Have you ever tasted a citrus-led gin… made without using a single citrus fruit? Neither had we, until we came across Cambridge Distillery, the creators of November’s Gin of the Month: Cambridge Gin. This gorgeous verbena and rosemary limited edition spirit was made exclusively for Craft Gin Club members, plus, this month’s tonics were also produced by this innovative distillery!
Distilled in Cambridge, UK
William and Lucy Lowe of Cambridge Distillery have changed the distillation game with their innovative techniques. And when they agreed to make a limited-edition gin – and a tonic water to match – we were thrilled to bring their ground-breaking creations to our members! Distilled in beautiful, bucolic Cambridge, where both William and Lucy grew up, November’s Gin of the Month takes a lot of inspiration from the city’s quiet natural beauty and long legacy of looking forward.
When William and Lucy began toying around with the idea of making their own gin – a spirit they chose for Lucy’s love of the stuff – they knew one thing to be true.
“There was a basic observation about the state of the gin industry when we joined it, which we felt nobody else had really looked at,” William says. “99 percent of all gins had a recipe that was 99 percent similar to all of the others.”
Classic gin botanicals are classic for a reason; you’ll see a rotating cast of key characters on many gin labels because they distil well in classic copper-pot stills, which will destroy all but the most robust flavours, and give gin lovers the flavour profiles that they’ve come to expect, like citrus.
For some distillers, that means relying on dried and imported botanicals. This gives distillers access to botanicals from all over the world, whatever the time of year. But it also excludes other, more delicate botanicals, which would be destroyed by the intensity of the distillation process. Distillers could either add those flavours artificially after the distillation process or leave them out entirely.
Juniper, Lemon Verbena, Rosemary, Angelica, Blackcurrant Leaf, Basil, Rose Petals
But these delicately flavoured botanicals were precisely the ingredients that William and Lucy wanted to work with. After all, their garden was overflowing with lemon verbena and basil and blossoms; if they were going to make a gin to reflect the beauty and ambition of Cambridge, they couldn’t just ignore the scents and flavours that evoked their home.
When William and Lucy started thinking about what kind of gin they wanted to craft for our members, it was important to show Craft Gin Clubbers the beauty of their flagship gin, Cambridge Dry Gin. But they also wanted a special, seasonal twist – and to really drive home how hyper-local their botanical blends can be.
In fact, the Lowes took a casual stroll through their own herb garden to find the key botanicals for this special edition: lemon verbena and rosemary.
Lemon verbena has long interested William and Lucy as a method of bringing a classic gin flavour into their spirits. After all, with their hyper-local approach, so much of the refreshing citrus botanicals gin lovers have come to expect are off limits.
As Lucy says, “Citrus is a very important flavour within gin. It’s what makes gin so vibrant and so refreshing. It’s what makes gin such a brilliant aperitif to drink. But have you tried growing lemons and limes in Cambridge? It’s impossible! So, we found our citrus notes in the herb garden, by using lemon verbena.”
When searching for a botanical to complement the bright flavour of the lemon verbena, William and Lucy took a nod from the month of November. As the nights grow long and the world recedes back into itself, one hardy herb is still going strong in their garden: rosemary!
“Rosemary for me is a really warming, enveloping, comforting flavour,” says William. “The balance of that with lemon verbena makes for a super versatile gin that’s got enough depth in it to be really cleansing and refreshing.”
With two strong flavours playing equal starring roles, the biggest challenge facing William and Lucy wasn’t the distillation itself. For this gin, the blending of the final gin was the most difficult aspect.
Made using no citrus fruits at all, this gin is remarkably sunny and citrus-forward. On the nose, elegant and aromatic – the scent of an English country garden. A sophisticated pyramid of flavour builds on the palate: first juniper, followed by cheery lemon verbena, then a roundness of rosemary on the midpalate. Juniper lingers on the finish.
“To find a way to have both of those flavours side by side,” says William, “but with neither to the exclusion of the other, that was a blending challenge. It was a little infuriating, but that made it all the more rewarding when we achieved it.”
And, indeed, the gin in your November Gin of the Month box is an elegant, vibrant and versatile spirit – a triumph of the distilling and blending processes, just as every gin that comes out of Cambridge Distillery’s doors is guaranteed to be.
“It’s really easy to have a gin that’s just an explosion of flavour,” says Lucy. “But to achieve real balance you have to achieve poise.”
This William and Lucy have achieved handily. On the nose of this spirit is an English meadow in autumn, set in perfect balance by nature itself. On the palate, juniper is joined by the brightness of lemon verbena. On the midpalate, rosemary gives this gin a satisfying roundness before giving way to a long, lingering finish rich with juniper.
When William and Lucy drink this gin, it’s as a martini. As William says, “It makes a wonderful martini, because in a martini there is nowhere to hide. You see the gin, corners and all, and it absolutely sings.”
The splendour of this gin is a perfect testament to the genius of William and Lucy Lowe’s method. That method, which has produced an entire range of gold-medal-winning spirits, is why Cambridge Distillery has been recognised as the world’s most innovative distillery three times.
But, for William and Lucy, innovation has never been an end in and of itself.
“We innovate purely because there are better ways available,” says William. “We’ll leave no stone unturned until we find them. It’s not the case that we’re obsessive innovators; it’s the case that we’re obsessed with mastering the art of production.”