The Gin Bandits
Top Beverages - CBD Gin + 20% Off
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
This review has not been influenced by anyone at Top Beverages, all the views in this write up are our own
In the UK alone, around 250,000 people are waking up to the benefits of CBD. CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis sativa plant, with the extracted oil being used in various CBD-based products including spirits, edibles, beauty products and tinctures. Unlike THC, a psychoactive component of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) will not get you ‘high’. Rather than that, studies have shown that receptors in the brain associated with things like pain and anxiety are triggered. As such, more and more benefits and uses of CBD are being discovered and applied to products spanning the lifestyle and wellbeing industries.
A couple of weeks ago we caught up with Nick Pullen, one of the co-founders of Barcalona based Top Beverages. Himself and his business partner Saf Ali have just released their own range of navy strength CBD spirits, and we wanted to find out a bit more behind their brand and also the CBD spirits industry.
Hey Nick, thanks for your time today. To get us started can you tell us who are the people behind the brand and where are you guys based?
My business partner Saf and I met in Barcelona at a bus stop on the first day of our kid’s school. We become fast friends, one being an American and the other an Englishman we kind of bonded over shared experiences, a shared trouble of learning a new language, having kids and a family. I’ve been here in Barcelona for 5 years now and Saf has been here for around 7 or 8. He’s a native Englishman originally coming from the Manchester area and the closest connection I have to England is via my wife’s grandmother who is from Manchester as well.
Where’s home in the US for you?
The easiest way for me to tell you is that I’m from Philadelphia, that’s where my home is, but I grew up in York, Pennsylvania.
How long ago did you set up Top Beverages?
We set up Top Beverages about a year ago but we had been looking at the cannabis space for probably 2 years in total. You probably already know that the cannabis space has been a major player in the US over the last decade, particularly in California with the legislation first starting medicinal and then going into recreational use. What has happened in a fortunate turn of events is that both the UK and US decided to de-schedule CBD from the list of scheduled narcotics around the end of 2018 due to a variety of reasons. When that happened, we decided to really dive into this and do something different, something really innovative. We wanted to create something that no one had done before and figure out how we can make a fantastic spirit on its own and then add CBD to it and incorporate that into our distillation process and still have a drink that people drink and say wow.
Your spirits are currently distilled up in Scotland, how much were you involved in the process of making the recipe, and how long did that process take to come into fruition?
We have a very unique partnership and collaboration with a distillery in Scotland, and its special, it’s beyond just a mere contract distillery, it’s a long term relationship. When we started the process we had ideas of flavours, styles and profiles and we wanted to incorporate our respected travels around the globe. I’ve been around the world - from New Zealand to India, obviously the US and Fiji. Saf has also been all over Europe. We wanted to incorporate what we call our “daring flavours” within gin but we wanted them to be clean and natural - no essences, no artificial flavourings, no bullshit. We spent a lot of time up there with our distiller telling him what we liked and at tastings, and I must say it was a great process, it was a phenomenal experience.
When we started making our gin and trying out recipes, we could get the lemon and lime flavours, but the citrus wasn’t enough, so we said the oranges in Spain are next level - why don’t we use them? So our distiller suggested adding orange peel into the recipe, which we objected to, instead we asked him to add the whole Valencian orange. Once we tasted it, we got the full citrus flavour we were looking for. Our gins are all navy strength with added CBD - the gin is very smooth at a higher ABV and it compares very favourably to gins at a lower ABV.
We then had to look at the process of which CBD worked well with the gin, you can’t just add CBD to a spirit and think, “oh, I have a CBD cocktail” it’s more complicated than that. We didn’t want to be a one trick pony - having just have one gin, one rum and one vodka. As CBD takes expertise, a lot of effort and a lot of time, we wanted to build a brand and full range. Now after a lot of fun tasting sessions, we have nine spirits. We have 3 gins, 3 rums and 3 vodkas. We have the London dry gin, and two other gins we’re incredibly excited about. We wanted something different that hadn’t been seen on the market – we’re not fans of the artificial pink gins and so we thought how can we do something different and also bring in some of the innovative flavours from our travels from around the world. We came up with a Super Gin which has Acai Berries from Brazil, Goji Berries from China and fresh blueberries from Scotland. The idea is that these are super foods, hence the name Super Gin. In an ideal world, no one would drink, no one would smoke, no one would gamble, we would have no vices and everyone would be fit and healthy, but if you’re going to have an alcoholic beverage and you’re going to drink a good gin, you may as well make it count by adding natural ingredients, including CBD. You’re getting a lot in that bottle and it’s just a gorgeous gin. The last gin we just finished is a Bloody Mary gin - it’s got fresh celery, black pepper, spices, Valencian orange and a bucket full of cherry tomatoes. It’s the real thing, no essences, no artificiality, we used real tomatoes and we are really proud of them.
