The Gin Bandits
Reliquum Gin + Q&A
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
The views in this review has not been influenced by anyone at Reliquum Gin. They are all our own views and we have not been paid for this post.
Last week we were lucky enough to get our hands on the full range from Reliquum Gin which is the gin offering from the Thompson family farm in Essex.
It was a couple of months ago now when we first saw the Essex based Reliquum gin pop up on our Instagram feed, so with us also hailing from Essex, we felt we had to get this gin into the Gin Bandits HQ for a taste. Pete Thompson, a third generation farmer and also the Managing Director at Brook Farm in North Oakley, Essex, has found a sustainable way of making the most of their unwanted fruit produce which they’re unable to sell due to it being the wrong shape, size or colour. We caught up with Pete to find out a little more about Reliquum gin.
So Pete, your family have been growing fruit and vegetables at Brook Farm in Great Oakley for 70 years. What was it that made you take the leap into the gin market, and can you tell us a bit about the team behind Reliquum?
The team is myself and my wife, who is chief taster and general critic of anything I do! We also have a full farming team including a master grafter and general fruit & plant guru Will Sibley who lends his hand to the gin project and is our link into the very top end world of chefs, hotels, restaurateurs and bars. Getting into gin was almost by accident, while we had long made sloe gin and morello vodka for home & friends, the gin was a next step from launching www.cotchel.uk. This is our juice business which uses our unloved apples & pears - ‘Cotchel’ means a ‘little bit left over’, an old market term to describe the nicest bits n bobs left over which the traders usually take home for family. We then turned our attention to our plums & apricots. Because we tree ripen for the fullest flavour, we inevitably find ourselves left with delicious tasting fruit which has split or is too soft. As a result our apricot & plum gins were born, mainly just for home but when people started offering to buy it we realised we had something with potential.
So lets talk about your gin. Reliquum is currently distilled at the English Spirit Distillery in Great Yeldham where you’ve worked with Master Distiller, Dr John Walters, perfecting your recipe. Did you have an idea in mind before you started for the type of gin you wanted to create and the botanicals you wanted to use?
One of Dr John’s team was actually the trigger for creating our own London Dry, asking why if we had done our fruit gins, why we were not making our own London Dry. That was too good an idea to pass up on and we then looked more closely at the innovation trials we host on our farm. Initially developed for chefs we realised we had an incredible array of potential botanicals. We immediately knew that our citrus would have to be the lead home grown botanical and it was then working with Dr John on the others.
It must have been fun working on the different variations for the gin recipe, who were your nominated tasters?
Well we had some enjoyable afternoons in the office…... I have had to walk home on occasion! My wife is undoubtedly chief taster, Emma McGregor who has now left us was also instrumental in getting our gin journey up and running. We also had the fortune to be able to call on the palate of renowned barman and mixologist Steve Georgiou for his advice, as well as some highly acclaimed chefs.
How long did it take to come up with the final recipe for the London dry?
We have to give credit to Dr John. Once he had enjoyed the aroma of the Calamondin, we then turned the Cotchel Opal Apple juice into an eau de vie for use as a botanical and it was then all about creating a classic London Dry Gin with uncluttered botanicals which allow each and every one to compliment the taste.
How much of the recipe comes from your own produce grown at the farm?
The Calamondin citrus which deliver the leading citrus aroma and our own Opal apples were used to create the apple eau de vie – approx. 1kg of apples has been used per bottle of gin. So you are fighting food waste with every sip of gin! That was our first batch, this year for the 2nd batch we hope every ingredient, from base spirit to botanical can be sourced from within the parish.
Can you tell us a bit about the distillation process?
Well that would be telling! However it is a classical London Dry so no secrets there, Dr John however has worked his magic to create a very smooth gin, suitable for sipping over a block of ice to really appreciate the flavours. Of course the distillation of the apple juice into an eau de vie, prior to using as a botanical is fairly unique and the floral sweetness of the apple is a good balance to the citrus.
Reliquum is an unusual name - Who came up with Reliquum and is there any story behind it?
I have already mentioned our apple juice ‘Cotchel’. We wanted to continue that journey focussing on the fact that our spirits are made with what we have left over. All our drinks are preventing produce being wasted or using left overs. Reliquum is Latin for ‘All That Remains’ which we thought is a nice touch, although it can be a tad difficult to say after one or two G&T’s.
