Ten Tor – a gin for all seasons –
The Ten Tors hike which the Army organises on Dartmoor every summer is the sort of event which restores my optimism about the motivations of Britain’s youth, seeing many hundreds of school age groups, pitting themselves against both the gruelling terrain and the moor’s wildly variable weather patterns – rather than sitting playing some online game. Marshalled for safety by the Dartmoor Rescue Group, it is definitely not a challenge to be taken lightly; though the scenery is stunning and, like any visitor to the National Park, the competitors will pass the wide variety of flora which thrives there in such an exposed setting.
It is this same landscape that is foraged by the family which produces the genuinely small batch Ten Tor Gin – a distillation whose label answered a nature related question which had been niggling at me for a while. How do gin makers maintain consistency of flavour when they are picking botanicals from the fields and hedgerows all year round? Well, bottle No23 of the Dartmoor Spirit which we bought from Darts Farm near Topsham last week, carries a couple of other clues to the family’s boutique production process.
Around the neck of the bottle is a small piece of card, tied on with hairy twine, bearing the handwritten legend: “Blackberry, Sloe, Hawthorn Berry”; while the main label has a section entitled FORAGED BATCH SEASON, with a tick in the AUTUMN box. As it is now early spring this means the producers of Ten Tor gin are making me the counter offer to clothes stores which, whenever I venture in, seem to demand I buy something to suit the weather we might expect three months in the future.
Having got used to gin distillers offering fairly scant details on their products, the back of the Ten Tor bottle was a veritable treasure trove of information, including the assertion that: “We prepare each batch of not more than 50 bottles, by selecting a total of ten traditional gin botanicals, which we place with our freshly foraged seasonal botanicals.” Depending on the time of year these can include gorse flowers, pine needles, heather and wild water mint.
The family also believe that the “Moor Distinctive” flavour of Ten Tor Seasonal, Devon Dry Gin, is brought out by the unusual vapour infusion process they prefer. This sees all the botanicals placed in a fine mesh basket through which the heated grain spirit passes prior to being captured in the copper condenser.
Being low lying, we can’t actually see Haytor or any of Dartmoor’s other high spots from our house, but a large measure of Ten Tor gin, along with a good dash of Fever Tree, ice and lemon wedge did bring us a bracing waft of the upland landscape: crisp and refreshing with a hint of more exotic destinations.
I will endeavour to save a drop, so we can compare it to a SPRING distillation: probably around Christmas when the clothes shops want me to pick my summer wardrobe.