Navy Strength gins are a big favourite of ours as you get enhanced flavours. How come you guys jumped straight in with a navy strength gin as your first product?
That’s a good question and we can answer it in two ways. One, is that like you we like tasting our alcohol. I think one of the great things that’s happening is the rise of amazing craft mixers which I guess Fever-tree ushered in, but now they’re popping up all over. The problem now is that sometimes they’re so good that they’re overpowering an ordinary spirit. What we wanted was to still taste the alcohol - we don’t want a high-end, natural ingredient spirit to be overpowered by a mixer.
The other aspect, and this was part of our due diligence and part of our fun tasting efforts, is that with the CBD we use, it blends the best at navy strength. You’ll notice, and this is really important in case you ever see any other CBD gins in the market place, you’ll notice our gin has a cloudiness to the gin which is a product of the fact our gin has CBD in it. CBD has carrier oils and we are fully transparent with what our gins contain, but the carrier oils interact with the different botanical oils that are in the spirit and create a bit of a cloud to it, and we like that as it really shows people it’s a natural ingredient. It also gives people confidence that it’s CBD that they’re drinking. A lot of people that are getting into this field or even have some products out there, are not actually using CBD, what they’re using is hemp seed oil.
We’ve noticed a lot of hemp gins, and vodkas recently. How does this differ from CBD?
Well the biggest difference is that hemp doesn’t contain any CBD. What they are using is the hemp seeds, the oil from the seeds that’ll have a minimal amount of CBD in it. What they are trying to do is pull the wool over consumers eyes by trying to play on this genre, trying to make a quick buck by using hemp seed. The other way you tell is that hemp seed oil has a nuttier taste to it. You’ve tasted ours and it doesn’t have a nutty taste to it.
That’s right, I found your gin to have an earthy taste to it, that might be the botanicals you’ve used, but it’s not nutty
At the end of the day we are using a plant right and we’re using an entire plant, we’re not just taking the seeds here. By the way, that’s how you’re getting the most amazing terpenes and cannabinoids. So we use full spectrum, and there’s been a lot of research that full spectrum CBD is potentially incredible for you.
They’ve just gone live on your website, and our followers can now pick up a bottle of your CBD spirits range. What price range will you be retailing at?
We spent a lot of time looking at the market, and the tough thing is we’re the only players out there that are using clean natural ingredients, then we’re adding CBD which unfortunately comes at a high cost, and we’re also paying higher taxes as all our range is navy strength. So we’ve tried to balance this in the market place, and we’ve gone with a price point of £49.95 for a 50cl bottle which also contains 50mg of full spectrum CBD. We’ve gone with handcrafted Italian bottles, they’re truly unique to what’s already in the market, and they make a stunning gift.
Nick and Saf at Top Beverages have given our readers and followers an exclusive discount to be used on their online store. To get 20% off any of their products, head on over to their store here and use the code: TopGinBandit for your discount.
The Top Spirits range
The Classic Collection
Firstly. the Classic Collection showcases Top Beverages’ foundation spirits, with lemon, lime, and orange-infused gin, classic rum, and original vodka.
The Signature Collection
In addition, the Signature collection brings some slightly more unique flavours to the range. A super gin – infused with Top’s classic ingredients, alongside blueberries, goji berries, and açai berries; a Mocha rum, full of a coffee aroma and flavour; and a Citrus vodka complete the Signature Collection.
The Spice Collection
Finally, the Spice Collection instills some truly unique flavours. Top Beverages has created a ‘Bloody Mary’ inspired gin, infused with fresh tomatoes, Valencian orange, celery, black pepper, and red chilli. The collection also includes a spiced rum and masala vodka.