We love the bottle and labelling, is that something you worked on in-house or did you work with a design company?
We came up with the basic concept and then turned to our fantastic designer Sean Harvey of Sand Creative. Sean is an award winning designer and I went through a period where every new design I loved seemed to be his work! The basic concept of the print on the bottle however is a nod to good times in Ibiza and inspired by Ibizkus wines, not only a beautiful rose wine but their bottle is so lovely that you spot it in cafes and bars being used for candles, olive oils and vinegars etc. We wanted people to love the bottle so much that they want to keep it and re-use it at home, we have seen customers using them for olive oils and also having them converted into lamps.
The gin market is getting more and more competitive with new brands creeping up all the time, which is a great thing for us gin fans. What have been your biggest challenges so far?
A lot of bar managers are simply uninterested in looking at any more gins! However when we get people to have a taste they usually stock it. As a very small producer we are unable to compete on price with some of the larger brands, even those who still market themselves as ‘boutique’ are pretty big operations these days.
So, there are currently three products in the Reliquum range, a London Dry, Apricot Gin Liquor and a Plum Liquor. Tell us your advice on the perfect serve for each?
London Dry – sip chilled and neat over a large block of ice or use for a classic G&T with an old fashioned Schweppes tonic, garnished with a half Calamondin. Lots of today’s tonics are a bit too flavourful and we don’t want to overpower the flavours of the gin. Fever Tree’s light tonic is also good.
Can you tell us your plans and goals for Reliquum going forward?
Well we are waiting to see what fruit we get this year but we do have something very exciting which will be a bit more of a taste of Asia using some of our latest plant & crop trials. In the meantime on Wednesday we are tasting the final recipe of two new batches of something special.
Sounds exciting. Where is the best place for our followers to pick up a bottle of Reliquum to enjoy a taste of Essex themselves?
We are just starting out so we have local retailers in Mistley Kitchen (Mistley) and Two Brews (Colchester) while Vino Vero in Leigh on Sea is our outpost in South Essex (the good people of Leigh on Sea love their gin!). We are also stocked in a handful of select restaurants, bars and hotels but are keen to find new stockists. You can also buy online from our own website www.reliquum.uk
Being from Essex ourselves, we’d love to see Essex having a bigger presence in the gin market, especially now Haymans has moved their distillery over to Balham. Essex is very well publicised in the media and we think we have some of the best restaurants and gastro-pubs across the country. Recently we went to visit the Isle of Wight and in almost every bar and restaurant, you can guarantee you’ll see a bottle of Isle of Wight Distillery’s Mermaid Gin. Its a fantastic gin and the Island has really got behind their own brand, and we would love to see something like this happen in Essex. Have you approached any of the local Essex restaurants and pubs? We would love to see Reliquum in our locals and really hope that pubs and restaurants across the county pull together and support their local Essex gin brand.
Would love to hear from them!!!!
Well, we wish you all the best, and we really hope to see you achieve your goal of becoming a ‘Single Estate’ gin with all your ingredients being produced in Great Oakley.
Watch this space…........
We've try all the gins in a variety of combinations and the below is our review on them.
Reliquum London Dry Gin - 41% ABV
This is a really good gin. It's very smooth, easy to drink and the juniper doesn’t get lost amongst the other botanicals. When drank neat, the gin is crisp with a clean citrusy, yet floral sweetness. As a gin and tonic, we followed Pete’s recommendation and used a light tonic which works well as the spirit itself brings an organic sweetness to the G&T. We chose the carambola fruit (star fruit) to garnish the gin and tonic which tastes like a mix of apple/pear/citrus.
Reliquum Apricot Gin Liqueur - 20% ABV
The Apricot has a rich natural sweetness and although it's made with gin; we think it would actually make a good brandy cocktail. We paired 25ml of Reliquum Apricot with 25ml of Peach Schnapps topped up with a dry Prosecco to make an Apricot and Peach Spritz. Mrs Bandit also enjoys this Apricot Liqueur neat on ice.
Reliquum Plum Gin Liqueur - 16% ABV
This version has a natural sweetness, but it's a bit sharper than the Apricot. We tried this one also as a Spritz, using 25ml of Reliquum Plum, 25ml of a Raspberry Gin Liqueur, topped up with Prosecco. Another option is mixing 25ml of the Plum, 25ml of the Reliquum London Dry gin topped up with 200ml of Ginger Ale and a sprig of fresh thyme.