Tea, glorious tea. Once the fuel to a thousand ships, it remains the perfect accompaniment to a catch-up with friends and now, inspired by an ambitious tea merchant from Aberdeen, a unique addition to everyone’s favourite tipple. We’re as Mad as a Hatter at a tea-party in Wonderland to bring you this one.
Teasmith Gin are an Aberdeen based distiller with big ambition. They wanted to create something that is not only unique to their area but something that is unique to the gin world entirely. Ginpassioned husband and wife founders Nick and Emma Smalley bring together a love of all things gin with their home area of Aberdeenshire and, in doing so, create something truly unique. And it all began 150 years ago.
“Originally, we were looking for something growing or produced locally,” explains Nick. “Nothing emerged that seemed suitable and so we started looking into the history of the local area. We found stories of Aberdeen harbour’s past as a busy shipbuilding port – building notable teaclippers that helped establish trade links with the Far East.
“The key story for us was of James Taylor who came from a small village called Auchenblae in Aberdeenshire. He travelled to Sri Lanka (British Ceylon) over 150 years ago which at the time was a coffee growing island. Taylor cleared a 19-acre plantation and created the first commercial tea plantation on the island. It was so successful that the island soon switched from coffee to tea growing and to this day, Taylor is revered as the “Father of Ceylon Tea”.
Teasmith worked closely with a tea consultant to source a tea which specifically worked well with their already growing list of botanicals. After much deliberation, and one suspects many cups of beautiful Sri Lankan tea, they selected a black Ceylon tea. Hand-picked, handrolled and very much similar to the way Taylor would’ve made his initial batches 150 years ago, the tea acts as a toast to the ginspiration behind this palmwarming tale.
The tea is distilled by itself in copper alembic stills, with a selection of more classic gin botanicals distilled separately. These include juniper, coriander seed, dried orange peel, rose petals, angelica root and orris root. The botanicals are vapour infused whilst the tea is macerated in alcohol, before the two distillates are brought together and allowed to rest for a few days prior to bottling.
The result is a distinctly unique, floral gin with strong citrus flavours and a decidedly blood orange taste with elements of mint.
It has a clean, crisp, classic gin flavour, but with a warming sweetness coming from the tea. Wonderfully drinkable and smooth, it can be enjoyed neat or over ice and, if that’s not to your taste, served with a premium tonic, a good whack of ice and a sprig of fresh mint.
It is as creative a gin as you will find and, with attention to the tiny details combining with the Smalley’s love of the spirit, they’ve created an exciting product that we’re sure Taylor himself would’ve been proud of.
Taylor too would be proud of Teasmith’s relationship with the culture of gin in his home county. When Teasmith started out, there were no other gin brands locally. At the time of writing, there’s now seven. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Aberdeen but there’s a vibrant gin culture emerging in Scotland’s North East that’s resulting in the emergence of some of the most exciting brands on the market, with Teasmith leading by example. Far from being something to get competitive about, this emerging gin culture has Teasmith more excited than anything else.
“[The gin culture in Aberdeen is] Bustling, like everywhere else around Scotland and the UK seemingly,” said Nick. “We have seen a series of events taking place locally including the oriGIN festival, Spirit of North Hop and Aberdeen Gin Fest. All of these events have been incredibly busy with a steady flow of discerning gin drinkers looking to try the variety of products on offer. The bar scene is looking to support local. In addition, the local delis, farm shops and specialist spirit shops are seeing a surge in interest in the Aberdeenshire brands which is great for both us and them.”
In the world of gin there’s a deep respect that everyone shares the same, experimental customer base. It’s exciting for the consumer as it means there’s plenty more gins for us to try but also for the distillers as such an open culture leads to the sharing of pioneering new techniques and ideas. That culture of experimentation isn’t lost on Teasmith.
The Teasmith Original is Teasmith’s flagship gin but,with an endless world of botanicals, gins and, of course, teas out there, this ambitious distillery have got plans for many special editions, flavours, and, interestingly, spirits
“As our name suggests, we are the Teasmith Spirit company so we’ve not pigeon-holed ourselves entirely into one sector,” said Nick. “We have already begun experimenting in a variety of areas and this will give us the flexibility to enter different product lines if we feel it is appropriate. At the moment, though, the demand for gin is still so strong and growing fast so we continue to look forward with working with this spirit just now.”
The focus now for Teasmith Gin is to continue to grow the brand around Scotland and the rest of the UK, telling the story of James Taylor and his pioneering tea plantations alongside this pioneering gin. There’s big plans to break into the international export market too, with Teasmith Gin already travelling as far as the US, South Africa and Australia. It shouldn’t be especially hard either, given this fledgling distillery was shortlisted for three categories in the Scottish Gin Awards 2017 (Excellence in Branding, Excellence in Marketing and Distilled Gin of the Year).
It’s crisp, clear and one of the most drinkable and unique gins we’ve sampled in a while, so phone up some friends, gather them round, and serve them what might just be the best cup of tea they’ve had in a long, long time. We promise this gin will make any tea-party more exciting.