A Cornish gem worth its salt! –
With my first sip of Lantic Gin, I was transported back to the days of sailing into Fowey with my parents on our way to the Scilly Isles, where we’d often stop off for a pub lunch before the long haul past Land’s End. Lantic Bay – after which this gin is named – is where we would sometimes drop anchor for a while, awaiting the right tidal times, or maybe just stop to enjoy the sheer beauty of this Cornish cove.
Lantic Bay lies a mile east of the entrance to Fowey and immediately west of Pencarrow Head. Set into a completely undeveloped coast, it is a half-mile wide, crescent-shaped beach with jagged outcrops of rock – accessible by foot from the South West Coast Path – Lantic Bay is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and managed by the National Trust.
Located nearby, the artisan Skylark Distillery, founded by Alex Palmer-Samborne, operates from a traditional Cornish barn surrounded by the botanicals, foraged there and at Lantic Bay, to create Lantic Gin. Along with base botanicals such as juniper, the 15 ingredients include rock samphire, gorse flowers, water mint, heather, lemon thyme and apple mint – all these are steeped and distilled in ‘Virginia,’ Alex’s 150 litre copper still, to produce a lovely, floral-flavoured gin at 42% ABV – for the life of me, my first sip reminded me of childhood sweets – is there some angelica in there as one of the secret ingredients?
The Cornish Dry gin’s namesake has a fascinating past, not unsurprisingly based on smuggling for which the county is renowned: around the time of the Napoleonic wars in the 1800s, the government was heavily taxing goods in order to pay for England’s various military campaigns. One of these was salt.
Salt, of course, is essential for curing pilchards and the tax-hike hit the Cornish fishermen hard. Not only were they set back by the loss of overseas trading opportunities during the war, but with salt taxed at forty times its value, the fishermen could ill-afford to preserve what they did catch.
Thus smuggling became widespread in Cornwall, with a remote and secluded cove such as Lantic Bay providing an ideal hiding place for those seeking to carry on their clandestine activities. The ‘Lantic Hill Affair’ or the ‘The Battle of Lantic Bay’ occurred in October 1835 when two revenue men patrolling the coast spotted a gang of a hundred or so smugglers unloading contraband on the shore.
Returning with reinforcements and later, a revenue cutter, 484 gallons of brandy were seized, but just five smugglers tried at Bodmin court: carrying ‘walking sticks’ – not weapons to fight off the revenue men – they got away with it on the grounds that all coastal walkers carry sticks; plus the jury was Cornish.
This artisan gin won the coveted IWSC 2019 Silver award, the judges concluding that it has ”a good, balanced flavour profile with all of the classic botanicals being discernible: juniper, coriander, and angelica. Great characteristics that gradually open up on the palate.”
“Agreed – we enjoyed our Lantic with Indian tonic and grapefruit.”