When I first came across Turncoat Gin, and met its founder – Terry Langton – at the small and intimate Catford Gin Festival earlier this year, I was intrigued. At first its seemingly simple bottle didn’t particularly leap out at me, but it did grab the attention of my somewhat geeky husband. And the more I chatted to Terry, learnt about, and tasted, Turncoat Gin, the more it grabbed me too. From the backstory, to the brand, to the bottle, this gin is different.
Turncoat Gin is so named because of Terry’s shifting allegiances from brewing to distilling. He started out as one of the first true craft brewers, founding Liverpool Craft Beer Co. in his kitchen in 2010. Eventually he sold it to a larger corporate brand in 2016 and it was in 2017, having encountered Lone Wolf‘s incredible still while on a trial at Brewdog, he went turncoat and started distilling in his garage.
“The small team at Turncoat are secret distillers, based in unrevealed settings, releasing unexpected spirits. Turncoat is a distillery born out of secrecy and rebellion.”
Turncoat’s flagship vodka and London dry gin were launched in May 2017, followed by their Cascade Gin in July 2017. All three products benefit from some clever concepts and brilliant branding. The seemingly simple label features redacted text as well as secret morse code messages. Totally lost on me, my husband had cracked the code before I had even spotted it!
The main botanical in Turncoat’s Cascade Gin is, appropriately enough, cascade hops; the first hop to come out of the United States Department of Agriculture hop breeding program, it is now the most widely used hop by craft breweries in the United States and frequently lauded as being the the variety that launched the craft beer revolution. With a strong British fuggle hop pedigree, Terry also salutes it as the “Revolutionary Turncoat Hop Comrade”!
Said to be a variety with floral, spice and citrus qualities, Terry knows only too well from his brewing background how to best extract the flavour and aroma of cascade hops, using the vapour distillation method. In addition to hops and juniper, Cascade Gin also features whole lemons, cardamom, several different orange peels, lemongrass and star anise among its botanicals. A completely different recipe from their London Dry, which Terry says is “about clean balanced flavours”, Cascade Gin is deliberately big and bold.
On the nose, citrus and herbaceous juniper dominate. Neat, this is a fascinating, obviously contemporary, gin. There is not a lot of juniper to detect but there is a bitterness and sharpness from the hops alongside a strange, refreshing menthol note, possibly from the presence of lemongrass. The addition of a little water softens the citrus flavours and brings out some of the grassy, hoppy notes and also emphasises the slightly oily mouthfeel.
I found the addition of tonic water (Fever-Tree‘s Indian Tonic Water with an orange and rosemary garnish) balanced the citrus notes and really pulled all the other flavours together. The orange garnish also added a little sweetness but there remained plenty of bitterness from the cascade hops (and, presumably, the juniper). This was undoubtedly a very good gin and tonic.
Then, on the recommendation of Forest Hill Gin Club, I also tried Cascade Gin with Fever-Tree’s new Clementine Tonic Water. Wow! That has got to be a perfect serve for me. The tonic water is sweet but balanced with cinnamon which cleverly cuts through the clementine. The clementine tonic water accentuated some of those spicy notes from the star anise in the Cascade Gin, but also made it ever so slightly sweeter and so much smoother. This is my kind of gin and tonic. It probably isn’t one for the traditionalists, who would be advised to try Turncoat’s London Dry Gin instead, but I am hooked on this! There may not be a whole lot of juniper in there but there is bitterness and citrus and, best of all, balance.
I have an awful lot of time of this gin, but also for the distillery and the brand. The entire concept is well conceived and well considered. And clever. It doesn’t shout spies and cold war conspiracy theories and yet it’s all in there. This gin is different but not different for the sake of difference alone. It is, I believe, authentically different.
Turncoat Gin are currently working on a navy strength gin, as well as a new spirit line, the details of which they are, appropriately, keeping close to their chest. However, with their enthusiasm for experimentation, and aversion for gimmicks, they are well worth keeping a close eye on. From an appropriate distance of course.
Purchase Turncoat Cascade Gin from Amazon at £45 for 70cl (43% ABV).
With thanks to Terry Langton for the complimentary bottle of Turncoat Cascade Gin.