Provenance is undoubtedly popular these days – after all who doesn’t like the feelgood factor of buying something local? – but, like anything that matters, it’s not easy to get right. There’s confusion about names (my friend up north is forever confusing Slingsby and Harrogate gins); there’s the all-important matter of honesty and authenticity (it recently transpired Snowdonia Gin is actually made over the border in Warrington); and then, to really mean something, provenance needs to go beyond the name to the product itself. It’s not just what the gin is called and where it’s made that matters, but also what it’s made of and why. Provenance is about stories and people, botanicals and landscapes. And to do provenance properly it all needs to connect with that community.
Siân and Andrew Brooks are a couple that understand all that and have placed provenance at the heart of The Gower Gin Company. Like almost everyone these days they love gin. Like so many of us Siân started a gin blog. And, after many tastings, and like so many before them, they decided to create their own gin. But what really matters to this couple, and what makes them different, is the opportunity to be a strong ambassador for Gower and Wales, and it is this that permeates everything they do.
The bold stripy labels were chosen partly because the Brooks knew they would stand out in a crowded market (and partly because former French teacher Siân can’t resist a Breton stripe!) but the devil is in the detail. For example, the embossed copper references the industry for which Swansea was famous in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Furthermore, all of their bottles are fully bilingual because Siân and Andrew are committed to supporting the Welsh language
“After all our research we decided that we wanted a strong brand that would stand out on a gin shelf, a distinctive but not gimmicky London Dry gin and a gin to create the perfect G&T. Added to this, we wanted a name that reflected the wonderful Gower but which also respected the Welsh language. Thus, Gŵyr gin (the Welsh name for Gower) was born.”
The Gower Peninsula is renowned for its stunning beaches and scenery and, in 1956, it became the UK’s first designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Siân and Andrew hope to capture the aromas of this coastline in their small batch gin. Consequently they have chosen to include foraged botanicals in every gin they produce but, caring about their local environment, they always adhere to the ‘Foraging Code’, meaning they only pick where specimens are abundant, they do not strip a site bare and they use a knife to harvest (thus avoiding excess damage to plants and inadvertent uprooting). In addition, they also grow their own fennel to help ensure protection of the wild population.
And, yes, the gin is made locally too. Phew! Initially third-party distilled in South Wales, the couple were always heavily involved in production from selecting, foraging and preparing botanicals to finalising the recipe and developing the brand while simultaneously applying to HMRC for their own rectification and warehousing licences. And now, within a year, they are distilling in the micro distillery in their back garden overlooking the sea in the tiny village of Port Eynon.
So, to the gin. Gŵyr gin is made using wild bronze and green fennel foraged from the nearby sand dunes, in addition to juniper, coriander, angelica, orris root, lemon and pink grapefruit. On the nose there is resinous, piney juniper, sweet citrus and fennel. The overwhelming aroma is, to me at least, reminiscent of Black Jack sweets! That association continues to the palate where the fennel dominates the neat spirit albeit alongside salty, samphire notes and spice and pepper on the long finish. The addition of tonic balances out the various botanicals, though fennel and liquorice continue to rule the roost. Siân and Andrew recommend a twist of orange zest to bring out the fennel, or a thin slice of pink grapefruit to enhance the citrus, but I also rather enjoyed this with a sprig of rosemary. Savoury and bold, this makes a truly distinctive G&T and, though I can’t claim this gin transported me to the Gower peninsula, my Welsh mother was truly smitten!
Having just celebrated their first birthday, The Gower Gin Company have already released their second, seasonal, gin; Pinwydd (meaning pine trees). Built on their original recipe, Pinwydd features pine tips foraged from the dramatic North Gower coast in addition to fresh cranberries and orange, and pink peppercorns introduced to balance out the pine. On the nose, sweet orange dominates but juniper and red fruit linger in the background. When tasting the gin neat, there’s an outstanding oily, zesty, fresh orange which gives way to drier pine and spicy notes on the finish. Another bold gin, this is probably the more complex and nuanced in my opinion. And also, I suspect, the one that will appeal more broadly. Served with light tonic, cranberries and an orange wheel, this has a wintery feel to it but is not overwhelmingly festive which is, I think, a strength rather than a weakness. Even so, I will admit I am tempted to experiment with a cinnamon garnish or perhaps even a few cloves.
With local collaborations already including Gŵyr Gin and White Chocolate Fudge and a soy candle infused with juniper, fennel, grapefruit and lemon produced in collaboration with the ethical Good Wash Company, there’s plenty more to come from this corner of South Wales. And with oak-aged gin experiments and a test batch of sloe gin underway, as well as plans to extend their seasonal range to reflect the changing nature of the peninsula, I wouldn’t take your eye off The Gower Gin Company just yet either!
Purchase Gŵyr from Master of Malt at £39.95 for 70cl (43% ABV).
With thanks to Siân and Andrew Brooks for the complimentary bottles of Gŵyr and Pinwydd.