution and not just put Cornwall on the gin map, but has created a brand look and tastes of his own, maintaining his passion for authenticity and integrity throughout.

We were delighted to see that passion for ourselves during our visit and, of course, sample the fabulous range of products which have been created and welcomed around the world in just 10 years

Our sincere thanks go to Tarquin, Sophie and all the team at Tarquin’s for a fascinating morning, generosity of their time and in particular for their parting gifts.

The Master getting to grips with wax sealing of the bottles