A Taste of the Coast
With a new distillery set to open at Aldeburgh, Fishers Gin, served at Boisdale’s bars, keeps it local with a recipe infused with the botanicals of the Suffolk coastline, writes Neil Ridley
By Neil Ridley
April 27 2019
To say that the UK is currently in the grip of a ‘ginaissance’ would be something of an understatement. In fact, over the last five years, the country has witnessed a botanical bonanza, with exports and domestic sales doubling to over £2 billion last year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
Thirsty Brits bought over 60 million bottles of gin in 2018 which is up 38 per cent on the previous year. And nestled among the long-established, market leading marques are a growing number of smaller, more craft-orientated ginmakers, whose main USP is a celebration of all things local.
In fact, re-gin-ality is the clear trend among smaller producers, who are eager to explore their surroundings and imbue a flavoursome sense of place into their gin recipes.
One such brand is Suffolk-based Boisdale favourite Fishers, which describes itself as ‘The Authentic Coastal Spirit’ – and it’s easy to see why. Fishers is one of a small number of British gins which draw on a handful of more unusual botanicals in their recipes, in this case those growing by the seaside. In fact, at Fishers’ heart lies perhaps the south east coast’s most delicious and highly prized aromatic - rock samphire. This former Victorian delicacy is notoriously difficult to harvest, given that it only grows in remote, rocky outcrops, and will only germinate in very specific conditions.
It’s a task that falls to Fishers’ very own botanist, James Firth: a man who after studying botany at Oxford has dedicated his life to understanding the distinct and unique environments in which certain plants thrive, including gin botanicals. Fishers’ founder Andrew Heald takes up the story about how the gin came to life, using Firth’s expert understanding of all things aromatic
“I’ve always been interested in brewing and distilling, closely following our friends and neighbours at the Adnams Copper House distillery who developed one of the first ‘grain-to glass’ gin and vodka distilleries in the country,” he explains. “I never thought I’d make a gin, but I’ve always wanted to produce something from the East Coast and it seemed like the perfect medium to capture the spirit of our wonderful coastline.”
The very nature of gin means that many of the botanicals (like cardamom, cinnamon, citrus fruits) are grown abroad, but Firth, an old family friend of Heald’s, was able to propose the combination of botanicals that would anchor Fishers to the East Coast.
“Initially I wanted to introduce a herbal and English-tasting gin that contrasted with the Mediterranean and Eastern flavours people are used to,” says Heald. “James is passionate about botany, and he came up with the combination of native botanicals that could dominate the flavour of Fishers and be true to its origin from the English coast.”
Besides the rock samphire, these include the wonderfully named Bog Myrtle, which grows in damper conditions on a seasonal basis, and has an aroma Firth describes as “smelling of Christmas”. Alongside this come fennel-flavoured spignel, so rare that Fishers has cultivated its own secret source, and the smoky root of the wood avens plant, as well as a number of more conventional botanicals, including the all-important juniper.
Fishers is currently made in 600 litre batches in a process which takes 24 hours, including a 12 hour steeping time, where the botanical recipe is first soaked in neutral spirit to help release a more intense flavour and aroma. It’s currently distilled at the Adnams distillery in Southwold, however, Heald reveals his plans for the future include a permanent site which truly embodies the ethos behind Fishers.
“The gin business is even more competitive than ever now, so to an extent our USP will also become our location, which will be the majestic old fishing town of Aldeburgh, when we open our new distillery, flanked by the North Sea and the Salt marshes. I believe that the evocative experiences people have when they visit us here will build long-lasting memories.”
To find out more about Fishers gin and the progress of the new distillery, visit fishersgin.com
COCKTAIL: FISHERS SOUR
• 50ml Fishers Gin
• 20ml lemon
• 12.5ml sugar
• 1 egg white
In a cocktail shaker, add all the ingredients with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass.
Sour glass, or any small cocktail glass